Boat dealers look for turnaround in 2012

It may still be winter, but it’s the beginning of boat season in East Tennessee.

Area boaters are tuning up their watercraft and thinking about trade-ins.

And the 2012 Knoxville Boat Show at the Expo Center this week kicks off what many in the boating industry are hoping will be a turnaround year.

With 180 boats — including everything from kayaks to cruisers — on display from 30 brands, this year’s show is bigger than last year and could be the signal that buyers are returning to the markets, dealers said.


  • Scott Gregory, left, talks with Keith Morrison, right, as they look at pontoon boats offered by Shadrack Watersports during the 2012 Boat Show at the Knoxville Expo Center on Clinton Highway Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012.  (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

  • Briston Maroney, 14, right, holds his little brother, Beauchamp, 1, while they look at a Berkshire 211 FC LTD pontoon boat offered by  Sunny Marine during the 2012 Boat Show at the Knoxville Expo Center on Clinton Highway Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012.  (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

  • Keith Morrison, left, looks at a 2012 Premier 250 Solaris pontoon boat while Scott Gregory, right, looks at a 2012 Premier 240 SunStation pontoon boat during the 2012 Boat Show at the Knoxville Expo Center on Clinton Highway Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012.  (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

  • Steve and Susan Linn look at a 24 foot customized 2012 Supra 242 offered by Shadrack Watersports during the 2012 Boat Show at the Knoxville Expo Center on Clinton Highway Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012.  The boat has customized details including underwater LED lights and tower speakers with lights according to Scott Mieloch with Shadrack Watersports. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

  • Susan Linn, center, looks at the bar area on a 2012 Premier 290 Grand Enter luxury pontoon boat offered by Shadrack Watersports during the 2012 Boat Show at the Knoxville Expo Center on Clinton Highway Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012.  Linn's husband, Steve, background left, can be seen talking with Shadrack representative Scott Mieloch right.  (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)


“We’re going through an adjustment period,” said Rico Silvera, owner and one of the original founders of the boat show that first began in 2000.

Although it might be too soon to announce the recovery from a nationwide economic downturn, many of those who have been waiting to make large purchases are feeling more confident that the economy won’t get any worse, Silvera said.

“Those that have been capable of buying but not willing because of the economic situation, may now have the confidence to buy,” he said.

The last few years have been challenging, but forecasts for 2012 are looking better, according to Joe Speciale, a salesman with Madisonville Marine.

“The traffic at the show is good and we think there is pent up demand,” he said.

Sticking with the business and building a loyal customer base is key to long term success, Speciale said.

“We’ve been at this show for 13 years. We work with a lot of repeat customers who trust us,” he said.

Madisonville Marine is showing a range of boats at the show from Sun Catcher party pontoon boats to G-3 aluminum bass boats and the Bryant boat line built in Sweetwater.

Boats with wakeboard capability are being introduced in many lines, Silvera said. The latest boats are likely to be more versatile than those in the past, he said.

Sea Ray Boats of Knoxville, a subsidiary of Brunswick Boat Group, is displaying new products at the show including the all-new for 2012, 410 Sundancer, an express cruiser.

“Along with beauty, the 410 is built around flexibility and comfort. It’s all about meeting the customers’ needs based on how they intend to use their boat,” said Larry Krestan vice president of Sport Yacht and Yacht sales.

Based on the improvements during the fourth quarter of 2011 over the same quarter in 2010, the Brunswick boat segment, which includes 15 brands, might be poised for a better 2012.

The boat segment reported net sales of $196.8 million for the fourth quarter of 2011, up 20 percent from the $163.6 million reported in the fourth quarter of 2010, the company reported. U.S. sales, which represented 69 percent of total segment sales in the quarter, increased by 34 percent.

Boat segment production and wholesale unit shipments increased during the quarter, compared with the fourth quarter of 2010, in response to solid retail demand for Brunswick’s boat brands, the company said.

The boat show, because it occurs early in the year, the boat show kicks off the year for Knoxville area dealers, Silvera said.

“It’s good to get the cash flow started early in the year,” he said.

In its 13th year at the same location, the boat show is great place to see all the brands in one place and also is a great place to buy a boat, Silvera said.

“Every segment of the boating industry is represented and there’s plenty of free parking,” he said.

Dealers are able to offer special incentives to close deals at the show and there are several credit unions on site offering loans at 1.99 percent, he said. Selection also is better, especially for those who want to add optional equipment, he said.

“They can place their orders now and be assured that they will have their boats delivered for the beginning of boating season,” Silvera said.


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