Boat sales up as summer show hits town

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Attendees at the Houston Summer Boat Show look over the latest available boats, cruisers, runabouts, pontoons, kayaks, wakeboard boats, fishing gear, accessories, boating electronics, patio furniture, clothing, jewelry and more Wednesday, June 22, 2016, in Houston. ( Steve Gonzales / Houston Chronicle ) less
Attendees at the Houston Summer Boat Show look over the latest available boats, cruisers, runabouts, pontoons, kayaks, wakeboard boats, fishing gear, accessories, boating electronics, patio furniture, clothing, … more

Photo: Steve Gonzales


The Houston Summer Boat Show opens Wednesday on a wave of strong 2017 sales in Houston and across the country.

“People feel good today and feel good about the future,” said Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “And so they’re willing to spend.”

The number of new boats sold is expected to rise 6 to 7 percent this year nationally, Dammrich said. The dollar value of new boat sales is expected to increase 10 to 11 percent.


Dealers hope consumers bring that willingness to spend this week to NRG Center. The Houston Summer Boat Show will showcase a variety of boats, fishing gear, boating electronics and other merchandise Wednesday through Sunday.

This summer’s event has more dealers than last year, and it will take up three halls at NRG Center, show president Ken Lovell said. The larger Houston International Boat, Sport Travel Show in January uses five halls.

“We’re expecting a really great show,” he said. “Our exhibit space sales are up a good 25 percent from last year.”



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Among the dealers is Texas Marine’s Conroe store, which has been “busier than usual” in recent weeks, general manager Jonathan Whitmire said.

Whitmire said the store usually slows down right before the show, but that hasn’t been the case this year, partly because Texas Marine offered show pricing ahead of the event.

More Information

If you go

What: Houston Summer Boat Show

When: Wednesday through Sunday

Where: NRG Center

Cost (cash only): $12 for adults, $5 for kids 6-12, free for kids 5 and younger.

Parking: $12

More information:houstonboatshows.com


This uptick in business, coupled with consumers feeling more confident and the election being over with, makes Whitmire believe that Texas Marine will benefit from this week’s event.

“I think it’s probably going to be a really good show,” he said.

In 2016, new powerboat, outboard engine, trailer and aftermarket accessory expenditures totaled $1.4 billion in Texas. That was a 5 percent increase compared with 2015, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

Nationwide, new boat sales have been growing since late 2011. The industry was hit hard by the recession, Dammrich said, seeing a 40 to 50 percent drop in new boat sales and a roughly 80 percent drop in new boats built.

“We’ve been recovering slowly, but there’s a sense now that the growth is beginning to accelerate,” Dammrich said.

Helping new boat sales is the lack of pre-owned boats that are five or six years old. Since so few were made around the recession, shoppers are being forced to either buy older models or brand new boats.

Fun gadgets are also helping drive new boat sales. Joy sticks can be used to dock boats, seats can be rearranged with the push of a button and electronics make navigation easier than ever before.

“They have features that aren’t available on boats in the pre-owned market,” Dammrich said.

In addition to new technology, boats are looking sharper as their hulls get new multicolored, three-dimensional-looking graphics, said Dave Foulkrod, chief operating officer for Kemah-based The Yacht Sales Company.

Foulkrod also predicted a strong show. His company saw sales increase about 5 percent in 2016 compared with 2015.

“We have seen year-over-year growth for the last couple years here in the marketplace,” he said.


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