Fort Lauderdale boat show ends on high note for many – Sun

The 53rdFort Lauderdale International Boat Show wrapped Monday, and though bad weather dampened opening day attendance, it didn’t keep the serious buyers at bay, according to several exhibitors.

“It went really well,” said Bob Denison, president of Denison Yacht Sales in Fort Lauderdale, which had 12 new and 8 pre-owned boats on display.

Although the weather was “a little brutal” on the first two days, boat brokers remained positive knowing there was better weather and attendance ahead, Denison said Monday shortly before the show closed.

The yacht brokerage sold five new boats this year, compared with none in 2011, and two of them went to first-time boat owners, Denison said.

Other exhibitors saw positive results during the five-day event.

“It was actually very good for us,” said Alan Murphy Jr., vice president of Pioneer Linens, with stores in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. “The [bad] weather worked in our favor.”

The wet and windy opening day conditions kept the “stroller crowd” of lookers and non-buyers from coming out, leaving more time to focus on the qualified buyers who braved the elements, Murphy said.

Sales were rung up at the upscale and designer linen provider’s booth and in its Fort Lauderdale store, which extended its hours to cater to show attendees.

Boat show organizers were also happy.

“Considering the weather and first day challenges, everything went absolutely fantastic,” said Dane Graziano, a senior vice president of Show Management, the event’s producer.

“People are here today, and the docks are crowded,” said Graziano on Monday — two hours before closing.

Attendees came out in record numbers Saturday, while Sunday attendance was on par with last year’s numbers, Graziano noted. “I think [overall] we’re going to exceed last year’s [attendance] numbers.”

About 100,000 people attended the show in 2011.

“Despite the weather, there was a high level of optimism going into the show and that did not falter during the show, said Kristina Hebert, president of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, the show’s owner.

“People were making deals, and boats had sold signs hanging on them,” Hebert said Monday shortly after closing.

But not everyone reeled in the business as expected.

“We’ve paid the rent and that’s about it, and that’s unusual,” said Bobbi McCarty, who sold three sculptures and several circle hook necklaces at the David A. Wirth Gallery at Bahia Mar. “The first two days were a washout.”

Still for some, the boat show’s ability to weather Hurricane Sandy’s effects this year is indicative of how some businesses have continued to weather the tough economy.

“We’re starting to see a bright light on the horizon, especially for the businesses who had the ability to weather the storm,” said Patrick Knowles, president of Patrick Knowles Designs, a Fort Lauderdale interior design firm of megayachts, aircraft and homes.

“We have been fortunate to fall into that category and despite the wind, rain and flooding we faced at the show. … I consider this year to be a tremendous success for our business,” said Knowles.

Staff writer Steve Waters contributed to the report.

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