Fort Myers Boat Show vendors hope for smooth selling – The News

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The economy’s rising tide lifts all boats, just not equally.

That could sum up the marine industry’s post-recession recovery so far, as Southwest Florida gears-up for the 42nd annual Fort Myers Boat Show today through Sunday in downtown Fort Myers.

Growing consumer confidence and sunny skies should spell show success, dealers say. They’re excited about the opportunity but still don’t expect to sell boats in pre-downturn numbers.

“For us, demand is way up. Our dollars are greater, because the boats are more expensive. But the number of boats sold is not as high as in 2005,” Tom Hansen said. He’s president of The Boat House, with locations in Cape Coral,
Naples and Port Charlotte.

What’s for sale in downtown Fort Myers? Boatloads of fun.
Video by Laura Ruane of The News-Press

The local boat show features about 40 dealers and manufacturers, with 90-something product lines and several hundred boats.

“There’s everything from kayaks to 70-foot motor yachts,” said John Good, show organizer.

Added Ray Jahn, general manager of Fish Tale Sales Service: “This is the kickoff for the season. The snowbirds are getting their places opened up, and buying new boats.”

Fish Tale reported a preshow spurt in sales. “That’s a clue the show will be a big one for us,” Jahn said.

One of the preshow buyers: Greg Boyd, 63, Fort Myers Beach resident and former trader on Wall Street. Boyd bought a boat from Fish Tale last week for back-bay angling. Earlier this year, he upgraded to a new Grady White, for offshore fishing.

“I’m fairly new to fishing,” Boyd said.

Boyd still plans to visit the boat show. “I’m going to meet up with buddies, see what’s new in dock facilities, fishing gear.”

Jahn meanwhile expects his team to sell at least 20 boats, up from last year’s 16. But before the recession, the total would be in the upper-20s, Jahn said.

What’s stopping record-breaking sales? The National Marine Manufacturers Association says purchases of midsize new powerboats in the 35- to 55-foot range are lagging even as smaller budget models and bigger vessels are surging.

What’s missing: Until the real estate bubble burst nationally in 2008, many Americans used home equity loans to finance purchase of a midsize boat.

“We won’t see that (boat sales) segment fully recover until the housing market fully recovers,” said Thom Dammrich, association president.

Still, if one adds up sales of new and used boats, trailers, accessories and storage, “2014 will probably end close to the prerecession high,” Dammrich noted.

Locally, boat sales are strong for people who can pay up front. At Fish Tale, “probably 90 percent or better writes a check,” Jahn said.

People just getting started in boating can get boat loans for 4 percent or less if they have good credit, Jahn said, adding that terms of 10 years or more are possible.

Still, some would-be boaters are waiting on the sidelines until the their businesses or jobs feel more secure, dealers said.

“I don’t think you’re seeing a lot of guys who were in construction buying new boats,” Hansen said. “It’s taking a while for (that industry) to bounce back, but it’s starting.”

Fort Myers Boat Show

When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. today through Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday

Where: City Yacht Basin and Harborside Event Center, 1375 Monroe St., Fort Myers

Admission: $10

Featuring: Boats, marine products and services, seminars on fishing and boat safety

Online:GoBoatingFlorida.com


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