It’s curtain time for boat show – Sun

It’s curtain time for the 53rd Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, and exhibitors are praying the stormy weather stays at bay so they can reel in big business during its five-day run.

While organizers are taking precautions, the show will open for business Thursday and is expected to be one of the best in recent years, said the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, the event’s owner.

That’s good news for the more than 1,200 exhibitors of boats, yachts and marine products and accessories who have a lot riding on the show that runs through Monday at six city sites.

It’s been a mixed sales bag for South Florida boat sellers this year.

Some say business is up from 2011, while others contend it’s flat or lagging in the uncertain economy.

Some argue the election year has made some buyers reluctant to make big ticket purchases, while others say serious buyers are starting to return.

Nationwide, retail sales of new powerboats are expected to increase 10 percent in 2012, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

The types of boats leading this growth trend include pontoons, ski boats and jet boats, the association said.

Open fisherman boats with multiple outboards, which are generally used for fishing and diving, are among top selling boats in South Florida this year, industry specialists say.

Data shows new boat sales have rebounded in South Florida year over year, according to Info-Link Technologies Inc., a Miami-based marine industry tracker.

For the 12 months ending in September, new boat sales in the region climbed 5.5 percent to 3,854 units compared with 3,653 in 2011. And from July through September, new boat sales rose 10 percent to 989 units compared with 899 in the prior-year quarter.

Hargrave Custom Yachts will have 11 motor yachts on display this year, its biggest ever at the event, CEO Michael Joyce said recently.

The Hargrave boats have different hull shapes, exterior designs and equipment packages, which reflect the company’s diverse offerings, Joyce noted.

For fiscal year 2013, which began Oct. 1, he’s anticipating record sales.

“We will have more new yachts for sale this [fiscal] year than at any time in our history, and what that means is we are now playing on a level field with competitors … who have always offered new models and immediate delivery,” Joyce said. “In times of uncertainly customers don’t want to wait for anything.”

Sales of pre-owned boats at Northrop Johnson are up about 10 percent this year, President and Partner Kevin Merrigan said Wednesday.

Northrop, which has a Fort Lauderdale office, will have 27 yachts at the show — the largest collection of brokerage yachts this year, Merrigan said.

He credits the business upswing to the quality of pre-owned boats for sale.

“People are reluctant to build new boats when there’s a great selection of pre-owned boats at attractive prices,” Merrigan said.

As for the bad weather threat, Merrigan sees an upside.

“As always, the good thing about bad weather is the really committed buyers come out.”

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