Outlook sunny for Palm Beach boat show – Sun

Clear skies and a blazing sun greeted attendees Thursday as they filed through gates for the noon opening of the 29th Palm Beach International Boat Show.

For many exhibitors, the sunny kick-off reflected their own optimism for business over the four-day event, expected to attract more than 60,000 people.

Organizers also were upbeat during a media briefing Thursday, noting that advance ticket sales were up 30 percent this year for the expanded show, which runs farther south along Flagler Drive in downtown West Palm Beach.

“We’re encouraged by the advance ticket sales and are happy with results so far,” said Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist III, CEO of Fort Lauderdale-based Show Management, the event’s producer.

The number of new boats on display in-water is up 12 percent to 275 vessels, while the number of small boats under 40 feet climbed 28 percent, Zimbalist said. Pre-owned or brokerage boats 61 to 79 feet in length also increased 23 percent from 2013.

The increase in smaller boats is “encouraging,” Zimbalist said, noting that these were the boats that entry-level or beginner boaters typically chose to get into the water.

“We’re starting to see more and more interest in these boats as people become more comfortable with spending money,” in the improving economy, he said.

Overall there are 579 boats in-water this year, up from 550 in 2013, Zimbalist said.

With more than $1.2 billion worth of luxury yachts, sportfishing boats, tenders and other watercraft on display, as well as marine accessories and apparel, there’s plenty to indulge the senses.

Over its nearly 30 years, the boat show has grown into a major economic driver for the South Florida area and in particular members of the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County, the trade group that owns the show.

In 2012, the boat show generated sales of $76.5 million for South Florida-based businesses and $99.7 million overall for the Florida companies that participated, according to findings of an economic impact study released in October that year.

Exhibitors sold an estimated $125 million in marine products at the 2012 event.

For exhibitor E. J. Schrader Mattress Co. Inc., a 57-year-old West Palm Beach business, the show is a “not-to-miss” event.

“We expect to see new and old clients and we hope many boats get sold,” said Diane Schrader, who handles sales and marketing for the company, which makes mattresses for beds in cabins and staterooms as well as residences. “If the boats are sold, we’ll get our business then.”

Boat dealers also were enthused.

“Everything that’s priced properly in the market is selling well,” said Bob Saxon, president of International Yacht Collection in Fort Lauderdale, which is displaying nine boats ranging from 47 to 165 feet in length. “There’s a tide of momentum, and buyer enthusiasm.”

Worth Avenue Yachts in Palm Beach has 14 yachts in the show, up from nine last year.

“Business is definitely on the upswing,” said spokeswoman Shannon McCoy, noting that the company has sold three multimillion-dollar new-build yachts during the last six months. “A lot of the wealth is coming from America.”

Among those perusing the sea of boats Thursday was Ginny Bowen, a retired social worker from Fort Myers, who was looking to replace an older 22-foot Sea Ray weekender, which she’s had for 11 years.

“I’m on a looking expedition,” said Bowen, after touring a 31-foot Sea Ray Sundancer, which had a starting price of $218,000. “There are lots of boats to choose from and lots of new things to see.”

asatchell@tribune.com, 954-356-4209 or Twitter@TheSatchreport.

If you go

What: 29th Palm Beach International Boat Show

When: Friday/Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.- 6 p.m.

Where: Along Intracoastal Waterway on Flagler Drive, entrances at Evernia and North Clematis streets

Tickets: Adults $18 at gate ($16 online); children 6-15, $8 ($6 online); kids under 6 free.

Parking: At municipal/private garages in downtown West Palm Beach

Information: Call 954-764-7642; showmanagement.com

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