Free admission and steep discounts on boats helped boost attendance and sales at the recent Atlantic Coast Boat Show in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Although exact numbers were not available because the free admission meant there were no ticket sales to count, show organizer David Ray said he sensed that attendance was up. And so did the dealers.
"I haven't seen dealers smile in a long time," Ray, executive director of the Marine Industries Association of Central Florida, told Soundings Trade Only. "They were smiling at this show."
The results are not what they were a few years ago, but he said, "There's a light at the end of the tunnel."
"We're still not there, and it's going to take a while to get back to where we were, but everybody was very happy," he said.
The show was held April 4-5 at the Ocean Center. It was pushed back from its traditional January dates because of scheduling conflicts at the convention center.
Ray said this was the first time the show offered free admission in order to entice more people to come to the show during this sluggish economy.
"The initial concern was the quality of the buyers wouldn't be there, but the quality of buyers was there," he said.
He said a number of manufacturers helped exhibiting dealers by offering steep discounts to boost sales. Ray cited one boat displayed at the show that posted an MSRP of $46,103, a dealer invoice of $32,042 and a sale price at the show of $26,994.
Ray said dealers were still able to make profits on such discounts - albeit smaller profits - because of the manufacturers' help.