QUEENSBURY -- Bryant Laferriere was looking for his third boat, and on Sunday, he drove an hour and a half to get it.
The Willsboro man was one of thousands of people browsing for boats this weekend at the fifth annual Great Upstate Boat Show.
By Sunday morning, more than 2,000 had already passed through the doors of the Adirondack Sports Complex, 40 percent more than at last year’s show, organizer Roger Phinney said.
The annual show serves as a way for local dealers to market themselves while boosting sales, he said.
"Part of a boat show is an advertising campaign," he said. "The other part is to move your product."
Phinney said for buyers, part of the show’s appeal is in being able to compare a variety of dealers in one place, rather than driving all over the area to find the right boat at the right price.
"People can come and see you here right across the aisle," he said. "You can sort that all out here in a couple of hours."
Even though dealers said sales this year were picking up after a tough 2009, Phinney said last year was the show’s best in terms of sales.
"The interest is there in boating," he said. "The dealers are very optimistic."
By noon on Sunday, more than 40 boats had been sold. By the end of last year’s show, 92 sales totaling some $2 million were made.
"It doesn’t appear that the number of people interested greatly diminished," Phinney said.
What did diminish during the recession was credit, he said, as banks were more hesitant to make loans for boat buyers and other financial institutions stopped lending money to dealers for them to stock their sales floors, resulting in some manufacturers slowing production.
"It’s a tough world for a boat dealer," he said.
For Jeff Olson, the general manager of Saratoga Boat Works, things were looking up.
"I’m pretty sure this is going to be our best year," he said.
By Sunday afternoon, the company had sold about 20 boats, up from 10 sales last year.
Olson said he was seeing more foot traffic than last year, and said the show kicks off the year for the company.
Garth Scott, a boat manufacturer who sat across from Olson at the show, agreed. He said he had seen sales go up between 50 and 80 percent over last year.
Peter Brown, the owner and manager of Smooth Water Sports, said business was similar for him.
"It slowed a lot last year," he said. "This year they’re climbing back up."
Brown’s company is smaller, and said that by Sunday afternoon, he had sold three boats, and typically sells six boats per show.
Going to the show is still important for his business, he said, because it’s a good way for customers to compare his product to others and put their hands on all of them.
"People see we’re still here," he said. "It reaffirms our position in the market."http://www.poststar.com/news/local/article_6039d78e-3ada-11df-8ac6-001cc4c002e0.html