Boat dealers eager for show to open

Published online: Jan 14, 2011 News Mike Boyer -
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It may be cold and snowy outside the Duke Energy Convention Center, but it's warm breezes and sunny skies inside as the 53rd Cincinnati Travel, Sports & Boat Show sets sail.
"I think the weather's great," said Chip Hart, whose family's Hart Productions has always produced the convention center's longest-running show. The cold weather, he said, helps fuel attendance, typically more than 55,000, for the event, which runs through Jan. 23 except for Monday and Tuesday.

"People have cabin fever. This show gives them a taste of spring that's still two months away."

After a lean couple of years, with boat sales nationally off about 55 percent, boat dealers say the market has started improving along with the economy.

"The last two years have been really tough in our industry," said Ed Alf III, president of Sea Ray of Cincinnati. "It feels like things have turned the corner and heading up."

His dealership on Kellogg Avenue in Columbia Tusculum will have 18 boats on display at this year's show, ranging from 15 feet to a 31-foot 310 SunDancer cabin cruiser that sleeps six and costs $200,000.

Sales at No Wake Marine, a Blue Ash dealership that specializes in inboard craft for skiing and wakeboarding, were up 15-20 percent last year, said salesman Paul Stoutenborough. "I think people are more confident in the economy," he said.

Norm Schultz, retired long-time director of the Lake Erie boat dealers association and author of a marine dealers blog , said from a peak of 325,000 units in 2008, U.S. pleasure boat production fell to about 175,000 last year.


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