I'm often amazed at the time, money and effort that go into the floor displays at boat shows. And I'm not just talking about the big, high-profile boat shows either. I've seen this on the local level as well at the smaller shows too.
But getting people to step foot in your booth is what the game is all about. If that means giving out t-shirts, pens and coozies by having kids spin a big wheel, then so be it. Manufacturers and dealers are competing for every recreational dollar at these shows and they're not afraid to drop a little coin to improve their presence in the eyes of the show goer.
Before I started working at PDB magazine I helped set up a display for a show and I thought the look of it was very impressive. But the night before the show was set to open (and just as us grunts were about to leave after a long, hard day of setup) the head boss came in and said he hated the display. At first we kind of smirked, figuring he was just being a little sarcastic considering all the money that had gone into this booth display, not to mention all the man hours that went into setting up this never-been-used set.
But he wasn't joking. The next thing we knew he was flying in 10 guys from Texas and buying them all tools to build, create and work through the night so he could have the booth that he wanted. That meant we were working through the night too, which didn't go over very well.
Talk about a waste of money. I remember being a poor college student at the time and thinking this money could have gone to a better use. But to him the show was too important not to look just right. Of course, where was Mr. Boss man when he signed off on the original version in the first place? But no one was dumb enough to bring that up even though we were all thinking it. I guess it is this kind of free spending and dumb thinking that has our country working through a down economy right now.
One popular attraction at any show is what's become known as "booth babes" which truly make a lot of sense at a boat show. But one year while at the Miami Boat Show I couldn't help but feel sorry for the bikini girls working the crowd for a pontoon manufacturer. Florida was having one of those fluke cold spells in February and it was probably 40 degrees that week. And with the big pontoon display outside of course, that left the girls nearly purple. I guess they were stopping the crowd, but probably for the wrong reasons. Most of the guys were offering up their jackets and shaking their heads in disbelief that the girls weren't allowed to go home.
But I think my favorite thing to see is when a dealer or manufacturer spends a large amount of money and brings in a huge display of boats, maybe even adds a waterfall or some elaborate setup in the corner, but then his guys working the show are lazy. People will be walking through looking at the boats and the sales rep is sitting in the corner reading the newspaper. I've worked shows before for the magazine and I know what it's like to be on your feet all day and enduring a long show, but c'mon! And of course these salesman will be the first to complain that the show traffic was slow or that they didn't have enough sales leads that week, but where's the effort?
Yeah, it's boat show season and that makes me happy. It's fun to get out and see the new boats, the crowds and of course those displays. Get out this year and let those dealers compete against each other to give you a great price on a new boat. Most are eager to sell you a boat and the rest, well, let's just let them finish reading their paper.
Brady L. Kay