Some of the industry's early winter boat shows are reporting decent attendance figures.
Despite snowstorms late last week in Nashville, Tenn., and a flood caused by the Atlanta show's Indoor Wake Park pool on opening day, the 2012 Progressive Insurance Nashville Boat & Sportshow and 2012 Progressive Insurance Atlanta Boat Show finished strong, with reports from many exhibitors of good sales results, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.
Total attendance in Nashville was up 9 percent from 2011, at 13,723. The Progressive Insurance Atlanta Boat Show drew 22,482 people, a 7 percent decrease from 2011.
Both shows ran Jan. 12-15.
Attendance was up 3 percent at this year's Providence Boat Show, which ran Jan. 12-15 at the Rhode Island Convention Center.
"We heard very positive feedback," show spokeswoman Carol Dietz said in an e-mail to Soundings Trade Only. "Seems like a number of people have been holding back and are starting to seriously think about pulling the trigger."
As was the case at the New York Boat Show during the first week of January, exhibitors at the Providence show spoke with guarded optimism about the show and the coming year.
"I think everybody's feeling optimistic that something's going to turn," said Jack Barber, in the parts and sales departments at Ocean House Marina, a Regulator, Godfrey, Scout and Maritime Marine dealer in Charleston, R.I. Like other vendors at the show, he noted that potential customers are coming to him with specific questions and requests for what they're looking for in a boat, an encouraging change from recent years.
Although any sign of an improved market is greeted by vendors as cause for excitement, many acknowledged that the sales world they remember is not returning anytime soon.
"I don't think it will be like years past, but the people that we're seeing seem like serious buyers," said Ross Lemieux, a co-owner of family-run Inland Marine, a Sea Hunt, Tahoe and G3 dealer in Chepachet, R.I.