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February 5, 2014

Detroit Boat Show slated to attract tens of thousands of buyers

By Julie Snyder
C & G Staff Writer

DETROIT — The 56th annual Detroit Boat Show is something avid boaters around southeast Michigan look forward to every winter.

Organizers of the event say about 65,000 people pack Cobo Hall to take a close look at the hundreds of boats on display and for sale during the massive nine-day event held Feb. 15-23.

Nicki Polan, show manager and executive director of the Michigan Boating Industries Association (MBIA) — the organization that owns and produces the Detroit Boat Show — said fishing, skiing, wakeboarding and cruising, as well as paddle boats, kayaks, paddleboards and inflatables, are just some of the exciting sites during the show.

“It is great to be in this position, as we know we will be offering a great display of boats, motors and accessories to those who attend the Detroit Boat Show,” said Polan.  “Space sales are up more than 15 percent, and the number of boats on the floor will also be up from last year.”

The Detroit Boat Show is considered the best place to shop for a boat, as it would take weeks to see as many boats and dealers around the state. Show prices are also extremely competitive, and buying a boat in February assures that boats will be ready for an early summer launch.

Rick Velger, owner and manager of Hideaway Harbor and Yacht Sales in Harrison Township, said dealers will be boasting innumerable factory incentives, and it would be a shame to miss out.

“We have two large displays and will have about 40 boats,” said Velger. “This event has always given us a big boost in business, and it really gets people in the mood for boating season. Last year, we sold 75 boats during the show. Our goal this year is to sell 100.”

And Velger isn’t an amateur when it comes to the Detroit Boat Show.

“My family has been going to the boat show since it started 56 years ago,” he said. “My grandfather and my father, and now me.”

The 2014 Detroit Boat Show is an impressive 300,000-square-foot display of all things boating.  Hundreds of boats from 10-55 feet in length will be on display and for sale at great boat show prices, according to Polan.

“In 2012, Michigan outpaced the rest of the county in growth and sales for our industry,” she said. “2013 has also been a good year for our industry, and we’re thrilled to see the increase in demand for space from our exhibitors. Attendees will be pleased to see a second year of significant growth for the show with more and bigger boats than last year.”

According to the MBIA, Michigan is the third-largest marine market in the country, with more than $450 million in sales of boats, motors, trailers and accessories in 2012. Michigan’s recovery has outpaced the rest of the country for the past two years.

In 2011, Michigan’s marine sales increased 20 percent, while the rest of the country grew 5 percent.  In 2012, Michigan’s total marine retail sales saw a 42 percent increase from the year prior, while the national increase was 10 percent.

“Solid gains have been made in the industry for the past three years, and 2014 should maintain that same trend,” said Jim Coburn, of Coburn & Associates and MBIA chairman. “We estimate unit boat sales growth will perform at approximately 6 percent for the year and anticipate a slightly improved performance in 2014.”

Michigan also ranks third in total boat registrations nationally, with nearly one million registered boats on file and an estimated four million boaters. 

“We estimate there are 300,000 legally unregistered boats in this state, and if they were counted, Michigan may likely be No. 1 for registered boats,” Polan said.

More than 65,000 buyers are expected to attend to see and buy hundreds of new 2014, 2013, and 2012 model boats of all types and sizes. Many dealers say they can attribute up to 50-percent of their annual sales to sales and leads generated at the show. The Detroit Boat Show also offers exhibits selling boating accessories and services including motors, dockage, water toys, skiing and wakeboarding gear, boating and fishing accessories, electronics, boat gear, nautical gifts, and artwork.

Promotions offer something for everyone at the Detroit Boat Show, Polan said. In addition to the best place to shop for a boat, the show offers a full line-up of special attractions to assure show goers a full day of fun. Special features include: The Live Stingray Encounter, The  Waterwalkerz & New Water Rollerz, Kids Boat Building Center, meet a live mermaid, Free Boating Safety Seminar, APBA Offshore Power Boats, Discover Boating Center and a Discover Boating Center aimed at those new to boating.

Special admission days include the following:

• Monday, Feb. 17, is Senior Day and seniors older than 63 receive free admission.

• Tuesday, Feb. 18, is Don’t Rock the Boat & Ladies Day, and participating dealers will donate $100 for every boat sold to the Michigan Parkinson Foundation. In addition, ladies get in free.

• Wednesday, Feb. 19, is A Boat Load of Food, and attendees are asked to bring in 5 cans of food for Gleaners Food Bank to get in free 3-6 p.m.

• Thursday, Feb. 20, is half price tickets 3-6 p.m.

Admission to the boat show is $12 for adults; children 12 and under are free with an adult. Discount tickets and hotel accommodations at the Courtyard by Marriott are available at www.detroitboatshow.net. Hours are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturdays and Monday; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays; and 3 p.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Parking is available at Cobo Center and surrounding lots.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Julie Snyder at jsnyder@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1039.