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Commentary: The Rise Of A Boutique Boat Show

Last Sunday morning in Key Largo, Fla., Nor-Tech Hi-Performance Boats offered Blood Marys—made with Good Boy Vodka and garnished with fresh stone crab claws—to anyone who happened by its dockside display at Gilbert’s Resort and Tiki Bar. It was the final day of the Florida Powerboat Club Miami Boat Show Poker Run and Exhibit, and as the event’s presenting sponsor the Fort Myers, Fla., company wanted to thank attendees with a fancy morning beverage.

Attracting a target audience to a casual and intimate venue is a winning formula for high-performance powerboat shows. Photo from the 2021 Miami Boat Show Poker Run and Exhibit by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

For any number of good to excellent reasons, this is not something that would happen at the Miami International Boat Show, which was cancelled this year. But Nor-Tech’s fine hospitality directed at a target audience of performance-boat enthusiasts begs a question.

Are boutique shows, as Randy Scism of MTI in Wentzville, Fla., described the Florida Powerboat Club event, the future—or least an integral part of it—for the high-performance powerboat world?

“For the first year, it’s a good show,” said Scism. “It’s a cool boutique boat show.”

Cool is one thing, sales and sales leads are another. Here again, the inaugural Florida Powerboat Club “show within a poker run” proved successful.

“It’s much more effective than the Miami show and very similar to what we have done at Super Cat Fest,” said John Cosker of Mystic Powerboats in DeLand, Fla. “I think a lot of venues could benefit from shows like this.

“Pre-promotion is key,” he said “I had sea trials all scheduled before the weekend. People were definitely there to shop and there were a lot of cat buyers—I am working on three or four cat deals now.”

Said Nor-Tech’s Geoff Tomlinson, who hand-delivered a Bloody Mary to Scism (who passed it along to his lovely wife, Cherell), “I think there were fewer leads but the quality of leads were much better. It was targeted at our core audience. And the overall experience was more relaxed than a traditional boat show.”

Henrik Margård, his excitable Nor-Tech colleague, was less reserved.

“It was phenomenal,” he said. “It was a buyer’s show for sure, a little light on traffic but the quality was there. We had five orders placed including one—number 10—for our new 50-foot center console.”

Something else to consider? According to Margård, exhibiting at last weekend’s boutique event in Key Largo cost Nor-Tech 75 percent less than exhibiting at the annual Miami event.

“The return on investment was very, very good,” he said.

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