PHOTOS Economy on the rocks? Naples boat show sales going well, vendors say

— Pontoon boats, Carolina Skiffs, and luxury yachts are just some of the boats being displayed and sold during the Naples Boat Show this week.

Strong attendance and higher than expected sales are helping vendors move some of their stagnant inventory, while customers are taking advantage of special pricing by manufacturers and vendors.

“The feel-good factor’s starting to come back slowly,” said Mick Anderson, co-organizer of the Naples Boat Show. “All the vendors are doing well and this is maybe the turning point.”

One vendor that exceeded its own expectations was Galati Yacht Sales, which brought four boats ranging in price from the low-$100,000s to more than $500,000. All four boats were sold by Friday.

“We brought in some inventory that was aging and priced it aggressively and that’s it,” said David Hirshberg, sales manager for Galati Yacht Sales. “Now we hope it will all be new boats being sold as the economy picks up.”

While the yachts being sold by Galati were all more than 31 feet, other vendors had a range of smaller boats available.

“We’ve got everything from 8-foot for $1,200 to 41-foot for $425,000 and pretty much everything in between,” said Mike Murphy, owner of Marina Mike’s.

More boat show attendees are buying this year compared to last, according to Murphy.

“We’re seeing a lot more interest this year,” said Murphy, who had sold three boats by Saturday afternoon. “The pontoon boats, center consoles and Carolina Skiffs have been pretty hot lately with the economy because they’re lower-priced.”

Marina Mike’s offered discounts on both the 2009 and 2010 inventory brought to the show.

“There’s a lot of inventory and a lot of competition so we’ve taken up to 20 to 40 percent off some of them just to get them out of our inventory,” Murphy said. “The old inventory is the way to go, but I’m also making deals on 2010’s just because I need the cash flow to keep 27 people employed.”

While vendors were selling boats at the show, some attendees used the event as their first stop in researching prices and seeing what deals were offered.

“We want to buy a pontoon boat and this is a convenient way to get an idea of what prices are,” Judy Kohlmann said.

Vendors saw a mix of customers doing their research like Kohlmann and those who were ready to make a purchase.

“We’ve sold several boats and we have a lot of prospects that are waiting for us to get with them after to go for test drives,” said Phil Osborne, owner of Naples Boat Mart. “People are doing more research and being smarter about their purchases.”

The four-day boat show wraps up from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at 100 Goodlette-Frank Road S. in Naples. The cost is $10.

_ Contact Catherine Howden at catherine.howden@gmail.com

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