Marine industry adapts to show cancellations
Billed as a strong end to the season, the cancellation of both boat shows – Ocean Village Boat Show from MDL and BOATS2020 from British Marine – by Southampton City Council’s public health teams finds dealers already fighting back, with the Hamble playing host to a wide variety of yachts.
“We heard the news about six pm,” says Will Blair from Ancasta, which represents Beneteau power & sail, Prestige, and Lagoon Catamarans in the UK. The company was exhibiting at Ocean Village and BOATS2020. The Ancasta team immediately sprang into action. “We worked hard on the coms throughout Thursday night and decamped Friday morning from both venues” he says. “We brought the boats back to our head office in Port Hamble and were receiving our first appointments in Port Hamble by 12pm.”
He says that the quick action means that very few appointments dropped out and that the full team is on hand in the Hamble with an increased capacity, ready to welcome visitors for the rest of this week.
“People can turn up and relax, no tickets required, there is free parking, fresh coffee and the environment is completely safe and secure,” Blair says. “Despite the cancellation of the shows, we’re enabling people to get onboard and experience the fantastic broad selection of models outside the office here in Port Hamble.”
It’s a similar story from SE Yachts, exclusive UK agents for Arcona Yachts, Najad Yachts, and Delta Powerboats.
“We were able to relocate the Arcona 465Z and Najad 395AC to our home in Hamble Point Marina, on Friday,” says Kate Porteous, marketing manager. “We spent most of Friday contacting everyone who had booked to see us at Ocean Village to invite them to a private exclusive appointment on our yachts. Naturally we’re continuing to adhere to the latest government guidelines in light of the ever-changing situation with the Covid-19 pandemic. We’re still confirming appointments through to the end of week.
“All the people that we’ve spoken to were very understanding and sympathetic. It was completely outside of everyone’s control, even the organisers. It’s so sad knowing how much effort had gone in from all aspects.”
Chris Warwick, Universal Yachting, says that – against the odds – the company’s had a brilliant weekend. Warwick has three Dufour yachts, 360, 412, and 56 on show at Mercury Yacht Harbour.
“Our doors were wide open,” he says. “It was a great weekend. People enjoyed it. They were able to meet up with us at the time they wanted in a completely safe environment. The people that came are deadly serious buyers and appreciated the time we were able to give them.
“Even though the weekend was great,” he says, “there’s always a place for big boat shows. We missed those people who come to look at another brand and then stumble across us. That cross-pollination. And we missed sowing the seed, the dream, into the younger generation so that they have aspirations and desire to join the sailing community.”
Likewise, Porteous is pragmatic about the need for shows.
“We lost one appointment with a family which is a shame as both the Najad and Arcona yachts are ideal family boats. They had booked to see multiple brands at the show and the idea of going from marina to marina with young children was too much for the parents. The hassle to get young children in and out of the car at every marina was daunting. The whole purpose of a show is a one stop shop.”
“Shows are essential to our industry,” Warwick says, “but they don’t always have to be in the same format. Smaller collection shows work, like the South Coast Boat Show, and I really believe there’s room for pop-up open weekends.
“Every dealer on the river [Hamble] can open their doors and get the flags out. We must get the message out that there is a lot of choice and if we can get the dealers to work together on a number of open weekends where people can see a range of boats from a variety of manufacturers, that’d be fantastic. We can top up big shows with pop-up weekends where dealers stay where they are and open their doors.
“We were flat out yesterday [Sunday], we didn’t stop, we didn’t have time for lunch, as people were moving from dealer to dealer. It can work.”
While dealers are welcoming buyers onto their boats, Ocean Village Boat Show is being dismantled.
“The site is being broken down, the hospitality’s gone, the signage is going into storage,” says Tim Mayer, sales and marketing director for MDL. “We’ve had 60 or 70 boats leave already.
“Thankfully no visitors turned up on site as we let all those who had booked to come know on Thursday evening. Now we’re supporting the exhibitors as much as we can with flexibility of what to do with their boats, and any additional marketing.
“There will be no evidence that there was ever a show in about 48 hours.”
There has been some criticism of the plans to even go ahead this year, even though both shows worked closely with Southampton City Council during the planning stages. British Marine is currently appealing to the Secretary of State for Public Health and the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport about the decision, with a view to understand the options available to recompense British Marine exhibitors and stakeholders.
“As BOATS2020 was unceremoniously dumped, the world of social media has rung with the comments of the naysayers and critics,” says Chris Davison, sales manager VersaDock (part of the Berthon Group) which was due to exhibit at BOATS2020, via Linkedin.
“I have heard people in the industry claim to be ‘smug’, that they decided not to exhibit at BOATS2020 this year. I have heard people say it shouldn’t have even been attempted.
“I say this. Good on everyone who tried, who made an effort and invested in having a go at getting a show off the ground in-spite of the issues it presented. Good on all the people who had a go at boosting their sales instead of relying on furlough schemes.
“Many of these businesses will be feeling the pinch after a summer of restrictions and cautious clients. Don’t feel smug that the show didn’t happen. Feel proud of an industry that keeps moving forward, keeps evolving and doesn’t give up.
“If you need something for your boat this winter, buy it from the people who made an effort and help them to keep going and to keep making a difference.”
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