The madness of the 2020 Toronto Boat Show is about to begin! Last year show reports indicate that over 900 boats of all types were purchased at the show and attendance was up just a wee bit. Okay…as we steam full ahead towards the 2020 boating season…what are the trends….storms on the horizon ( icebergs ) and perhaps calm waters? Each year after the Toronto Boat Show I pen an article with some thoughts on the event…winners and losers, trends and comments. For the 2020 boating season we will change this up and write a series of articles throughout the year….called 15 Thoughts. Hope you find it entertaining….I will try and stay out of politics… definitely hard with what is happening in Ontario and south of the border.
2020 marks the 34 year that I have presented boating products at the Toronto Boat Show…..a real life sentence! Those who know me ask me what the boating business is like….here is what I say….it is like a combination of movie Weekend at Bernie’s and the older movie Gator with Bert Reynolds if I remember right. If you have not seen these take a look…good stuff! Anyway…here are my thoughts after the show…there could be some hurt feelings:
- The Toronto Boat Show is a T Rex dinosaur waiting for a large streaking comet to impact the building for the next large extinction event. The show has not changed essentially at all in the 33 years I have done the show. Same boat builders…some newer ones in the same places…in some cases with the same people standing there! If you like looking at boats of all sizes out of the cold…and want to think summer fun and excitement this is the place! Without doing some research before you attend…crazy hard to make an informed choice!
- Last year there were so many pontoons on display that if you lined them up end to end…Trump could use them as the wall he wants so bad. I did pitch an idea to Cypress Cay to contact the US Government when they were saying Canada was bad as they could sell them several thousand to raft across Lake Huron and Superior with barbed wire on top to keep we bad Canadians out! (sorry some politics)
- People do not know how to buy a pontoon boat! It should be more than a furniture sale…..I have real trouble with this! In 2018 I spoke with 236 people in the Cypress Cay booth. Only 4 actually asked about construction…very alarming trend! 2019 was not any better. Boater’s Chat last year and again in 2020 is presenting the Best Pontoon Boater’s Guide published in January. I am asking why almost all the pontoon builders on that comparison after the 2019 comparison…dropped nearly all construction information off their websites in 2020? One company on their website says…trust us as we know what we doing….very interesting…Boater’s Chat is not comfortable with that on a 50K plus purchase…you make your own call on this! The boat builder’s know that buyers are not paying attention to construction when making buying decisions…a head scratcher for Boater’s Chat!
- Fishing boats and pontoon boats are the main driver of the marine business and this is where the retail sales action has been for the last 5 years. Most of the known pontoon brands were sold out for the season. There was a slight cooling off in Ontario in 2019 in these products groups due to flooding, weather and that nasty Liberal 10% tariff! There are boats with that awful 10% tariff included still available in Ontario. There will be no deals there…or only with great pain for the dealer!
- NAFTA has been ratified by the US…this is very good for boat pricing in Canada as almost all boating products are US based. If this was to fall apart..look out for boat pricing as the Canadian dollar could take a significant hit….my guess 5%. The marine business is US based and boats and boating products are priced in US dollars. Every one cent on the exchange is $1000 on $100,000. Today the exchange rate is as good as it has been for months. Are boats cheaper at the Toronto Boat Show? The strength of the Canadian dollar this year is going to make pricing more attractive at this years show….after that it is up to the builder and dealer to put a program together that gets the buyer excited.
- Big pontoons 23 feet or longer with big outboard power are on fire! The need for speed is there…the catch is that buyers do not know what they should be looking for as not all performance pontoons are the same. Big power with poor handling is…..not exciting!
- Fiberglass bowriders have been taking it on the chin with pontoons ruling the day! Bowriders have found a second wind and are making a strong comeback in the later rounds in 2020. Outboards rule..Mercury cannot make enough large outboards over 200 HP. The V6 Mercury Pro XS is dominating the 200HP market.
- Speaking of fiberglass….fiberglass fishing boats such as Skeeter Boats, Seafox Boats plus the new Campion Rage are about to break the high end monopoly of aluminum….close to the same price now and always performed better. The Campion 22′ Rage is already sold out till March! the new Rage will be unveiled at The Toronto Boat Show…absolutely awesome! Ranger and Bass Cat look out!
- PWC and Jet boats are alive and doing just fine thank you. Yamaha Jet Boat sales are strong and I was told that Yamaha Jet Boats are the second largest selling fiberglass boat in the US….wow! There are 2019 new PWC in the pipeline at Ontario dealerships…these will have to be moved…opportunity here for the PWC buyer.
- Some of those deck boats on display at the Toronto Boat Show in 2019 were too ugly to live….what were they thinking? New colours for 2020…light blue, light green, light grey some mini flake accents….way too much graphics.
- Buyers continue to overpay for low end low quality boats as they think that all boats are built equal, last as long and therefore I am going to buy the cheapest….bad call for a purchase of a product that you are looking to last decades! In the business, we all know what these low end brands are… but what are you doing as a salesperson or dealership telling someone they are the same as brand X….
- Selling strictly on monthly or biweekly payment is front and center….the car business….yikes! When this gets started all will follow. Remember for just $5 more per month you can have a real engine! MSRP down pricing just like the car business is coming in 2020!
- What is with the colours….an all black hull with dark brown interior?????? Does it come complete with a sprinkler system as you will not be able to sit on the seats in the sunshine without getting 2nd degree burns. Question…how do you sell a black boat with a dark interior….answer….place welders glasses on the buyer and tell them the light is bad! Great boathouse boat…leave it in the boathouse all the time!
- The new kid on the block is the center console….really not new…been around forever! Number one seller in the southern USA and very quickly becoming a go to boat on the Great Lakes and non protected bodies of water. The center console has been discovered in Ontario for all of its advantages….they will take a bite out of the pontoon market staring in 2020.
- The financial partners of Ontario marine retail are of the opinion that the 2020 marine season will be strong in terms of sales. Lots of pent up demand…inventory may be short and the wait time right now on an ordered boats is long…bad as I have seen it for awhile. If you are looking to order a new family boat….might want to get this done by the end of January or you will be disappointed.