For boat vendors, it has been a 'buying year'

Turnout at show higher than average, with sales better than last year

Posted: Monday, March 22, 2004

As of 2 p.m. Sunday, Willie Harris and his boat dealership, Willie's Marine Inc., had sold nine boats during the Glacier Valley Rotary Boat show, March 19-21 at Centennial Hall.

He couldn't be certain, but he thinks that was nine more boats than the shop sold at last year's show.

"It's a buying year; people are buying boats," Harris said.

"Last year wasn't very good," he said. "I think we had a pretty low turnout, and it probably had to do with the war in Iraq. When people worry about the economy and their jobs, it really affects their recreation."

Total ticket sales won't be known until today, but the word among merchants and officials Sunday afternoon was that turnout was higher than average. Attendance has steadily increased since 2001, when it was much lower than average, show chairman Bud Jaeger said.

"We may have had the biggest turnout we've had for awhile," Jaeger said. "I've been talking to various people and dealers and they don't know for sure, but they thought there were more buyers this year then there were lookers."

The boat show is traditionally the beginning of the season for vendors.

"We never know how it's going to be until we get here," said Harris, Willie's Marine owner for 15 years. "We've always set this as our kickoff for the season. It gives us the chance to talk to customers we haven't seen since last year, and see what their needs are going to be this year."

"Being competitors in the same room, we're all trying to see who's got what and trying to have a better price than out competitors," he said.

Rick Wolfenberger, general manager of Fisherman's Bend and Andrew's Marina Inc. in Auke Bay, agreed that the boat vendors had a good year. But sales were average for his fishing supplies, he said.

"(The turnout) wasn't as good as previous years, in my opinion," Wolfenberger said. "It was a decent turnout. We were able to demonstrate a lot of products and had a lot of interest and some decent sales."

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