Hi gang, Rick here from Used Pontoon Boats. Boat dealers hoping exhibition in Charlotte will lift flagging sales Drought dealt severe blow to business for Lake Norman dealers.For many area boat dealers, sales fell as fast as water levels when the ongoing drought sapped area lakes in the fall months.
They're hoping recent rainfall, and maybe more important, this week's Mid-Atlantic Boat Show, will help get business on track.
Various dealers and other boating-related businesses have set up shop at the Charlotte Convention Center, which runs until Sunday. Many are banking on the show to energize a slow market.
For much of 2007, said Lake Norman Power Sports sales manager Matthew Figaro, sales figures matched 2006. When fall arrived and the drought really took effect, he said, sales halted.
"The season seemed to stop a lot faster than normal," Figaro said.
Lake Norman Power Sports has typically done about $500,000 in business at the Mid-Atlantic show, Figaro said.
That business boom isn't unique to Figaro's Cornelius store. Boat dealers say they'll usually get anywhere from 20 percent to 50 percent of the year's business from customers at the show.
Some customers buy at the show. Others will make a down payment on a boat. Some others still will pick up a dealer's card and purchase a boat in later months.
Either way, the show is vital to boat dealers, especially after a year like 2007.
"The lake level has definitely affected things," said Gary Gunther, owner of the Denver-based Lake Norman Boat Dock, which specializes in pontoons. "I think people are really hesitant to buy right now."
Lake Norman's water level has jumped by a foot in less than a month, partly due to some wet weather. It's still down by about a foot from where it was at this time last year.
Jeff Junker, president of Wher-rena Boatland in Cornelius, said many boaters still think the lake's as bad as it was when it hovered around seven feet below full level much of October-December.
"It's still in people's minds, so it's still an issue," he said.
The slowdown in sales isn't restricted to boats.
Ron Bender, owner of the Denver-based Carolina Precision Boat Lifts, said business has "really slowed."
One customer, he said, had a boat lift installed six months ago, but decided to move recently and wanted to take the lift with him. With virtually no water under the boat lift, though, the guy has no way of getting his boat down, thus preventing Bender from moving the lift.
"We're just stuck," Bender said. "We have to wait."
How long Bender will have to wait may mark the same time when sales of all boating-related items recover.
"It all depends on the water," Bender said.
Want to go?
• What: 36th annual Mid-Atlantic Boat Show at the Charlotte Convention Center.
• When: noon-9 p.m. Wednesday-
Friday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday
and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
• Cost: $8 for adults, $7 for seniors,
$5 for juniors (ages 8-14) and free
for kids 7 and younger.
• Details: www.ncboatshows.com.
Thanks to Dan Tierney, charlotteobserver.com for this.
Used Pontoon Boats, By Rick Ostler
Used Pontoon Boats-North American Waterway
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