Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Boat Dealers Enjoy Recovery

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Boat Dealers Enjoy Recovery

Article excerpt

A SALES RESURGENCE: Companies preparing for more high-end buyers

SARASOTA

Boat dealers have opened the throttle at this year's Suncoast Boat Show, thanks to a perky stock market, a recovering economy and new arrivals looking to put a boat in their backyard.

Dealers said Friday they have been boosting inventory and pouring more into marketing to take advantage of a market that has rebounded from the woes of the Great Recession.

Customers of Sarasota Yacht & Ship, a 45-year-old Sarasota-based business, never ran out of money, owner Jason Mashke said. They just held onto their wallets a little tighter as the recession played out.

"I think we are in a better position today than at any time since at least 2007," Mashke said during the first day of the three-day show at Sarasota Bayfront Park and Marina Jack.

"Stocks are up, people are making money again, and the real estate market has recovered here in Sarasota," he added. "So people are ready to have fun again and enjoy their lives, enjoy their success."

Boat sales are a critical measure of Southwest Florida's economy because they are luxury items purchased with discretionary income. Typically, boat sales rise in a waxing economy and fall off in a waning one.

As a yacht dealer, Mashke's biggest competitor at the show is Galati Yacht Sales of Anna Maria Island.

Michael Galati, a third-generation member of the family-owned business, said his team observed a dramatic increase in business at the Miami boat show held in February, especially compared with the Fort Lauderdale boat show they attended just four months earlier.

He thinks what changed was that worries over the so-called fiscal cliff and potential changes in income tax rates have dissipated.

Galati recently brokered the sale of a 75-foot Princess yacht, with an asking price just shy of $3 million.

"It is like an adrenaline rush," he said.

But Galati is not the only dealer enjoying a resurgence.

Boat House, with operations in Cape Coral, Englewood and Port Charlotte, also expanded its top-end lineup this year.

Before last summer, Boat House's biggest vessel was a 26-foot Hurricane with an outboard. Now, Boat House also handles Cobalt Boats, a Kansas-based manufacturer that produces a sleek line priced from $60,000 to $230,000 and ranging from 23 to 33 feet. …

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