When a national boat show comes to an end, I always receive a range of carefully selected facts and figures designed to illustrate that (1) loads of visitors turned up; (2) everyone sold lots of boats; and (3) we all owe ourselves a pat on the back. This year, the close of the Southampton Boat Show was no different...
According to the organisers (NBS), an audience of 111,963 meant a 2% increase in visitor numbers. With more than 600 exhibitors from 22 countries, around 120 new boats made their debuts, more than 10,000 visitors got out on the water and boats sold included Sunseeker’s 40M, two Fairline Squadron 78s and a Broom 35 Coupe.
Plainly then, the PR puffery from the 2103 event paints a very rosy picture. However, in stark contrast to past years, it actually seems to ring true. Listen to some of the exhibitors and that’s certainly the impression you get. Peter Scholfield (MD at Seatrack) said: “people are willing to spend money again – they’re no longer sitting on their wallets.” Piranha RIBs Sales Director, Nick Edgington, agreed: “I think the market is more buoyant and there is more confidence.” And Matthew Hornsby of Williams Performance Tenders, put a very successful week down to the “better times that some of the larger boat builders are enjoying.”
The variety of new boats also suggested a degree of ingenuity and optimism amongst boat builders that has been lacking for some time. We saw three new craft from Princess (see Princess 88 Short Take Video) and three from Sunseeker, plus (remarkably) some fresh impetus at the more modest end of the market from the likes of Quicksilver, Fletcher and ABC Marine. We were even treated to some of the automotive world’s mainstream glitter with a cameo appearance from a gurning Richard Hammond.
In short, it was more vibrant, optimistic and upbeat than any UK show I’ve been to in the last five years. That is until next year’s event, which will of course appear to trump it in every possible regard.