Boat shows are not just about record-priced superyachts and flashy accoutrements. Rods, reels, tackle and lures are also an indication of consumer confidence, effective show strategy and sales credentials of the show.
Bill Harvey, the 'figures man' behind Big Al’s fishing store – first time exhibitors at the Sydney International Boat Show this year – says this year’s event was not great, in comparison to appearances in Melbourne and Brisbane.
'We have exhibited twice in Melbourne and two shows in Brisbane and we find that despite having more competition in both cities, we do considerably better.'
Bill, whose son, Chris is owner of the 'one man operation' in Pennant Hills in Sydney’s north-west, asserts that the costs for Sydney were very high.
'We came in on the tail end, so we only managed to get what was available, but for us, it was very expensive – one third to a half as much again as the other shows. Location might have been part of it, as we were down the end in Hall 6, but even though traffic was good - and there were times we were flat out - we found people just weren’t spending enough.'
Big Al’s, which Chris opened just two years ago to enable him to 'combine his love of fishing with earning a buck' stocks top quality brands in the upper end of the market.
'We are the 'Shimano end' of the product range. Reels cost between $50 and $250,' says Bill. 'We had plenty of queries and handed out a lot of business cards and brochures. Whether that translates in to online and instore sales, we’ll have to wait and see. We do monitor traffic on our site, so we will be able to tell.'
So astute is bill at working out ROI, he has reduced their commitment to a cost per head at each event.
As he explains: 'Working on the numbers through the door compared to sales, we make about $2 per head in Melbourne, $1.80 per head in Brisbane, but just 70c in Sydney.'
Boat Shows, says Bill, are an important part of the marketing process. It’s just a matter of getting the formula right. 'The right products, enough people through the doors and people in a buying mood. Of course, if you take five products in a range, people will want the sixth that you didn’t bring with you.'
Next on the calendar is the National 4x4 & Outdoors Show and Fishing & Boating Expo at the Melbourne Showgrounds 2-4 September. Bill says they have high hopes for Melbourne as they have previously sold 'twice as much' at the Melbourne Boat Show as they did in Sydney. Then they will exhibit at the Hooked on Boating, Fishing, Watersports Expo in Newcastle, 7-9 October.
'We tried the Mackay boat show, but there just weren’t enough people attending. And for the meantime, Mandurah is too far away, although we might consider it for 2012.'
Cost is the main concern. 'It is a drama,' says Bill. 'Once you add up the cost of the five people working on the stand, the set up and other costs, it’s an expensive exercise. This year was about branding for us and dipping a toe in. We would like to exhibit at Rosehill in 2012, but as for Sydney, it’s too early to make that decision.'
More at www.bigalsfishing.com.au