London Boat Show diversifies into art and jewels

Fri Jan 6, 2012 1:02pm EST
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By Avril Ormsby

LONDON (Reuters) - The grey-haired men stood admiring the line of luxury cars at London's ExCel centre while at a nearby stand a woman handed over money for a silver cigarette case -- not the usual things you would expect to buy at a boat show.

But London's International Boat Show, one of the biggest in Europe, is looking to tap into other high-end markets to attract new customers during a recession that has priced out mid-range sailors.

"It's like any industry -- it's looking to diversify," said Michael Enser, head of marketing at the British Marine Federation, which represents businesses from makers of canoes to super yachts.

"It is bringing in high-net worths, and they are reasonably insulated from the economy. If we invite those people into the show who have not been exposed to boats in the past it is a new audience for manufacturers to engage in, to sell their products, and eventually a new boater."

Numbers of people passing through the turnstiles at London's Boat Show have not recovered from pre-recession levels, while exhibitor numbers are down by about 10 percent.

Among the biggest absentees are French boat builder Beneteau along with Dufour and Elan.

"It's still a very sizeable show," said Murray Ellis, managing director of National Boat Shows.

"It is not a reflection of the show, that is purely a reflection of the UK economy and the UK marine market."   Continued...

<p>A woman poses on-board a yacht with Canary Wharf behind at the London Boat Show at the ExCeL centre in London, January 6, 20011. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor</p>