Making the Most of a Minimal Budget. Contact me at: or on Twitter: @skintsailor

Monday, 26 September 2016

Boat show Musings and a New Market for the Brave?

The one thing that has come out of the boat show weekend is that the Southampton Boat Show is close to a tipping point.

It's very close to becoming as irrelevant to sailors like me and the thousands of other skint sailors as the London Hooray Henry Champagne Bar-bedecked bash.

Looking at a lot of the feedback from the show there seems to be a criticism that the show is ignoring the majority that pay entry and come through the gates for the spectacle and is starting to pander to the minority that can commit to buying a boat at the show.

Even the smaller traders, that can usually be relied upon to furnish some boaty bargains on the day seem to be hamstrung by big rental costs for their pitches. Bargains... true bargains were thin on the ground. Even the usual cheap rope wasn't so cheap.

You can gloss over it as much as you want by having weird Guinness Book Record attempts (largest number of people making a picture of a boat??), or limited on the water opportunities (great for those that don't have a boat), but there was pretty little for those of us trying to keep a boat going on a limited budget.

One thing I did note was that very few people were taking things away from the show. Lots of empty hands not carrying carrier bags loaded with stuff away from the show. Now I know there are plenty of people with a bigger budget than me, so it's plausible that I should see some of them carrying goodies away with them. But I didn't see many if any doing that. Very unusual and possibly an indication that the items on offer at the show are overpriced maybe, or the internet provides better bargains, or shoppers are becoming more savvy.

The thing is, what do people come to the show for? It's an interesting question and one that the show organisers should really be asking.

What do I go to the show for? My motivation isn't to buy a boat, that's for sure. What I do go to the show for is to see the latest technology and boats and see if I it's relevant to me and if I can use it. Maybe not at the show, but at some point. I may pick up a bargain if I think it is a genuine bargain. I'm not going to buy something with a 10 or 20% show loading (because the vendor has to cover exorbitant stand rental) advertised as a bargain. The on-the-water attractions don't er, attract me because I have my own boat.

The organisers really need to start to re-engage with us ordinary sailors, the ones that have boats already and are out there sailing every weekend. Do us poor saps who pay to get through the door a favour.

Maybe have a boat jumble area, with reduced stand sizes and rental costs, so the vendors can sell at proper bargain prices. Let those premium priced vendors charge the prices they want for premium brands, but let us bargain bucket boaters have our little area where we buy non-branded stuff cheaply.

Which brings me to another idea I have about a new type of chandler, a Primark of the seas, for us bargain boaters. Why are the chandlers full of branded kit? I don't think I've ever seen non-branded items like cleats, or blocks. Someone in the world must manufacture them.

Something to pick up on in my next post I think.


  1. I spent about fifty quid I reckon - new sailing bag, new dry bag, and new genoa sheets from Jimmy Green remainder bin - I reckon I saved about £15-£20 on that lot... which paid for my tickets and the parking... Primark Chandlers? Yes, please.. and an Aldi one, and a Lidl one.. boat jumble area? No point I think as there are already lots of other bespoke Boat Jumbles about... So here's an idea - how about a Boat Breakers Yard - somewhere you can go to get spare parts from previously broken up boats... one humungous yard fronted by a good web site...

  2. Steve, I reckon Jimmy Green was one of the most reasonably priced stalls at the show. The thing that got me was it was all a bit "samey". I went in 2013 and 2014 and to be honest there isn't much different between than and now. I just wish for a bit of difference, so I can go "ooh, lets look at that..". I just threw in a boat jumble as a sort of themed area. It could just as well be a new starters/innovation/new technology area, inviting brand new companies into the show with reduced rents in order to get them attending and provide something new at the show. Maybe keep the same area, but change the theme each year, who knows. As for a breakers yard, there is the boat breakers website I posted about when they advertised they were breaking the Centaur, but they are more expensive for used parts than the traders at a boat jumble.

  3. If that's true (about the breakers) then they'll soon go out of business..! I was thinking something more along the lines of the Chandlery Barge at Hamble... loads of spare bits reasonably priced in comparison to new...

    Like your idea about the "new starters/innovation/new technology area" you should write to them you have some good idea's.. nothing to lose, they may even give you a free ticket for next year!

  4. Great post. Haven't been to a boat show for years for the reason its so dispiriting seeing all these fab boats that are so out of reach price wise. I like the idea of practical demos, talks and competitions, and of course smaller traders. Great idea about the breakers.

  5. Spot on with your summary of the boat show. Very little to see unless you have a big chequebook! And while some of the chandlery type stands were giving discounts (10-15% typically)the 'marine' prefix on many items meant they were already 50% more costly than a comparable non-marine equivalent. One company who had better remain nameless were selling something at a 'special show price' which was 300% higher than a directly comparable product...........

  6. I'm not the only one then... The people I feel for are the stands that don't actually sell anything, they just advertise goods or services. It must be really difficult to justify the expense with no concrete sales to offset the cost.I just get the feeling that Southampton is moving towards the London model. Just a sterile shell of a show. Just having a showcase for new boats is not the best option. There needs to be something for everyone, including the bargain hunters. It's nice to be able to take something home from the show.