Sales reps eager for boat show

Boat accessory showroom a good economic indicator?

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Many of the companies that come to the Palm Beach International Boat Show to sell accessories are family businesses that have been around for decades.

They report that the economy is turning around, but not before some questioned whether they'd be able to go on.

In all of 2009, Watermakers Inc. sold 120 desalinators that run about $5,000 dollars each. In 2010, the Ft. Lauderdale company only sold 80.

"We have not increased our prices in two and a half years," said Bob Edewaard, a sales representative for Watermakers Inc.

Same goes for Jim Olejar, who sells lifts for Nautical Structures, also out of Ft. Lauderdale.

"We're selling it close to cost, and we've been doing that for three years," said Olejar.

They've been in business for thirty years, and employ about 70 people. Some have been laid off and rehired once sales rebounded by about a third this winter. Selling at cost is a survival tactic.

"It's keeping employees, keeping us from laying off and keeping everybody strong and positive," said Olejar.

But this phase, of steady prices, seems about over. After this show, Watermakers Inc. will likely raise prices ten percent, a response to higher costs for materials.

"It goes all the way back to the price of metal. And the motors go up and everything else. Stainless fittings that we use, everything's up. We've been holding the line, but we can't do it anymore," said Edewaard.

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