Growth in Big Boat Category Driven by Variety of Factors
Leading sailboat manufacturers say the recent impressive growth in the big-boat category is fueled by a number of factors, including: new product launches, non-stop marketing, strong customer service and benefits, technology innovations, and wealthy clients insulated from the bumps of today’s turbulent economy.
The Sailing Market State of the Industry research, conducted by Rick Walter of
Market Research Associates and presented by The Sailing Company at the recent Miami International Boat Show, concluded that 46-foot and above category saw the biggest growth in sales in 2007, increasing from 145 units in 2006 to 249 boats, a five-year high.
Almost one of four bigger boats over 36 feet was 49 feet and over, according to the study, which polled 88 percent of North American sailboat builders. Similarly, importers reported strong sales with large boats over 46 feet. The higher-margin sailboats also contributed to the value of sailboat production increasing by 6 percent to $802 million last year.
“Beneteau USA is fortunate to say that we have been a large contributor to the 70% increase during the past model year of the American market for sailing craft 46 feet and above,” said Wayne L. Burdick, president, Beneteau USA. “In 2007, the introduction of the new Beneteau 46 and 49 launched us to an unprecedented level of success in big boats, with over a hundred of them shipped by our great team in Marion, SC.”
He noted the driving forces behind the company’s “exceptional sales achievements are: freshly created, striking beauty by Nauta Design combined with the best quality features and, thanks to superior manufacturing efficiency, a truly an unmatched value; all while making it very easy for a couple to handle. Through reliable equipment such as bow thrusters, electric winches and in-mast furling, Beneteau owners are now able to cast off in confidence on boats that a few years ago would have been considered too big for many crew.”
Hunter Marine credited its new product introduction of three new boats, two in the 45’+ category, as a key factor to helping the company successfully weather today’s challenging market.
“While we all are aware of the economic news and the steady flat-to-down market we have faced during the past 18 months, Hunter Marine has attempted to maintain a steady course on a month-by-month basis of outperforming the average of the last three years for that same month,” said John Peterson, Hunter director of sales and marketing. “Thanks to our product development team which has brought to market three new boats in the last 14 months we continue to succeed as compared to this benchmark measurement.”
Peterson notes that Hunter’s “dealer network coupled with expansion in the ‘rest of the world’ has fueled this increase, and no one segment has attributed more that the above 40,' in particular, the above 45' area.”
Hunter’s introduction of two new boats in the 45’+ category, plus a steady trade-up of existing Hunter owners into larger boats has helped the company maintain a double-digit increase in this segment, said Peterson. Other factors that have propelled sales: marketing, strong customer feature/benefit details, along with a “reason to buy now” sales training at the dealer level, plus customer service and sales persistence.
At the heart of Hunter’s ability to grow sales is the company’s dedicated dealers. He said, “Our group of outstanding dealers that serve this segment worldwide has and will keep the immediate future bright.”
Bill Bolin confirms Island Packet is seeing a pick-up on the company’s larger models.
“We will have three models in the 46+ category for the 2009 model year and we just finished the first quarter (calendar) 2008 with a 6% increase over last year (almost entirely in the larger models),” said Bolin, Island Packet vice president of sales and marketing. “I suspect that the larger boats, with their higher prices, are appealing to an individual who is not worried about a monthly payment amount or current real estate values.”
Island Packet continues to watch the median size of sailboats being sold growing, partly due to technological innovations that have made sailing a larger sailboat easier today, says Bolin.
“My feeling is that we’ve gone from just over 30 feet just 15 years ago to well over 40’ today,” he says. “Part of this is that yachts are getting simpler to use (with electric winches, roller furling masts, etc.) and more reliable, giving a couple more confidence in starting with a larger model.”