Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The boat marketplace and the marine industry have deep concerns about the increasing age and demographics of lots of its customers. The question, whether you talk to marine federations, experts, pundits or generally across all boaters is how are we going to get more people to take up boating?

There already exists a variety of campaigns from 'Discover Boating' in the US to 'On The Water' in the UK and ANEN in Spain. The campaigns have recognised that you simply need to get more people with a younger dynamic into boating.

Coupled with this, the industry suffers from a reputation of being an expensive/exclusive marketplace. Sometimes it has only itself to blame for this. For many years, boating has marketed primarily to the high end with increasingly larger and larger, more complex boats that require higher mooring fees, increased maintenance and their overall complexity often means that they spend more time either in port being repaired or with various systems not functioning that create frustration for their owners often resulting in the early sale of boats. Boatshed sells lots of these boats and whilst we make profit from this we are not really considering the long term future of our business or the industry. It may seem odd for a company that sells boats to be complaining but we are simply looking at the bigger picture.

In times gone by, boating was seen much more as an outdoor pursuit. It embraced the principles of health and fitness, independence of mind and spirit, improvisation and self-sufficiency. Boatshed feels that, in order to stimulate a difficult marketplace, a shift in a more simple down to earth approach is required. Boatshed has proved that, having sold 21,000 boats, very often the first boat sold for a customer forms a steady progresssion of boats steadily increasing in size over the years. Indeed, Boatshed have some customers that we have sold boats to in excess of eight times and we have several boats that have been sold by Boatshed to a dozen sets of owners.

If we look at the 20 to 40-year-old person who needs to be attracted to the boating marketplace, the current offerings, though shiny, are often less attractive from a financial versus quality of experience perspective . The traditional sales approach and shiny luxurious catalogue approach, trying to tempt these people into boat ownership, simply is not going to work. All of the costs, expenses and downsides of boating are easily available with a quick search on the web. However, we know that the vast majority of people who are introduced to boating rate the experience extremely highly and often fall in love with all of the elements that make boating unique. Therefore, growing the boat marketplace utilising low-cost boats with potentially low-cost infrastructure is, we feel, an attractive proposition to many people who have not yet got their feet wet, so to speak, in the boating marketplace.

Most brokers do not find the proposition of selling boats that cost between £2,000 and £10,000 very attractive but we need to put the current financial models and any concerns about this to one side.

Clearly, for boat manufacturers, brokers, sailmakers, chandlers, insurance companies, marinas, training schools and basically every company that makes up the marine industry, without a subsequent increase in input of boating enthusiasts, then the output going forward is not going to remain attractive or equally be financially sustainable for lots of companies, organisations and groups.

With this in mind, and whilst Boatshed as an organisation sells a whole range of boats from very small ones to very big ones, Boatshed is keen to explore and support more initiatives like Dave Selby’s current voyage along the south coast of England to the Southampton Boat Show to raise awareness that boating is not all about LED screens that automatically slide out from the foot of the bed or infrared cameras or self-tacking jibs and autopilots.

Sometimes it is just about owning your own boat, dropping the hook on a quiet tidal estuary, sitting in the cockpit with a beer, and trying desperately to forget all the worries and craziness of life on land.

You can follow Dave's progress and wish him well via Twitter.