This year we went to the Southampton Boat show for the first time in 3 years due to Covid. The show was quite a bit smaller than 3 years ago with many stalls missing. A lot of the missing stalls was the “crap” stalls and we are thankful for that. By that I mean stalls with no relation to the boating industry but selling “TV Shop” like products. So a lot less “As seen on TV” products.
Boat market in general and
car boat salespeople
The boat market is for certain cooling fast. Yes, boats are being sold – money are changing hands. But not at the ridiculous speeds of yester-years.
Many Marinas I spoke to say the frenzy to get boat berths had almost completely stopped. Multiple marinas said they was still almost full – but where the previous 2 years owners put down deposits for berths despite not getting a boat until maybe 6-12 months later have passed. That trend has gone completely.
On the boats themselves – the sellers were hungrier. There was a lot of browsers and it tended to be the same people we saw on boat after boat. Some was there to upgrade. Some came to downgrade. But most was there to browse, as Covid had put the whole exhibition industry on hold for quite a while. So, in my opinion – mostly browsers – and fewer buyers. The buyers at the boat show, had already made their choices and used the boat show for the last haggle.
Multiple agencies were spotted having spies out checking if the competition had more visitors than they did. So, by allocating time for such a task the sellers are showing their hands. A very nervous market.
The show was still full of sellers with little or no humility or sense.
A seller from a “Big Factory Outlet” of sailboats got angry when I talked about the quality of one of their brand products vs the other brand product they make. I should not talk about quality when owners of the cheaper brand were around. Everybody in the industry KNOW the boats are built down to a cost – so why would the current owners not know?
The owners of the cheaper brand should know they bought a cheap brand BEFORE they put down the value of a medium sized house on a sailboat. But many big factory-brand boats are “cost optimized” in so many ways it hurts. Sorry Mate – if you build your products down to a cost – it is not a secret you can keep or get angry about other people talking about. And apart from that he did not seem to know his own products very well.
And as you know if you read our other articles – we do have a “Factory Outlet” kind of boat currently. And our Jeanneau Cap Camarat is for certain built down to a cost. But it has been valuable for us as a sensible run-around until we can find the right “forever” boat. If people point it out – all I can say is “I know” with a big smile. But we made an informed decision knowing what we bought.
If you are interested in the difference between factory “build to cost boats” vs higher quality boats and why prices are so different – read the linked post from the blog “Interesting Sailboats” for a description of Beneteau, Jeanneau, Dufour, Bavaria & Hanse build methods. And be careful when shopping, as build quality even varies between a single brand’s different offerings. Interesting Sailboats Building and Design. The blog is an invaluable and very honest resource when researching which sailboats you should consider.
We have had talks with another boat brand – but a boutique brand high-quality product. The only thing we did not like was the UK agent seemed intent on ignoring us. No, we don’t advertise for any clothes labels and had children with us. But we are very potential clients. Maybe the seller “directors” are just the shy types, and the shyness comes out as “You are not worthy of our time”? Only after a stern poke from one of the “Booth babes” did one of the directors afford us his time.
That same year we then went over to Nautor Swan where the boats cost 2-3x at least – and said straight out – sorry we love your boat, but it is out of our price range. That seller was the friendliest person we met – greeted our children and spoiled them with chocolate and merchandise gifts. And when we left, he extended an invitation for us to come and join one of the Swan races they arrange. And then he said – you might not have us on your potential list now, but who knows where you and I will be in 10 years.
And that is the attitude any seller should have.
Great customer reception
Anyway – apart from Nautor Swan at the previous years boat show – I would like to extend that we had a super reception from the Salona UK dealer. Nice, down to earth, maybe more honest than he should have been. Salona sailboats are Croatian built sailboats – but built closer to the standards of some of the better-known boutique brands. They are more open about their production than the competing Slovenian Elan sailboats. Build quality was certainly better than any Elan Impression I have been on. It was not quite up to Scandinavian boat standards like Arcona, Sweden Yachts, Malo, Hallberg-Rassy or X-Yachts – but give the a few years and they might be.
If you are interested, I’m working on my part objective, part subjective “boat quality ranking”. Subscribe or follow us on Twitter to get updates.