For the Record: Brunswick realigns boat-brand management

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Brunswick Corp. announced several actions in March that are designed to more clearly align its global marine operations “to better exploit market opportunities, sharpen market focus and enhance growth as the world’s marine market continues to evolve.”

“For many years, several Brunswick boat brands based in Europe and Asia have been under the Mercury Marine umbrella, a structure that naturally developed over time as Mercury made investments in these ventures,” chairman and CEO Dustan McCoy said in a statement. “Going forward, these brands, which include Arvor, Quicksilver, Rayglass, Uttern and Valiant boats, will be managed as part of the Brunswick Boat Group.”

McCoy said this alignment will allow for a comprehensive approach to boat market opportunities around the globe and enable Brunswick to better share and concentrate its worldwide resources to develop new boats, products and features and enhance its dealer network.

“This realignment also will allow Mercury, under the leadership of its president, Mark Schwabero, to focus its full time and attention on implementing its significant growth plans in marine engine and related markets,” he added.

Brunswick Boat Group president Andrew Graves will direct and coordinate the global efforts of all Brunswick boat brands. Joining Graves’ management team as president of Hatteras and Cabo Yachts will be David O’Connell. He will succeed James E. Meyers, who has overseen the consolidation of those two brands.

“We approach the next phase of Hatteras and Cabo development with enthusiasm, as Dave’s experience and skills will accelerate efforts to design and manufacture exceptional products, develop new markets, strengthen existing ones and identify continuing improvements to support our dealers and customers,” McCoy says.

O’Connell has led the Merritt Island (Fla.) product development and engineering team, supporting the Sea Ray, Meridian and Bayliner brands, during the last five years. Prior to his role at product development and engineering, he spent seven years leading Sea Ray’s sport yacht/yacht sales and marketing teams.

GE survey reveals optimism about 2012

Many in the marine industry expect sales to increase this year, according to survey results released Feb. 29 by GE Capital’s Commercial Distribution Finance business.

Thirty-nine percent of respondents say they expect sales to rise 0 to 5 percent this year, and 38 percent expect increases of 5 to 10 percent. Fifty-four percent say they are increasing their inventory levels to prepare for the upcoming selling season.

Twenty-two percent say they plan to wait until mid-year to increase inventory levels, and 2 percent say they’ll hold off until 2013 or later.

Asked what they are most optimistic about this year, 28 percent of respondents say it is consumer demand. They are also optimistic about relationships with industry players (19 percent), as well as business inventory levels and product availability (tied at 17 percent). Sixty-four percent of respondents list consumer demand as their greatest business concern.

“We’re expecting slow and steady growth in 2012, similar to last year,” says Commercial Distribution Finance Marine Group president Bruce Van Wagoner. “Shipments are aligned with demand and dealer inventories are low, healthy and turning,” Van Wagoner said in a statement. “Although the industry’s outlook is tempered by the experiences of the past several years, the marine industry is healthy today and dealers have reason to be optimistic.”

The survey also showed that access to credit does not seem to be a widespread worry. Only 4 percent were concerned about the availability or stability of wholesale financing options, and 5 percent were concerned about retail credit availability or stability.

Half of respondents expect aluminum boats to be most in demand this year. Sales of higher-priced products, such as yachts and ski boats, were not expected to recover fully this year.

“Dealers and manufacturers are hoping that new products will stimulate replacement purchases and satisfy pent-up demand,” says Van Wagoner. “Of all boats in the marketplace today, only about 5 percent are less than five years old. In general, manufacturers that are investing in research and development are seeing higher sales. Dealers benefit from these new products because they’re positioned to draw in more consumers.”

The survey was conducted in February at the Miami International Boat Show.

Companies take part in R.I. career event

Interest among employers and career seekers hit record levels at the International Yacht Restoration School’s Marine Industry Career Day, which was held March 3 at the school’s campus in Newport, R.I.

A record 33 marine companies from throughout New England came to connect with people interested in marine careers. More than 150 career seekers traveled from seven states to meet potential employers and attend seminars on career and training opportunities.

“Career Day is now in its seventh running, and the event has evolved into a cornerstone of our efforts to cultivate the work force needed to fuel our regional industry,” IYRS vice president of marketing Susan Daly said in a statement. Daly is chairwoman of the education and training committee for the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association.

Companies came to the event with positions to fill. A recent survey of members of the Rhode Island trade organization reveals that 42 percent of respondents plan to hire full-time, part-time and seasonal employees within the next six months.

The opportunity to talk with potential job applicants and gauge their levels of skill and enthusiasm is a key benefit of Career Day for participating companies. “This isn’t an interview that just happens across a desk,” says Stephen DeVoe, of the Jamestown (R.I.) Boat Yard, describing his company’s typical hiring process.

R.I. boatbuilder will move to Maine

Front Street Shipyard announced in February that Carbon Ocean Yachts is relocating its operations from Rhode Island to Front Street’s Belfast, Maine, facility.

The two builders will work together on the construction of lightweight, performance-driven yachts.

“We’re excited by the new possibilities that will exist by integrating Carbon Ocean Yachts into Front Street Shipyard,” shipyard president JB Turner said in a statement. “Carbon Ocean Yachts is leading the way in composite construction technology. Coupled with our versatility in materials and systems, we expect to have some remarkable projects.”

Carbon Ocean Yachts remains an independent company, but will contribute to the existing expertise at Front Street Shipyard. Carbon Ocean Yachts founders Brian Benjamin, Britt Colombo and Toby Mueller retain ownership and will continue to manage the company.

“By relocating to Front Street Shipyard’s facility, we expect to enhance our capabilities for our clients,” Colombo said in a statement. “Our current facilities won’t be able to accommodate our future projects. Front Street Shipyard was our first choice for a new facility because it is already making its mark as the premier yard for big boats on the East Coast.”

Front Street Shipyard is a boatbuilding, repair and service facility that offers dockage and winter storage for boats up to 160 feet and hauling capacity for vessels up to 165 tons. The yard has deep-water access for power and sailing vessels ranging from small boats to superyachts.

Sailboat report details segment’s sales figures

In its 12th annual State of the Industry report, presented in February during the Miami International Boat Show, The Sailing Company outlined the industry’s challenges and opportunities this year.

Although there are “tough waters still ahead,” with election-year doldrums, an uncertain job outlook and other problems plaguing the U.S. economy, sailing participation remains strong, chartering remains strong for nurturing new buyers and consumer confidence is on the rise, the report said.

Some highlights of this year’s report:

• Sailboat production in North America was down 3 percent in 2011, compared with 2010. The report says 6,322 boats were produced, down 170 from the year before.

• The recession has had a significant effect on sailboat builders in North America; the number of builders declined from 146 to 113 between 2005 and 2011.

• The two size segments that saw growth were boats 12 to 19 feet and 30 to 35 feet; both categories were up 11 percent.

• The largest boats were one of the hardest-hit segments; boats 46 feet and up were off 36 percent.

• Imports were up strongly, 32 percent from 2010, to 251 units over 20 feet.

• After a poor showing in 2010, multihull imports were also up dramatically in 2011. They represented 48 percent of all imports.

• Bareboat charters booked out of North American source markets were down 6 percent, to 17,869 weeks. The overall decline came from the winter season and Caribbean destinations; the summer season and North American destinations fared better.

• Twenty percent of the sailboats built in North America in 2011 were for export.

• Sailboat builders are optimistic about 2012, predicting 14 percent growth, mostly in the 20- to 35-foot category.

KCS International buys Azure sportboat line

KCS International Inc., the parent company of Cruisers Yachts and Rampage Sport Fishing Yachts, acquired all of the assets of Azure, a world-class line of sportboats.

The acquisition means KCS now carries a full product line — from 18 to 56 feet, including bowriders, sport decks and sport cuddies, complemented by the high-quality Cruisers Yachts lineup.

“This is an exciting time for our company,” KCS president Mark Pedersen said in a statement. “We are sending a message to our dedicated employees that KCS intends to be in the boat business for a long time.”

In early February, production tooling from the Azure plant in South Carolina began making its way to the KCS base in Oconto, Wis. The first boat under the Cruisers Sports Series is expected to roll off the production line in May or June.

Garmin signs deal to buy sonar tech company

Garmin signed an agreement in February to acquire Interphase Technologies Inc., a privately held developer and manufacturer of phased array scanning sonar technology based in Soquel, Calif.

Financial terms were not disclosed. The transaction was expected to be finalized within 30 days and would allow Garmin to expand its overall marine product portfolio, particularly in sonar technology.

Founded in 1986, Interphase is recognized for its development of phased array scanning sonar. The technology offers a “reliable phased array scanning sonar solution for the consumer market, giving the cruiser, sailor, fisherman, search-and-rescue team and mainstream boater a virtual image of the underwater area ahead of the boat,” according to Garmin.

Interphase will operate as Garmin Santa Cruz Inc., a California corporation and indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Garmin Ltd. Key management will be retained, and sonar research and development will continue at the headquarters in Soquel.

Yanmar completes deal for Mastry Marine

Yanmar America finalized its acquisition of Mastry Marine and Industrial Supply Inc.

Under its new name, Mastry Engine Center LLC, a Yanmar Company, it is now part of the Yanmar family.

“This is an important acquisition for us because it will help to ensure that Yanmar develops a stronger understanding of our marine and industrial customer needs,” Yanmar America president Ted Bregar said in a statement. “Mastry’s expertise at understanding our customers’ needs will help Yanmar expand the products and services we offer to our valued distributors and dealers throughout the Americas.”

Mastry is a 50-year-old family-owned business based in St. Petersburg, Fla. It specializes in diesel repowers, powertrain applications and complete diesel and gas solutions for marine and industrial customers. The company supports a network of more than 140 authorized dealers in the Southeast and the Caribbean.

“I am pleased, and I know my father would be proud, that Mastry now is part of such a respected and recognized brand as Yanmar,” Mastry president Tino Mastry said in a statement. “We are bringing our experience to an already solid network of distributors and dealers in the Yanmar family.”

The current Mastry organization will remain in place and Tino Mastry will continue as president.

The transaction was finalized Feb. 13. Terms were not disclosed.

West Marine reports 4Q, year-end results

West Marine reported an increase in net income and net revenue for fiscal 2011 and said it ended the year debt-free.

“Our strong results for 2011 reflect continued progress in executing our focused strategies to drive higher sales and profit and position us very well for 2012,” West Marine CEO Geoff Eisenberg said in a statement. “Due to the success of our many initiatives, from our new store formats to our new merchandise assortments, we have a great deal of optimism about our future.”

Net income for fiscal 2011, which ended Dec. 31, was $29.7 million, or $1.27 a diluted share. This was an improvement of $16.5 million from net income in 2010 of $13.2 million, or 57 cents a diluted share. Net revenue for fiscal 2011 was $643.4 million, a 3.3 percent increase from $622.8 million in fiscal 2010.

Comparable-store sales increased 2.3 percent, compared with the previous year. The primary driver of growth was increased sales to Port Supply (wholesale) customers through its store locations as part of West Marine’s efforts to better serve this group and to leverage store facilities.

Net revenue for the fourth quarter was $113.4 million, an increase of $6.1 million, or 5.7 percent, from $107.3 million for the corresponding period in the previous year. Comparable-store sales increased by $3.5 million, or 4.3 percent, compared with the previous year. The company reported a fourth-quarter net loss of $14 million, or 61 cents a diluted share, compared with a loss of $19.8 million, or 88 cents a share, a year earlier. n

This article originally appeared in the April 2012 issue.

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