The Spade returns to the U.S. market with a promise of a more responsive supply and support network
Grassroots marketing has been an effective business strategy for a long time. Remember those door-to-door vacuum cleaner and encyclopedia salespeople?
A Florida company aims to re-establish in the United States the well-regarded Spade anchor through a grassroots effort. This will be no door-to-door campaign, of course. The plan is to establish a dealer network focused on face-to-face customer service and support at the chandlery or ship’s store level, says Rob Branagh, general manager of Sea Tech and Fun USA in Palm Bay, Fla., the U.S. distributor of the Spade anchor.
“We’re trying to set up a dealership in every state,” Branagh says. “The dealers cannot advertise or undercut other dealers — that’s in our contract. This is a grassroots effort. We are trying to get back to the old school of having consumers buy from their local dealer.”
The Spade anchor had been absent from the U.S. market for about five years because of a change in ownership, Branagh says, and making it known that the anchor is again available in this country has been a challenge. “We’ve been out of the loop in this country for a while, but we want people to know we are here,” he says. “We have the supply and we’re ready to service these anchors and support them here in the U.S.”
That wasn’t always the case. The company that previously carried the Spade struggled to keep up with supply and demand because there was no U.S. warehouse distribution hub, Branagh says. “If someone ordered a Spade and there wasn’t one in stock at one of the dealers, it would be months before they got it,” he says. “That is unacceptable for a lot of customers.”
And it tarnishes the reputation of the dealers. “That dealer’s name becomes mud,” Branagh says. “We are going to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Sea Tech and Fun USA are selling their products through 18 dealers, boatbuilders and sailing schools to date, and a handful more were ready to sign on early this year, Branagh says. Bacon Sails and Marine Supplies in Annapolis, Md., became a dealer in 2011. “For the short time we’ve had it, we’ve seen a lot of interest in the Spade,” says Gavin Junkins, chief financial officer of the business, which was established in 1959. “The Manson is probably our bestselling anchor, but the Spade, even for the price point, has worked out for a lot of the cruisers — mainly people who are doing offshore sailing, not the local Chesapeake Bay knock-around sailing. This is more of an anchor for serious cruising.”
The Spade anchor is manufactured in three materials — steel, aluminum and stainless steel. There are 10 sizes in galvanized and 316 marine-grade stainless, and 11 sizes in aluminum. The least expensive, the 12-pound steel S40, is $251; the most expensive is the 165-pound “super stainless steel” XHR240, which is $7,918. The 165-pound SQ240 “high-resistance specific steel” model sells for $2,363.
Bacon Sails and Marine Supplies has sold 11 Spade anchors, mostly the aluminum A80 and A100, Junkins says. Bacon is a consignment business, although it is carrying more new merchandise these days, he says. “We’ve seen a lot of the Spade coming in on consignment over the years, and we’ve been quite impressed with the quality of construction and the input we have gotten from the European cruisers,” Junkins says.
The Spade anchors are made in Tunisia and owned by European businessman Yves Gelb, who founded Sea Tech and Fun USA and Sea Tech and Fun Europe in France. Branagh and Gelb hope to bring the manufacturing operation to the United States, which should lower the price of the Spade. “Once we get to the point where our dealers and consumers are consistently buying, we’ll make the transition and start building some of the best-selling Spade models here,” Branagh says. “I see that happening in the next couple years, if not next year.”
As a lower-cost alternative, Sea Tech and Fun USA has introduced a pair of new hooks for boats from 18 to 98 feet. The SeaBlade resembles the Spade, with the same blade and shank design, says Evan P. Selbiger, Sea Tech and Fun USA’s sales manager. But unlike the Spade, it uses a roll bar instead of a lead-filled cavity as ballast to prevent the anchor from lying on its side, Selbiger says. The company offers the SeaBlade anchor in five sizes. The lightest, 19.8 pounds, is $315, and the heaviest, 66 pounds, is $899.
The Spoon resembles a Bugel anchor and is ideal for the “everyday weekend sailor, cruiser or fisherman who doesn’t need a high-performance anchor but still requires good holding power for safe boating,” Selbiger says. The Spoon comes in four sizes from 15.4 to 44 pounds. Prices start at $239 for the 15.4-pound hook and top out at $499 for the 44-pounder.
Reviving the Spade, however, remains Sea Tech and Fun USA’s focus, Branagh says. Toward that end, the company has every size and material of the Spade — and replacement parts — in stock, Selbiger says.
Dealers already have benefited from improved product support and availability. “Having the product in the country and available has been a real positive,” Junkins says. “We had to order an extra set of [bolts] for a customer — he had bought one of the A100s from us — and the parts came in two days. He was pleased and so was I.” n
This article originally appeared in the February 2013 issue.