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Midwest repo center expands in Ohio

After liquidating boats from 23 dealerships since the businesses' inception in April, Wisconsin-based Midwest Marine Repo Center added a new location in Ohio dedicated solely to repossessed boats.

Skipper Bud's, one of the largest Midwestern boat dealers with 20 locations in the Great Lakes region, Mississippi and Florida, doubled sales at its Oshkosh, Wis., store when it branched into the boat repossession business, general manager Todd Riepe told Soundings Trade Only.

"That's when this part of the business took on a life of its own," Riepe said. "It was just a traditional dealership, and one of our retail stores saw the signage change, and then the inventory changed. That location has doubled what it did a year prior."

Since January, the Oshkosh branch of the dealership chain has sold 250 boats and had 114 in stock earlier this week. The repo center is working with GE, the only major national marine floorplan lender still offering loans, and Textron, which has pulled out of wholesale marine lending, but is still carrying several accounts, Riepe said.

Riepe hopes the new location in Marblehead, Ohio, will help accommodate the liquidated boats, while cutting down on transporting costs for the large number of vessels coming from the East Coast.

Not all of the 23 dealerships that have seen liquidated boats end up at the rep center have gone out of business, Riepe said. But this week, Riepe got an order for 14 more boats, and the company recently received $10 million worth of Carvers and Cruisers from an Ohio dealership facing liquidation.

The inventory ranges from small aluminum utility boats to ski boats and deckboats, to large cruising yachts. The Midwest Marine Repo Center's Web site boasts it specializes in vessels from 17 to 100 feet.

The business is selling to dealers as well as directly to consumers, and Riepe says some dealers are taking advantage of the low prices on boats that are desirable in their areas. Some dealers work a co-brokerage deal to move inventory that's been sitting in their showrooms, Riepe said.

Riepe sees unsold repossessions from as far back as model year 2006, though most are 2008 models, he said.

There is hope for the industry on the horizon, according to Riepe.

"There is so much negativity around this, but one thing that is promising is that over 50 percent of repos that we have sold have been sold to people who didn't own boats," Riepe said. "Either they got out of boating and are getting back in or they're new to boating. That's sort of backwards from the norm."

Dealers interested in submitting a cash offer on boats can contact Riepe at triepe@skipperbuds.com.

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— Reagan Haynes

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