Grand Banks throttles up its expansion

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Grand Banks is in expansion mode across multiple fronts. The parent of the Grand Banks Yachts and Palm Beach Yachts brands, listed on the Singapore exchange, reported 12 new-boat orders in its most recent quarter, including three flagship Grand Banks 60s. The company said last week in a statement that its order book is $31.8 million (S$42.8 million), compared with $15.2 million (S$20.5 million) in the previous quarter.

Beyond the financials, Grand Banks opened a new U.S. headquarters in Stuart, Fla., and plans to open a European headquarters in Barcelona, Spain, next summer.

“In my 15 years with the company, we’ve never had a setup like the one in Stuart,” Hank Compton, managing director, told Trade Only Today at the Miami Yacht Show. “We now have a 50-ton travel-lift, hardstand that can accommodate up to 50 boats for commissioning and refit work, as well as slips and sales office.”

Compton has spent much of his career at Grand Banks overseeing production at its facility in Malaysia. He will now be based in Stuart. “We had the sales component and dealer base set up, but now we also have service,” Compton said. “The Stuart area has a lot of pluses, including a qualified workforce and taxes that are a lot lower than South Florida. We can handle any boat that we build, even the 65 Palm Beach models.”

The company chose Barcelona because of its proximity to southern Europe and North Africa. “We’ve had a big presence in Europe over the years, but we don’t have a physical headquarters there,” Compton said. “We think the location will be well-positioned to many of the markets we serve.”

Managing Director Hank Compton on the new Palm Beach GT50 Open at the Miami Yacht Show.

Managing Director Hank Compton on the new Palm Beach GT50 Open at the Miami Yacht Show.

Grand Banks is also adding to its fleet, with an 85-footer in development. There are also plans to launch a 40- or 42-foot model that would serve as an “entry level” boat for the brand. “That kind of range means we’ll have a real family across multiple size ranges,” Compton said.

Compton said the Grand Banks models have changed dramatically in the last 10 years, evolving from trawler-style boats to cruising yachts with a more modified-vee hull. “We’ve moved to layups using vinylester with features like carbon drive shafts on our IPS boats. The technology we’re using is the most recent and advanced. Plus, the boats are much more efficient.”

The Palm Beach models also have expanded from Down East-style cruisers to include the GT series performance cruisers. “The GT series is aimed at younger buyers who want more speed,” Compton said. “Actually, we’re looking beyond age and aiming the designs at how people want to use the boats. We’re hoping that the brands cross-pollinate a bit, so the GT line is for boaters who want speed, while the Classic Palm Beach and Grand Banks models are for people who want to cruise farther. We think the buyers will move across the brands as they extend their boating careers.”

The company launched the Palm Beach GT50 Open last week at the Miami Yacht Show and plans to give the Salon Express version its European debut at the Cannes show. The Grand Banks GB52 also will debut at Cannes. It also plans to launch the Palm Beach 70 and Palm Beach GT60 this year.

All production of the Grand Banks and Palm Beach models will take place at its facilities in Malaysia. “We haven’t had to enlarge the production facility, but we have dedicated space for the larger models,” Compton said. “Most of it involves entirely new tooling created by our new 8-axis router.”

North America is the strongest market for the brands at the moment, Compton said. “The economy is strong, and people seem confident it will last. We’re also seeing the biggest demand at the upper ends of our fleet,” he said. “The boats priced at $2.5 million are now selling better than the $1.5 million product.”

Europe also remains a strong market, and Australia, where the Palm Beach brand was first manufactured, is “doing very well,” according to Compton. The first Grand Banks 85 is being developed for an Australian owner.

Compton said recent orders will keep the company busy going forward. “You can always make a few more deals, but we’re making money,” he said. “The yard is busy, and we’re doing as much as we can to keep up.”

Grand Banks’ move to a “company direct” process without outside dealers has also helped sales. Grand Banks has sales personnel in Stuart; Oxford, Md.; Rowayton, Conn.; Newport, R.I.; Maine; and Newport Beach, Calif.

“We’re controlling our own destiny now and not relying on dealers with multiple brands,” Compton said. “That’s allowed us to personalize service for the customers. I have every one of our customers programmed into my phone. That kind of immediate reach, without having to go through two or three channels, adds extra responsibility but gives us more control. It gives us the option of really screwing it up or making it really good. We’re making it really good.”


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