Annette Roux: "Bénéteau has water under the keel, but we'll take care of it!"

Annette Roux, Bénéteau Foundation

Annette Roux, President of the Bénéteau Foundation, was a guest of the Assises de l'Economie de la Mer, where she shared her experience and her point of view on the sailing and motor yachting market. History of the site, Bénéteau's current events and future, everything goes through.

The heritage of know-how

Asked about the history of the Bénéteau group and its development, simultaneous with that of yachting, Annette Roux evokes the different stages in the life of the Vendée shipyard. She took over the family business in 1964, still specializing in wooden fishing vessels. For Annette Roux, it was the heritage of shipbuilding know-how that saved the Bénéteau shipyard in 1965. It allows him to present at the Paris boat show the first fishing trip, derived from polyester sardine boats. "Bénéteau unknowingly creates a new market segment."

For Annette Roux, two factors explain the development of yachting in those years: the massive arrival of polyester, which makes it possible to lower production costs in series and an increase in household purchasing power.

Ultra-fast growth in a niche market

An ideal condition for development, according to Bénéteau's former manager, fishing promenade is an entirely new niche market, mainly anchored on the Atlantic coast. In 12 years, Bénéteau, the only player, has achieved an 80% market share in the sector.

Sailing, the choice of leadership

In 1976, Bénéteau decided to attack the pleasure yacht market. While the United States turned mainly to motorboats, Europe was more of a sailing nation, dominated by British shipyards. Annette Roux explains:"We still aimed for a certain leadership Even if it meant giving one's life to an activity, it might as well make sense. So we set course for the sail."

The American Adventure

"In 1976, we could not ignore such a continent, so we decided to open a commercial subsidiary in Annapolis", this is how Annette Roux explains Bénéteau's establishment in the United States. The antenna gave the shipyard in Vendée a better understanding of the overseas market, which is extremely different from European yachting.

"At the time, I never thought that Bénéteau would buy a motor boat factory in the US. Yet the crises have gone through it and made it possible." Bénéteau thus acquired the brands of the RBH group in 2014.

Asked about the election of Donald Trump, the Vendée entrepreneur confirmed that local establishment could prove all the more judicious in the face of the protectionism claimed by the new American president during his campaign.

Stock market, but independent

The independence of the family business until 1984 enabled it to invest more easily, without having to pay dividends to shareholders. The IPO was necessary to raise funds to launch the American plants.

Asked about the best way to get through crises, Annette Roux says she has no recipe. Nevertheless, it insists on confidence in its employees, who must make efforts but to whom it is necessary to know how to give back once the storm passed. "If you are strictly financial, you make an extremely simplistic calculation, to say cut the market by two, I cut my staff by two. When you do that, you decapitate your business. This is how Bénéteau was able to recover other companies in the sector? "It's Jeanneau, of course.


Annette Roux explains Bénéteau's diversification choices, from sailing and motor fishing to yachting, by the evolution of the market. "We're boat builders, we follow our customers. Today it is easier to sell a 10 M € boat than 500 € k?. We have to adapt."

Similarly, it is necessary for the Bénéteau Group to continue its efforts in new products, which today represent 40% of investments,"even if we would like to slow down". The need for capital that it implies increases the march between the leaders and the small building sites.

Future investment in the engine

Asked in conclusion about Bénéteau's boat of the future, Annette Roux replied: "In sailing, we already have a big world market share. In motorboats, we have water under the keel, we'll take care of it!" What's new to come?

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