Many boating companies in the turmoil
The year 2019 was marked by the disappearance of certain historic yachting brands and difficulties for several players in the yachting industry. From the liquidation of the Ocqueteau shipyard in Oléron to the liquidation of the sailboat builder Espace Vag in Concarneau, and the receivership of Fora Marine in La Rochelle, the turmoil has impacted a large part of the industry, in both motor and sailing, mainly in medium-sized shipyards. The phenomenon does not only affect France. Examples include the procedure to protect the Discovery yachts in the United Kingdom or the Ferretti group's difficulty in opening up its capital in Italy. Other sites are more discreet about their economic difficulties, but remain in critical situations.
A message that worries boaters
If the disappearance of a company has as a first effect the loss of employment and the end of an often passionate industrial adventure, it is not without consequences for the whole nautical sector. Some boaters, already engaged by down payments to yards in liquidation, are losing money as well as confidence in the sector. "The problem with the rest of this news is that customers end up thinking we're all in trouble. She no longer trusts and dares not order the boats. It's important to present what we are doing to ensure the future of our yards," says Serge Calvez, director of the sailboat builder Marée Haute.
A necessary consolidation of the nautical sector
However, some see the phenomenon as a process of consolidation among the many boat builders. "Some wanted to increase their turnover at all costs, selling at too low a price. But this cannot work forever, especially when the market slows down," says the sales representative of a construction site complaining of a form of unfair competition that is harmful to the whole sector.
Finding the right financial support and the right pace of growth
The economic balance for recreational boat builders remains delicate. If we have seen how difficult it has been for major players such as Bavaria in 2018 or even the Italian leader Ferretti, which had to postpone its IPO until 2019, medium-sized shipyards are among the most fragile. The choice of solid investors and reasoned growth is essential. "We made the choice three years ago to restructure and join forces with an industrial group so that we wouldn't find ourselves in the same situation," explains Serge Calvez. "We also prefer to extend a boat model over 3, 4 or 5 years rather than rebooting the pump with marketing and a new boat that is not yet reliable. It avoids phenomenal investments every year."
Between a useful reduction in competition and the sector's image of fragility, small and medium-sized water sports companies are not spared from the turbulence encountered by their colleagues.