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Nautical Ventures Group expands overseas

When the Great Recession pummeled the yachting industry in the U.S., South Florida’s Nautical Ventures Group got creative and began exporting repossessed boats, capitalizing on a manager’s knowledge of the marine scene in French-speaking nations.

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Now that the U.S. market is stronger, the Dania Beach-based group is becoming bolder overseas. It’s opening offices in Panama and in Colombia to expand its yacht brokerage business and export water toys such as kayaks. Plus, it’s selling hovercraft to China and exploring a major expansion there.

Nautical Ventures Group has earned a reputation since the 2008 financial crisis as an innovator in South Florida’s marine industry. While some boat dealerships and suppliers closed or shrunk, it has grown, diversifying into new businesses from fuel to docking systems and, increasingly, going global.

That strategy has boosted sales from $13 million in 2013 to $23 million in 2014 and likely will top $25 million in 2005, said Roger Moore, chief executive of a business that now employs more than 70 people.

“The forward-looking companies are expanding internationally,” said Phil Purcell, executive director of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida.

Nautical Ventures’ next frontier is Panama, home for many years to one of the fastest-growing economies in Latin America and since 2014 the site of an annual boat show produced by the same group that organizes Fort Lauderdale’s boat show extravaganza.

Relocation fuels growth at Danias Nautical Ventures

Relocation fuels growth at Dania’s Nautical Ventures Arlene Satchell, Sun Sentinel Marine outfit expanding after relocating from site near Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood airport Marine outfit expanding after relocating from site near Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood airport ( Arlene Satchell, Sun Sentinel ) –>

The company is opening a store in Panama’s capital city to sell small sailboats and other water toys, Moore said. It’s a partnership with Panama-based Hennie Marais, which developed the Paddle Panama Center. The shop probably will employ an initial six to 10 people and open in early 2015.

“The Panama venture totally complements and in no way competes with what we have in Fort Lauderdale,” said Moore, noting buyers in Panama more likely would come from Central and South America and not from the United States.

In Colombia, Nautical Ventures also is launching a yacht brokerage and sales office in Cartagena, the Caribbean port city that has become a tourist mecca. That venture is a partnership with a Colombian entrepreneur and probably will employ three to four people, Moore said.

Perhaps the biggest expansion will be China, where the marine industry “is just exploding,” Moore said.

Nautical Ventures recently sold 10 hovercraft to China worth about $300,000 total. The two-passenger craft uses a tractor-type engine to rise on a bed of air to travel inches above water, land, mud and other surfaces. A partner in China’s southern industrial city of Shenzhen (population: at least 10 million) bought the vehicles to develop hovercraft races on beaches and around markers over water, Moore said.

Nautical Ventures also is exploring other options with that Chinese partner, whose businesses also include manufacturing rigid inflatable boats used as yacht tenders, Moore said.

In all, the group sees international sales comprising as much as 25 percent of business in a few years, up from roughly 5-10 percent now. That’s a long way from unloading boats repossessed in the U.S. during the recession.

dhemlock@sunsentinel.com, 305-810-5009

Copyright © 2014, Sun Sentinel


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Boat, travel trailer sales increase sharply

Sales of boats and travel trailers are at some of the highest levels in years as consumers feel better about making discretionary purchases.

Tuesday, the National Marine Manufacturers Association said it expects recreational boat sales were up as much as 7% this year compared with 2013. Furthermore, 2014 retail expenditures — which include spending on boats, engines, marine accessories and services — could eclipse 2007, one of the healthiest years for the industry.

Some of the strongest sales were in ski-and-wakeboard, pontoon, and aluminum fishing boats. Sales of larger boats also started to see an uptick, according to the trade association.

“An improved economy, an improved housing market, a stronger job market, increasing consumer confidence, and a multiyear low on fuel prices has bolstered people’s financial outlook, which bodes well for new boat sales,” said Thom Dammrich, president of the Chicago-based association.

This fall, wholesale shipments of travel trailers were at some of the highest levels in decades, according to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association, based in Reston, Va.

RV industry shipments are expected to total 361,400 units in 2015, up 4% from 2014.

The 2015 figure would be more than double the industry’s recent low point in 2009.

“We’ve had a good year in 2014. Our October numbers were up 30% from September and were the best October total we’ve posted in 38 years,” said RVIA President Richard Coon.

Sales of travel trailers and motor homes are big business in Wisconsin, with people coming here from the Chicago area to buy rigs costing tens of thousands of dollars.

“We had our best year ever,” said Paul Beitzel, sales manager at Ewald’s Airstream of Wisconsin, an Airstream travel-trailer dealership in Franklin.

New Airstream trailers cost $42,000 to $140,000. The Ohio-based trailer manufacturer has benefited from baby boomers not wanting to wait much longer to buy one of the luxury units that sometimes serves as their second home.

“The baby boomers are retiring and want a lifestyle change,” Beitzel said.

Airstream, known for its shiny aluminum trailers with rounded corners, had hoped to double the sales of one particular model but exceeded that goal, according to Beitzel.

“If I ordered one today, I wouldn’t see it until June,” he said.

Wholesale shipments of travel trailers, including fifth-wheel models towed by large pickups, increased 24% in November, according to new data from Robert W. Baird Co.

Low fuel prices have helped bring some people back to the dealerships, a good sign before the start of the winter RV shows that get under way in January.

There’s still pent-up demand from the recession, when people wanted recreational vehicles and boats but postponed the purchase until they felt better about their finances.

“Even when consumer confidence was low, people were still researching RVs, going to shows and dealerships,” said Kevin Broom, spokesman for the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association.

Many of the new travel trailers are smaller and lighter to pull, but they have as much room inside as larger models from a few years ago.

Slide-out rooms create more living space in a trailer. Smaller electronics and appliances, such as flat-screen televisions and tankless water heaters, also free up more inside space.

There’s strong interest in trailers that are replicas of models made in the 1960s but have modern amenities such as an air conditioner and a microwave oven.

One of those is a replica of a 1961 Airflyte from Shasta RV, an Elkhart, Ind. manufacturer.

In 2014, the company pledged to manufacture more than 1,900 of the special edition trailers. Dealers, including two locations in Wisconsin, snapped all of them up in just three days, said President Mark Lucas.

The Airflyte “is a lot tougher to build than some of the other trailers. The metal corners are hand rolled with a hammer … a lot of the stuff is more craftsman built than assembly processed,” Lucas said.

The starting price for an Airflyte is $14,998. About 80% of the trailer is identical to the one built 53 years ago, according to Lucas.

“A lot of people think it’s a restoration,” he said.


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