Customer: “Will $700,000 get me into a boat like that?”
Salesman: “It’ll be a bit more than that, sir. At least $750,000.”
Customer: “I’ve got $730,000 right now, but I want the next size up and I’d like to see it today.”
I estimated the casually-dressed potential client was aged in his late 30s and had a couple of days beard growth on his chin. He was in company with a lady of similar age and a teenage girl.
This was getting serious, so I bid farewell to the dealer, pledging to catch up with him later. I continued my stroll past more than $40 million worth of boats at the Club Marine Perth International Boat Show.
Later in the day, the dealer told me the vessel the man was interested in, a Meridian 391 flybridge, was still on the wharf at Fremantle, viewing arrangements had been made and the sale was completed on the spot. It turned out there was also another potential buyer showing interest and there is now another Meridian being fast-tracked off the production line in the United States and being sent to importer Avante Marine in Perth.
For the last couple of years, the Western Australian economy has been going from strength-to-strength, due to the world demand for WA’s mineral resources.
During the past year, there has been a dramatic increase in boat sales in Western Australia and there are now more than 85,000 vessels registered with the Department for Planning and Infrastructure. And new boat registrations increased by more than 1000 last financial year.
“The housing market is largely controlled by the availability of land and properties, but the resources boom translates to more dollars in the pockets of many people and they are investing in a lifestyle on the water,” says Andrew O’Reilly, Club Marine Insurance Western Australian Manager.
“The average insurance cover has increased because people have more funds and are buying large vessels.
“We have also upgraded our policies, so with our competitive rates and continued boom times, we look forward to another great year. I’m sure the increase in recreational boating will continue for some years.”
More people are discovering the joys of boating, which can be experienced by whole families. And for young, single blokes it also means they can head for the nearest coastline on their days off for a spot of fishing.
While the boom is great, it has also highlighted a critical shortage in the Perth metropolitan area of pens and moorings for large vessels – much to the annoyance of big boat retailers.
“We love that boat and would like to buy it, but can you guarantee us a pen?” A familiar question put to many dealers as they fight for another sale.
The number of big boat sales has certainly been affected due to the lack of marina facilities and, while leading yacht clubs strive to create more pens and the State Government recognises more facilities are needed, there is no quick fix. Places at boat stacking storage facilities fill rapidly and more are coming on-line this summer, but they can only accommodate vessels up to 10 metres.
While the big boat dealers could be happier, many of those handling the small to medium range have been riding the crest of the wave for some time now and the Boating Industry Association of Western Australia is confident sales will strengthen as warmer weather approaches.
Mandurah, once a place the elderly would retire to, is located 70 kilometres south of Perth. To the south-east, there are 100 square kilometres of inland waterways, the Peel and Harvey Inlets, which are fed by the Murray and Serpentine Rivers. They are ideal for peaceful getaways for boaters, especially during autumn, winter and spring.
Canal development at Mandurah is roaring ahead, with multi-million dollar mansions popping up everywhere.
The local city council has, commendably, also kept abreast with boating requirements and there are many public ramps, plus the award-winning Mandurah Ocean Marina, which hosts the annual Club Marine Boat Show.
A decade ago, there would have been three marine outlets in the Mandurah area. Now there are about 17 manufacturers and dealerships.
Estuary Marine has been providing boat sales and marine servicing for the region for the past 29 years and it, like the area, has grown. Dealer principal, Bert Denboer and his son, Paul took over the reigns eight years ago. They soon trebled the size of the premises and employed more staff.
Today, numerous national awards from various manufacturers – and Club Marine – are treasured and proudly displayed around the walls of their sales offices and service centre.
Estuary Marine is a major Quintrex and Yamaha dealership and the company’s success is largely due to that award-winning combination, says Bert. However, just over a year ago, he and Paul discussed going into PWC sales. In their first year selling PWCs, they went to the number eight position in Australia for sales.
“A large number of young guys come in and you might see them every second week when they come back from the mines,” says Paul. “They walk in the door at 8 o’clock in the morning and say ‘look, I just got off the plane last night, I’ve been reading about jet skis, I want that one and I’ll be back this afternoon with the cheque’. There’s a lot of that happening to us.”
Another secret of Estuary Marine’s success is having a large range of boats in stock to show customers. They take pride in predicting the market and more than 170 Quintrex stock vessels have been pre-ordered for delivery before Christmas.
At the height of summer, the company employs up to 22 people on the 6000 square metre site. The boats on offer range in size from 2.4 to 9 metres.
With predictions that world demand for resources will continue for at least another 20 years, and at a time when many on the east coast are reporting slowing sales, the WA economy and marine industries look certain to grow even stronger.