It was little wonder the news story, that ran just a few weeks after the end of the Düsseldorf boat show, spiked considerable interest amongst IBI-Plus subscribers. Bavaria sells 102 boats at show, ran the headline (thereabouts) in a good news story that could have been taken from the 2007 archives. Just a few days earlier IBI-Plus had run a piece on Beneteau and its forecasts for “significant improvement” in profitability for 2013/14. Bright spots in otherwise leaden skies? Perhaps, but trending at the same time were a glut of IBI boat show reviews reporting upticks in business and stories of boatbuilders on recruitment drives, all suggesting confidence is returning. Of course the positive shift in the market may initially be down to back-filling – that often talked about but until now, elusive, pent-up demand. Whatever its complexion, modest growth has exposed however a fault-line, one that was brought home during a recent visit to a well-known motoryacht builder.
After shedding jobs when the downturn hit in 2008, this builder was on a recruitment drive. Expecting to be deluged with applicants, said builder was disappointed with the trickle of interest. Turning to former staff it had been forced to let go years previously, it again hit a brick wall – most had gone on to find more lucrative work in other industries. The fact is recruiting skilled factory floor personnel – engineers, carpenters, electricians – is a lot harder than it should be. As an industry boating is historically first to get into choppy waters and the last to reach dry land, which creates a big problem. How does boating compete with giants like housing, mining, gas and oil and a host of other industry sectors less exposed to boom-bust cycles and who can afford to pay premium rates? Getting them early could be the answer, which is why going forward apprentice schemes and training are going to play an increasingly vital role in our business. Those firms able to grow in success organically, rather than buying it in, will most likely be the ones making the good news headlines of tomorrow.