Q&A: The post-recession marine accessories industry
Steve Tilders is the global director of marine sales for pumps and accessory brands Jabsco, Rule and Xylem. Boating Industry sat down with Tilders to learn about a world rarely covered by the magazine, including how his industry was affected by the recession and new technologies in marine accessories.
Who are your primary customers?
The Rule brand focuses on boats 40 feet and under, while the Jabsco brand is found on even larger vessels. We work with a lot of OEMs as you could imagine, but we are also very heavy in the aftermarket. We have a huge presence in retail like with West Marine, Bass Pro Shop and independent marine dealers.
What sort of products do you find end users purchasing?
We can take something like our simple pump technology and can sell it with the bells and whistles you wouldn’t normally see on a boat you may be buying. Due to the price, products like our V-Flow pump are a tough sell to a boat builder. However, you show boaters the value they can get from spending an additional $100, and they love the opportunity.
Where do you reach these customers?
We are very passionate on interface with the customers, so we attend a lot of consumer boat shows. We can show up and get lots of ideas for new products from talking with people. There is an incredible amount of new ideas that come out of boat shows.
The disadvantage we have is that most of our products are under the deck, out of sight and out of mind. No one wakes up on a Saturday morning and decides they need a new macerator pump. So talking with people at boat shows is important.
How was your industry been affected by the recession, considering fewer boats were being built?
Financially, there wasn't much of an effect at all. We did lose some OEM sales, but that is not the most profitable end of our business. In reality, we were in a very good position because instead of buying a new boat people were upgrading their existing one. The average age of a boat has gone from 15 to 21 years – most people say that is a terrible thing, but I say it is wonderful.
Technological upgrades have had a huge effect on the industry, how has it affected marine accessories?
Smart technology has really taken ahold in the pump world. For example in the past decade, the ski boat market has required advanced technology to manage ballast systems on board to effect the size and scope of the boat’s wake. Our standard flexible impeller pumps were married to our active intelligence modules, which control the ballast system. We see smart technology in our bilge pumps now, as well as water pressure systems. Over the years we have heard the customers and can now deliver those solutions.