Galati Yacht Sales
Anna Maria, Fla.
Our second dealer to win Hall of Fame status, Galati Yacht Sales, opened locations in St. Petersburg and Tierra Verde this year, and it opened its first international location at the Los Sueños Resort in Costa Rico. The international location has given Galati incredible exposure and it has seen a significant uptick in sales of Viking Yachts.
“Costa Rica, especially on this Pacific Ocean side, has become an extremely high-profile fishing area as it relates to our sportfish products, so the concentration of customers coming from the U.S. to that destination in Los Sueños Resort has been exponential with the economic recovery here in the U.S.,” said Darren Plymale, vice president of Galati Yacht Sales.
In addition to location expansion, the dealership increased its marketing budget in 2014, particularly by increasing the display sizes at its international and local boat shows.
“It’s paid off exponentially, both in our brokerage dollars and in our new boat sales. The results that we saw at Fort Lauderdale, Miami and West Palm [Beach] this past year has been phenomenal,” said Plymale. “And that’s not boasting; it’s the fact that our investment is paying off.”
That investment has further paid off as Galati saw double-digit grown in dollars and incremental transactions in 2014. Galati is now surpassing over 450 boat sales annually. Plymale attributes this success to the dealership’s incredible customer retention.
Retention is a common theme at Galati, as the dealership considers employee retention a top priority. Galati achieves this through internal promotions at every opportunity, 401k contribution matching for its employees and more. The dealership promoted employees to fill its open operations manager and finance manager roles in 2014, and the yard foreman at the Anna Maria location was promoted to service manager.
“Our employees are really our life blood to the customer, and they know our commitment to customer service and they live it every day,” said Plymale. “We feel like promoting from within provides us the advantage to show people that have been with us and have provided us their services for many years the opportunity to grow with us.”
The dealership also takes care of its employees. For instance, in 2014 Galati had a healthcare increase that would increase costs for the employees. Galati’s contributions always covered a portion of it but in 2014 the dealership covered the entire increase
“When they were expecting a 13 percent increase, we stepped up and took care of that difference,” said Plymale. “We’re only as good as our weakest link, and knowing that we’ve really got to make sure we’re putting the best programs out there for them.”
2014 was a big year for Legendary Marine.
At the start, Legendary began the year utilizing its Hall of Fame status for the first time, integrating the logo into its marketing efforts and dealership branding.
“We have continued to brand the Hall of Fame logo along with the Top 100 dealer [logo],” said Scott Cunningham, managing director at Legendary Marine.
It was also a year full of renovations for the dealership and its four locations. The Destin location finalized plans and started construction on Lulu’s Restaurant, which opened in 2015.
Legendary is also working on repainting the world’s largest flag on its roof, which has been a major attraction for the dealership since it was first completed in 2002. The flag, dedicated to the U.S. military and first responders, is 170,000 square feet and visible from any plane flying in and out of Destin. The original artist, Robert Wyland, began planning stages on repainting the flag and is expected to be finished in 2016.
The Fort Walton Beach location moved completely from a rented drystack facility to a permanent location on the Emerald Coast Highway with waterfront access.
“It was in the same market but a much better retail sales and service facility that’s a standalone highway and water location,” said Cunningham. “It enabled us to add a couple of sales people to the staff. We started working on our pre-owned reconditioning facility there that does nothing but the pre-owned side.”
In Orange Beach, Ala., the dealership began the process of a major renovation to its showroom, gutting the existing facility completely and initiating a $700,000 overhaul.
The dealership purchased 2.7 acres of land to build a new 20,000 square foot facility for its Panama City location, which will include a state-of-the-art showroom and service/parts department. Plans to break ground will begin in late 2015.
And among all of these renovations came the merger with Singleton Marine Group to form OneWater Marine Holdings, which was finalized in September 2014. The dealership continues to operate under its original name and branding, keeping the same employees that helped propel Legendary Marine to becoming a Top 100 Hall of Fame dealer.
“One of our visions in the OneWater merger was not to change anything that we didn’t have to initially. Legendary was a great company already,” Cunningham said. “The ability to have the input … and the buying power of the company and the processes that we can put into place felt like we would continue to make the company stronger.”
As the first member of the Boating Industry Top 100 Hall of Fame, MarineMax has been setting the standard for marine dealers for years.
The 2005 and 2006 Dealer of the Year, while certainly aiming for growth, also sees the importance of the industry working together to further its goals.
“We’re all thinking globally and then acting locally,” said Abbey Heimensen, director of marketing. “Of course everyone wants to make money and we all want to sell boats, but we also know that if we don’t have clean water, if we don’t have the right prices on fuel, if the taxes get out of control when they buy a boat, it’s not good for any of us.”
Participating in industry associations and education are all part of those efforts.
“Working with our counterparts throughout the United States … and being part of MDCE and part of Top 100 and part of Discover Boating is really important, just to get more people into this crazy thing that we all just are absolutely in love with,” Heimensen said. “How can we all work together and support this industry and get people into something that’s going to absolutely change their lives?”
MarineMax has also continued to improve its marketing, a major emphasis in 2013 and 2014.
Most recently, the company launched MarineMaxYachts.com, a site built from the ground up by its in-house IT and marketing team. With the yacht segment of its business continuing to grow, it was important to make sure that those customers knew about all of MarineMax’s services, Heimensen said.
“We understand that we have an array of customers from 19-foot jet boats to 100-foot yachts … and they need to be treated in different ways,” she said. “We needed an outlet to let that big boat owner and prospects know that MarineMax has the staff to have you covered.”
To help its more than 50 locations improve their marketing, MarineMax expanded its marketing team to include seven regional marketing coordinators.
“Not only do we need a team here, we also recognize that we need to have someone on the ground to help grassroots efforts,” Heimensen said.
The company also added an in-house digital marketing specialist to handle all of its search engine optimization, pay-per-click and more. MarineMax wanted someone who would be able to work directly with the stores and react quickly to the company’s needs.
“We needed to have somebody who was right here on the ground and could understand it – someone who would be able to work directly with our analytics team, our IT team,” Heimensen said. “As fast as the boating industry moves, we don’t have time to call a third party [company] if we want to get something done right away.”
Those investments are important as MarineMax continues to see a growing market.
“We’re seeing people talk about boating, they’re shopping, they’re coming to boat shows,” Heimensen said. “They really are finally ready to commit.”
Prince William Marine
It’s a very different industry than it was just five years ago when Prince William marine won its first Dealer of the Year award.
The two-time (2010 and 2011) winner, though, has continued to innovate as it looks to find ways to get better every year no matter what the market throws at it.
“Keeping a positive attitude toward the recovery in the industry and keeping a positive atmosphere among the employees pushes us to continue to improve,” said owner Carlton Phillips.
The dealership added Bayliner boats late in 2013, giving it an entry-level offering to pair with its flagship Sea Rays. Prince William has already grabbed a double-digit market share since adding the line. Another addition was the Gibbs Quadski.
“Having that product has opened up access for us to attend other boat/car/motorcycle shows along the East Coast with this new product,” Phillips said. “With the new product lines we made substantial changes to our boat show footprint and display … focusing different areas in the booth on different brands.”
Having experienced great success with the Sea Ray/Costco partnership, Prince William looked to another warehouse store – BJ’s Wholesale Club – and contracted with the chain to display its Sea Ray, Bayliner and Quadski products at local stores.
One of the strengths that sets Prince William apart from most dealers is its marina club and how it has leveraged that strength to create a powerful brand.
Prince William continued to invest in the marina and restaurant in 2014, upgrading and replacing lighting, signage, furniture, rails, docking and more.
Additional storage has also allowed Prince William to perform more winter service work, just one of several changes to the parts and service departments in 2014. The company added a new parts manager and service dispatcher and launched a revised wash/detail service with discount packages, which has driven increased sales in that department.
Prince William also revamped its weekly service and parts meetings to make them more productive. By reviewing weekly parts and open work order reports, the management team has been able to improve departmental efficiency and batter manage expenses.
“This weekly meeting is vital to keeping an eye on the parts/service/sales aspect of repairs so things don’t get missed or slip through the cracks during busy times,” Phillips said.