A new focus on used

With new boat sales lagging, many retailers have decided to place an increased emphasis on the often-overlooked opportunities the used-boat market can provide.

Marine Connection, based in West Palm Beach, Fla., is one of several dealers around the country that actively seeks out used boats to capitalize on the fact that many prospective buyers still feel more comfortable purchasing a big-ticket item from a bricks-and-mortar dealership rather than a private seller.

The company has gone so far as to launch a marketing program focusing on its newly launched Web site, Cash4boats.com, and sent a mailing to every owner of a boat under 32 feet in five surrounding counties offering to purchase their vessels.

Within the first seven days of that mailing, Marine Connection had received more than 600 replies.

The company has created a senior-level position to concentrate on purchasing boats on the open market, through bank auctions and from other dealers. Once those boats are obtained, Marine Connection then works hard to market them and has established a presence in Canada to take advantage of the increased export opportunities that are the result of the weak U.S. dollar.

“When it comes right down to it, from our perspective, surviving in today’s marine industry depends on two basic principles,” says Mark Lasilla, president and owner. “First, aggressively pursuing whatever market is producing results. Going out and finding new customers, not waiting for them to find us. Second, we remain upbeat and positive about the business and hobby we all live in. This is the same game, but the rules have changed.”

Several dealers — including Prince William Marine Sales, Inc., based in Woodbridge, Va. — have also implemented programs to certify and warranty the used boats they sell, helping provide those seeking pre-owned boats an even greater level of confidence when buying those products.

At Galati Yacht Sales, based in Anna Maria, Fla., the company has worked with Tiara Yachts and GE Capital to develop the criteria for the certified pre-owned program the boat manufacturer launched in September. Galati says it will launch its own CPO program soon. The dealership has also focused on increasing its brokerage revenue and began a worldwide brokerage program that markets its products around the globe by advertising on 14 Web sites throughout Europe, Asia and Australia.

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