Fiona Pool, CEO of ultra-luxury yacht maker Hunton Powerboats and a former executive director at Goldman Sachs investment bank, is on a mission to expand production at the British-based business to “40 to 50 yachts a year” over the next five years and grow the firm’s revenues to the US$50m mark by tapping the international market for luxury yachts.
Having founded two successful luxury fashion businesses, Pool intends to “revolutionise the luxury yacht industry” in the same way other British heritage brands have done over the last decade. As a British product with a great pedigree, until recently Hunton had never been effectively marketed outside of the UK. But things are changing.
Hunton Yachts, which are produced to exacting standards in the Hampshire market town of Romsey by skilled craftsmen using only the finest materials, are akin to an Aston Martin or Bentley of the sea. These boats can display raw power performance on the water, but it’s understated and they don’t need to shout about it.
With the firm’s XRS 37 model starting out at a price of £375,000 (c.US$525,000) and the XRS 43 commanding a price tag of £470,000 (c.$658,000), they are clearly geared for the ultra-high-net worth (UHNW) market and individuals with discerning tastes who seek an exclusive yacht that is unique in the marina.
Under the management guidance of Pool, who was also Head of European High Yield Sales & Trading at Bank of America in The City of London, the firm is looking to the future and seeking to expand its luxury range with modern flair that is “appropriate and targeted” to UHNW’s and provides what today’s customer are attracted by.
It’s perhaps unsurprising that Hunton are seeking to share in the growing international demand for luxury yachts. Industry figures show that the market globally is on an upward trajectory.
The forecasted growth, for example, in the European market over the 2015-2016 period has been estimated at 5%-6%, and powerboat sales in EU ranging from 34ft to 79ft increased by 30% between the first quarter (Q1) of 2014 to Q1 2015.
Elsewhere, the growth rate in the US has been pencilled in at 6%‐8% for 2015‐16, which would bring the market back to pre-recession sales volumes. In the US sales of powerboats greater than 40ft rose 9.4% in 2013-14 and imported motorboats to the US are also gaining in popularity. Brazil, China, Russia and the UAE are interesting markets too.
Taking sales in the Chinese market (Hong Kong and PRC), the luxury boat business grew to RMB3bn (c.US$450m) in 2014, with growth driven by sales in the US$200,000-US$500,000 price range.
Lucintel, a global management and market research firm, has noted that: “The majority of luxury powerboats and yachts sold in the US are imported from Europe, with strong demand for more established brands.” But it stressed that “regular innovation” of products is key for companies to sustain their successful position in this market.
Historically Hunton have manufactured between five to ten yachts a year on a ‘build-to-order’ only model. Pool, however, has embarked on changing this underlying manufacturing structure to a “production-based model.”
“We will be producing demonstration boats and inventory from 2017,” explains the former University of London graduate who studied French, Italian, and Economic and Political history. That said, Hunton will still be producing the “one-off bespoke builds”.
“However, to fully capitalise on sales opportunities we need to be able to satisfy those clients that want to buy now and not wait six months,” she added. As such Hunton’s focus will mainly be on the “43ft and larger yachts” as this is where demand from high net worth lies.
Launching Other Models
Pool also reveals that Hunton has plans to launch other models, such as a centre console design to compete with American manufacturers.
“This will have the same Hunton driving experience that you would expect from our hulls, but will be a centre console with our design aesthetic and European flair that is lacking in the US market,” she explains.
In order to support the increase in future production, the executive who has skills in new business development and international sales amongst others, reveals that they will be “looking to grow” Hunton’s international distribution network.
On that note Pool has already established Hunton America LLC in the US and will be bringing the yachts in directly, “using a network of sub-agents as well as having our own Hunton sales office in Miami, which is planned for early 2017.”
Elsewhere around the globe, such as in Asia and the Middle East the firm is “looking for local dealers” who will distribute and market the brand in their territories.
“Our bespoke one-off builds will still form an important part of the Hunton offering,” she adds: “We have many clients who do want that totally bespoke product and we are one of the very few production yards that can offer this.”
The company is currently looking to bring in another strategic investor to help the company realise its strategy on a global scale. Discussions are on-going with investors from Europe, the Middle East and Asia.