As a company that has steadily increased its market share in this time, Alexseal’s sales and marketing director, Tripp Nelson is well placed to evaluate the fortunes of the last decade, and he spoke exclusively to SuperyachtNews.com on this topic, as well as the challenges lying ahead for his sector, and the industry as a whole.
“In 2004 the global superyacht market was thriving and we saw a lot of new builds and refits”, Nelson begins. “As we were going through this period, towards 2008, business was good across all sectors. But then of course, the global recession took place, and I believe the US market felt it around a year and a half earlier than the European market.”
Initially, he says, this presented a challenge for a brand in its infancy because 60 or 70 per cent of the marine customers vanished in a short period of time. For a coatings manufacturer these customers are not just the owners of the hull, but also the manufacturers of the doors, hatches, davits, and everything in between. These niche suppliers were disappearing in the wake of the crisis and everyone felt the ripple effect.
“Where we had the most success during this period was with customers at the lower end of the size spectrum. Yacht owners up to 30m were more open to embracing technological change, whereas superyacht owners required real-time proof, which meant the market took a bit longer to get into.” However, after 10 years, five of the world’s top ten largest yachts are painted with Alexseal, Nelson says.
He attributes this significant market growth to being able to demonstrate the quality and durability of the brand’s unique offering. And this is relevant in an industry-wide context because the superyacht industry is rarely blessed with the working capital to be able to invest substantially in R&D, and yet the coatings sector, operates in direct contrast to this axiom. To put it into perspective 15 percent of Mankiewicz’s workforce is employed in R&D, an enviable figure for other superyacht sub-sectors.
“Our parent company – Mankiewicz – works across numerous sectors where technology must be at the cutting edge. We supply to Airbus, Boeing, BMW, Audi…and in doing so, we are able to incorporate new technologies into our products”, Nelson says. “The base resins of our coatings come from the aerospace industry, and if you think about the forces a plane is exposed to – extreme temperature changes, UV exposure and wind and rain erosion at 600 miles per hour – if our product works there, it will work on a yacht.”
Moving forward amid a tentative industry recovery, Nelson says the perennial focus will remain producing coatings that meet the growing demands of owners. “People always want a better finish and, increasingly, a unique finish. And we have to keep up with that in product development terms, in application process and once it’s on the vessel, in how it is maintained.” This will be pursued in tandem with a continuing education process for applicators and project managers alike, so that Alexseal products are applied and maintained in an optimal manner.
“We’ve enjoyed steady growth throughout the last 10 years and we anticipate that continuing in the future”, Nelson concludes. “I don’t think we’ll ever see the market as it was in 2007 or 2008, but we do see the market coming back and we’re investing in new personnel and facilities to be prepared for that future growth.”