While the big brokerage firms continue to dominate sales, small houses are able to turn a trade in the competitive world of superyachts

In the forthcoming issue of The Superyacht Report, brokerage editor Rebecca Curran reports on the business of the big full-service brokerage houses versus the smaller one-man and family operations. She speaks to heads of some of the leading houses as well as to some of the well-known independent or small boutique brokers as well.

But from an owner’s perspective, what are the relative advantages? Clearly, the full-service houses can offer competitive pricing by bundling in brokerage, management, crew and charter services under one roof. And the formula has certainly worked: The big five full-service houses of Burgess, Edmiston, Fraser Yachts, Ocean Independence and Camper & Nicholsons International continue to succeed in large part because their business offerings simply add up.

But as the market picks up, our intelligence team has noted the smaller brokerage operations that have been involved in sales and purchases this year as well. Outfits like Drettman Yachts, McMaster Yachts, Dbeere Yachts, Bush & Noble and others have transacted on superyacht sales, demonstrating that there remains room for smaller operations within the brokerage world.

The Long Tail of Superyacht Brokerage

Snapshot of SuperyachtIntelligence data showing the power-law curve of the superyacht sales market

Data from SuperyachtIntelligence.com demonstrate that the superyacht brokerage market has a long tail, as described by former Wired Magazine editor Chris Anderson in his book, The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More. Since Q2’13, the top six brokerage houses combined were outsold by the following 88 small and medium-sized brokerages, including many firms that made only one or two sales each. It’s a picture of a market that is heavily dominated by the top players, but also one in which many smaller businesses continue to serve customers. So what are the smaller brokers offering that continue to enable them to deliver value to owners?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the smaller operations say it all comes down to the personal service. In her reporting, Curran speaks to Bertrand Vogele, who previously owned Yachting Partners International and left a couple years ago to has set up on his own business under the brand Seaminds. He says the approach of the smaller brokerages can suit the kind of private, hands-on service that yacht purchases may require. “For boutique brokerage companies, quality of service and experience are amplified, and because fewer clients can be provided with a service at once, the more important each of them is to the company.”

79m Pegasus V was sold in Q1'14 by Ken Denison of Denison & Daves, one of five sales for the boutique firm in the past 18 months

Chris Cecil-Wright, who left Edmiston last year to start his own small firm, Cecil Wright, says having fewer clients provides more attention. “There are no ‘small fish’ in chartering or buying and each client should be given undivided attention and expertise,” Cecil-Wright says. “We choose not to employ rafts of secretaries and junior brokers; each member of our highly qualified and motivated team nurtures their client relationship with a personalised service. And technology today has closed the gap between big business and a lean, bespoke company like ours.”

Tim Morley started his own eponymous business in 2005 and admits the early years were difficult. But leveraging industry knowledge and a broad network of contacts, he’s focused on building a brokerage brand that also specialises in superyacht auctions. “Last year we sold a 77m yacht and a 68m yacht, and we are now involved in the development of a 118m motoryacht project to be built in Germany and so far this year we have secured charters with a value of over $1.6 million,” he says. “Our next auction should be in February, most likely in St Maarten.”

Yachts are personal, private floating residences that require specialist handling and management. What the proliferation of smaller brokerages reflects is the enormously varied thinking of owners themselves. This is not a market that will ever be mass-produced or defined and served by a common set of parameters. As long as yachting continues to be an expression of individual will and desire, there will be room for independent brokers to ply their trade in a hands-on approach.

Data: SuperyachtIntelligence.com