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Unprecedented number of new buyers

The future looks bright with the boom period significantly characterised by new entrants to the market…

Attracting new clients to the superyacht market has always been one of the industry’s greatest challenges. For any number of reasons, both the new build and brokerage sales markets have been unable to keep pace with the rapidly growing numbers of UHNWIs globally. That being said, the current boom period has supposedly seen unprecedented numbers of new entrants joining the sales markets.

“I think 2020 came as a surprise to many, I don’t think even the shrewdest market commentators would have been able to predict a massive boom in sales off the back of a pandemic, because it is counterintuitive,” started Chris Cecil-Wright, founder of the eponymous brokerage house, Cecil Wright. “Fortunately, however, the strong performance has continued throughout 2021. As a business we focus on the 50m-plus northern European market because that is where we are able to add value, we aren’t trying to be all things to all people, and at a time in 2020 we were completely sold out, we literally had no central agencies.”

In the four weeks leading up to Monaco Yacht Show 2021, Cecil Wright added three new central agencies to its book, two Feadships and an Amels. Before the show had even come around two of the new superyachts were under offer, which stands to showcase how rapidly the market is moving at the moment for projects that have been priced correctly. Indeed, at the show itself, Cecil Wright concluded the off-market sale of the 1928 class motoryacht Fair Lady, as well as this week announcing the sale of Feadship’s 50m Herculina, which was one of the projects that was under contract ahead of MYS.

50m Hanikon

“If you price correctly and the product is what you say it is, and you are dialled into the brokerage market around the world, then the demand becomes apparent straight away because, especially in this environment, the buyers are there,” continues Cecil-Wright. “The market still feels strong, but what’s the reason behind it? It seems to me, and I would not have guessed that this would have occurred initially, that the pandemic has just convinced people to start making decisions. Whereas historically people have just sat on the fence, buyers have decided to get on with it. In terms of whether or not this growth is sustainable, one positive indicator is the number of new entrants that are joining the market as buyers.”

Enticing new entrants into the superyacht market, or more accurately the inability to do so on any significant scale, has been one of the most hotly debated topics within the superyacht industry for many years. Solutions have included everything from greater representation in developing markets, new design solutions, greener technologies and everything in between, but none have of these proposed solutions have had any great impact. Importantly, it hasn’t just been superyachting’s inability to attract new owners that has ground the gears of the industry, it is this phenomenon in line with the growth in UHNWI numbers globally that has really stung.

“That new owners are joining the market is excellent news and indicates that this may not simply be a flash in the pan trend,” explains Cecil-Wright. “Fortunately, we know the trajectory of new entrants to the market. Firstly, it becomes difficult, or at least less appealing, to return to the typical hotel holiday model once you have owned and experienced a superyacht. Secondly, once you’ve owned a yacht, the only real way forward is to own a bigger one. It doesn’t matter whether or not someone owns a 30m or a 90m as their first superyacht, the second one will almost always be bigger, whether you are going up to 45m or 110m.”

It is this typical buyer cycle that leads Cecil-Wright to believe that the market growth that is experienced at the moment may be more sustainable than some have given it credit for, given that most new entrants will account for more than a single superyacht purchase throughout their ownership lifecycle, whether that is across the new build or brokerage markets.

“If you had plotted the trajectory of the brokerage market it would have looked like a fairly straight line going up from left to right, 2020 and 2021 have added a fairly steep step in the middle of that curve,” says Cecil-Wright. “I absolutely expect the growth to flatten out at some point, however, the market’s base position has been improved massively by the number of new entrants.”

The long-term impact of this booming period of sales remains to be seen. It could be that certain buyers are opportunists that are looking for a quick way to make some money, it may be that others are riding a wave of post-pandemic hysteria and others may have committed to an asset purchase that is, realistically, beyond their means to own and operate. Alternatively, however, it may be that the market has matured sufficiently to ensure not only that UHNWIs are buying superyachts, but that those new and old entrants to the market are receiving the right kind of advice that will guarantee that the superyacht ownership experience is devoid of complexity where necessary and, overall, that it is enjoyable.

Image credit: Hanikon by Quin Bisset

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