Roch Lambert is president of the Recreational Boat Group, a portfolio company owned by Platinum Equity. He has global profit-and-loss responsibility over three historic boat brands: Four Winns, Glastron and Wellcraft, which were all acquired through the Genmar bankruptcy. Lambert is well versed in the consumer dynamics that motivate boat purchases and says he anticipates a profitable future looking ahead.
How do you “invest smartly” in business?
I’m a very, very strong believer that we have to figure out a way to reignite the appetite of the consumer. Sales of used products have been extremely good, but sales of new products have not been so good. The other element is we haven’t given the consumer a reason to buy new boats. New boats are very much like the old ones. It’s probably been a decade since there were new designs. We need to figure out how to get some consumers to step up buying, and we developed a new plan the latter part of last year.
How do you intend to increase demand?
We are going to have a new family of boats. We’re going to launch a new boat and a new image for two brands. We have shown the new plans to a limited number of dealers and the response so far has been beyond our expectations. On our side, we made the decision to invest the bulk of everything on developing new products.
Do you have any projections on sales trends?
From an industry perspective, it would be silly on my part to expect a significant increase in volume over the next 12 to 24 months. Our focus is to take market share from our competitors. Hopefully, we’ll get the best of the dealers as excited as possible. When we have good dealers in areas, we get very good results in market share. Some days it’s a little depressing. To look at the numbers in aggregate – it’s very bad. In Canada the numbers are very strong. When people feel good about their assets, boating is not an obsolete activity. All they need is a reason to come out and buy. When the U.S. economy stabilizes, we are going to see a significant increase in volume.
What changes have you seen in the market mix?
There has been a huge migration to smaller boats. For 30 feet and up – it’s very difficult to sell anything. Reports are very consistent around the world that selling big boats is a difficult task, but smaller boats put financial pressure on dealers.