Support for local businesses

The Guest Comment article ‘Marinas and takeovers – enough room for boating?’ published in November/December 2022 (Issue No. 134), while in no way dismissing the very important industry role of large marina groups, made a strong case for the simpler, less luxury-based marina offering that is more likely to be found at a family-run marina.

The ‘no frills’ approach is a far cry from zero-amenity; the service is very personal and professional; and, as the owners expect future generations to directly benefit from investment in the property, a more flexible approach can be taken when undertaking projects as they do not necessarily require a swift return.
Marina owners and their customers give us interesting feedback:
Jean-Michel Gaigné CMM, InXs Marinas, France:
I fully understand the author’s testimony. There is a race in the marina industry towards ultimate luxury and services that seems never ending. Marina offers must be targeted to different types of customers, and those who have less money and fewer expectations must not be forgotten.
Boating must remain accessible and affordable for everybody, and there are boaters who don’t need a fitness centre or a concierge service, but just a sheltered berth, freshwater and electricity. That’s why the certifications and the accolades delivered to the marinas are very useful. A 3-Gold Anchor marina will probably satisfy certain customers, while wealthy yacht owners may look to premium and fully integrated service.
In France, most of the marinas just deliver essential services – even sometimes basic. It doesn’t mean that the berth holder cannot find supplementary benefits to enrich his experience, but these services must be paid in addition and often provided by third parties. It is the role of the marina operator to link between the local ecosystem and the boater’s expectations since there is always a swimming pool, gourmet restaurant, tennis court or a golf course in the surroundings to address the desires of every berth holder.
Wade Eldean CMM, Eldean Shipyard & Marina, MI, USA:
I enjoyed your editorial on marinas and takeovers as we are one of the Mom and Pops that are still around. I put the article on our Facebook page and got some comments:
Dan D:
I get worried every time local is replaced by a ‘conglomeration’. I like knowing the owner and manager of the business I support. I like seeing an owner take pride in their business. I prefer local family businesses when possible. [But] I have experienced multi-generational businesses that should have sold as it became apparent that the new generation didn’t appreciate the customer.
I also like the extra perks of a well-run marina, pool, nice clean bathrooms, safe docks. I also need a place where I can ‘tinker’ on my boat. I take great pride in keeping my boat ship shape. I will also need help from time to time when I just don’t have the time or expertise to do the project.
Debra B:
As new boaters back in 2019, a family owned marina like Eldeans was welcoming to us as a small, much older boat owner; while at the same time observing the variety of huge boats and sailboats docked amongst us in the same dock slips. You can tell Eldeans values all its customers no matter the sailing vessel size or age, and works to make every slip renter feel welcome. Family owned is the preferred marina experience.
Michael S (MS) and Wade Eldean (WE):
MS: I support local wherever/whenever possible. Rarely does bigger = better. The biggest challenges for many smaller/independent marina operators are capital investments required to stay relevant (not necessarily to become like 6 flags… but, to keep things like docks and facilities looking nice and in good repair requires some business discipline to budget sufficient funds) and transitioning of the business from one generation to the next. The latter is a common issue for any business going through generational change but, in the case of marinas, anything decent that comes to market will be gobbled up – a good solution for family not interested in continuing the business but not necessarily for the local boating community.
WE: Lots of good points. Another issue the marine industry faces is enough marine techs. And relatedly, besides having customers that shop local, I’m hoping that techs/employees might shop local too and prefer our type of employer over a big corporation! It is really discouraging when one of the big guys buys a marina nearby, fires a bunch of the people that came with the marina, and then begins poaching employees from the other marinas around them. It is one of the things that makes boating harder these days, not easier. But there is some good movement lately to get more people interested and educated in working in the marine business. You and I know there’s no better place to be.
Jason B (JB) and Wade Eldean (WE):
JB: I will always prefer a locally owned, local business. I prefer to have a boat that might have some projects because I actually enjoy the projects. It is part of what boating is to me…value comes in what you put into things in life. I like a marina that succeeds because it does the same in the service it provides its customers. I stay at one that I perceive does value its customers. I highly doubt that the same value would be conveyed at a larger conglomerate that owned hundreds of properties around the country (world). It becomes personalised and/or forced “corporate engagement”.
WE: I agree with you. As an owner, it’s hard to put into words the amount of work an owner/manager can do, or is able to observe the work that the marina has done for our boaters, when living on the property, and being around 24/7.
If you missed the November/December Guest Comment, you can read it online at - 2022 - November/December - page 48.


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