East Anglia’s boat industry heads to the London Boat Show
Copyright: Archant 2017
Despite some industries feeling the pressure from inflation, the weak sterling and political uncertainty, there is a buoyant mood among many of the region’s boat builders at the London Boat Show.
The sector was worth £292m in the East of England in 2015/16, up from £283m in the previous 12 months, according to figures from industry group British Marine. The region made up just under 10% of the industry nationally.
The equivalent of 80 jobs have been created with 3,903 now working in across the sector.
Boat building in particular has seen a surge in confidence with British Marine’s survey showing a 50% increase on the previous year - an upbeat mood reflected in the companies who have travelled to London for the year’s biggest show.
Peter Jeckells, chairman of boat upholsterer Jeckells and Son, said: “The industry as a whole seems to be back on the up again.
“The boat builders on the Broads are getting visitors now that they weren’t getting last year. I have spoken to one or two who have got orders at the show already, which of course is good news for us as well.”
Among the other firms representing Norfolk and Suffolk at the London set-piece are Haines Marine, Broom Boats, Suffolk Yacht Harbour, Richardson’s Boating Holidays and Jeckells – The Sailmakers.
British Marine said the boating industry was worth £3.01bn to the UK economy last year – the first time it had broken the £3bn barrier since the financial crash in 2008/09.
Justin Haines, director of Haines Marine, said he was confident of getting at least one sale from the show, which had started steadily with some disruption caused by tube strikes.
He said: “We are not even at the half-way point and I am feeling confident that we will sell a boat if not two or three. I think that is the general feeling: everyone seemed to end the year on a high.”
Despite the positives, British Marine said the strength of the euro against the pound meant a 1.98% cost increase in manufacturing inputs between quarter two and quarter three of 2016.
Expansion to Broads fleet
The rise of people holidaying at home and bit of nostalgia has helped an East Anglian boat rental firm to its best year ever.
Richardson’s Boating Holidays has also reported a strong start to the year with plenty of bookings already secured.
Greg Munford, chief executive at Richardson’s, said: “This is our third year exhibiting and I don’t think it can be a coincidence that last year we had our best ever results.
“In 2017 our forward booking, when you look at it in percentage terms, is up further than it has ever been.
“If you look at the British Marine figures the industry is back to pre-2008 levels and has seen growth for the last few years so I am confident about 2017.”
Part of the business’s exhibit at the boat show is the new Monaco vessel, which is yet to go into the water, and Mr Munford said more investment in its fleet was planned.
He said: “There are going to be another three new boats in the fleet by the end of the year, bringing our next generation vessel numbers to 30.”
Richardson’s will build the new boats itself.
Mr Munford added a number of people had come to the stand to say they had visited the Broads as children and were interested in returning as adults.
Investment in renovation
It is not just the boat builders who have been enjoying themselves at the London Boat Show.
Boat upholsterers and show regulars Jeckells & Son have seen plenty of interest in their stand.
Peter Jeckells, chairman of the Broads-based firm, said: “We are doing very well this year, better than last year, which helps.
“Things seem to be picking up for everyone. I’m not sure why but perhaps people are holidaying at home more.”
Fellow Wroxham firm Jeckells – The Sailmakers was also positive about the outlook for the coming year.
Managing director Chris Jeckells said: “We have done well so far. We are up in terms of confirmed orders on last year and we have got some other interest which we are still to tie up. The people that we are talking to have come here planning to do something: they know that they are going to buy sails, so there is a very bubbly mood. It is obvious the market is moving with sales of second-hand boats and one of the first things people do is buy new sails to make them look nice.”
He hoped to secure around a month’s worth of work, and prepare the ground for more later in the year.
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