Italian boaters want to float product in Canadian market
Boating Business ran a business feature in July 2007. The story was difficult to write because the people that I wanted to talk to were a continent away. The story began at a press conference at the Toronto Boat Show in February. It was a well attended conference since they were serving Italian wine and cheese. I got there after both were gone ... and most of the people I wanted to interview. In May I visited Italy and saw a number of Italian boat yards, came back to Canada and with the help of Kim Graham and associates, got in touch, via email and phone, with the people who makes things float in Italy. Boating Business has not posted the story. They did edit some of what I wrote, so, what follows is slightly different from what you will see if you buy a copy of the magazine (available at leading bookstores in Canada). As well, this Blog doesn't lend itself to magazine style layout for pictures and graphic images.
Italian Trade Commission Romin’ Canada to increase business and establish boating business partnerships
By Stephen Weir
When the Italian Trade Commission launched a boating sales mission at the 2007 Toronto International Boat Show, it was done in true Italian style: wine, cheese, and a firm belief that all roads (even those on the water) lead to Rome.
Since then Paolo Ponti, the Italian Trade Commissioner for Canada, has met with industry leaders highlighting the latest boating products, technology and design out of his country. As well, a Canadian contingent traveled to Ravenna, Italy in March to take part in an international trade fair and to expand the relationship between Italian and Canadian boating companies.
The Trade Commission’s tri-part strategy is to key in on two significant areas of potential growth – yachts and components, as well as maintaining its ongoing powerboat export business. There is room for gowth -- latest Statistics Canada data show that Italian boating imports to Canada in 2005 were a modest $2.62 million Cdn.
The Italians firmly believe that there are opportunities to bring components into Canada because our stronger currency seems to have forced local components manufacturers to become more efficient, and to look increasingly at placing orders from the larger, more establish European producers. Ponti’s office identified to Boating Business two Canadian firms ; Quebec’s Vredband Import Inc and British Columbia’s Ocean Rigging & Hydraulics who are now carrying Italian components.
“Italy was the largest recognized European importer into Canada of motorboats in 2005, with a 0.5% share of the market ” said Ponti. On the sales side of the sails and motor yachts sector, “increasingly, Canadian yacht purchasers are looking for style and quality in their boat purchases. European, and especially Italian, style is increasingly sought after by sophisticated Canadians. Italian aesthetics are currently “hot” in yachting – The Canadian market is currently particularly interested in Italian-style yachts.”
“While Canadian yacht manufacturing has weakened over the past few years, Canadian consumer demand for yachts has remained healthy, growing at an estimated annual rate of 3-5% in the 2003-2006 period,” continued Ponti. “European boats in general are considered to be very well appointed, but are generally purchased completely finished. We want to tell people that there is now opportunity to do some customization on North American products.”
Probably because the country is surrounded on three sides by water (8,400 kms of coastline) the Italian boat building industry is a vital part of that country’s economy. The value of Italian production of pleasure boats for the year 2005 was approximately 2.5 billion Euro, an increase of 9% over 2005. The UCINA (Italian National Boating Association) is expecting to receive sales figures for 2006 at the end of the month and projects similar results. In short, the Italian boating industry contributes $2.8 billion Euro to the Italian GNP and directly employees 18,000.
“One of the largest challenge facing most Italian companies in this market may be the perceived difficulty in servicing product without a direct market presence here in Canada,“ said the trade commissioner. To address this problem the Italian government is working with firms to create a footprint in Canada or to make strong marketing arrangements with established Canadian firms.
It is ironic that in the eyes of the Canadian consumer the best known Italian name in boating is the Donzi -- an American boat line developed by the late great US racer Donald Joel Aronow. The Italians hope that their marketing efforts will soon make names like Azimut Benetti and Comitti Yacht SRL household terms at marinas and boat yards across Canada.
Azimut Benetti Boats (represented in Canada by Nautique International, Quebec) has been hailed by a n number of boating magazines as the “Number One” producer of 80’ plus yachts and mega yachts. Just ask your favourite Mediterranean billionaire, Azimut Yachts is known for its traditional craftsmanship, while Benetti is credited with the introduction of the concept of “motor yachts”.
This July the Port Sandfield Marina in Ontario’s wealthy Muskoka Cottage district will take delivery of its first Comitti Yacht. Port Sandfield Marina is expecting strong interest in the lake specific motor launches (5.5 m to 10.5 m).
Some of North America’s richest families have property in the Muskoka's and there are cottagers who have a perchance for wooden boats. The Committi, designed in the 50’s by Mario Comitti for use on Lake of Como in northern Italy, is just that classic freshwater craft. The 2007 version still features a triple planked mahogany hulls making it the last Italian boat yard to hand lay its wooden motorboats.
From wooden boats to super yachts, Italy produces a wide range of products that could make inroads in the Canadian market. This diversity, according to Ponti, is needed to compete in Canada. “Canada has one of the highest per capita boat ownership levels in the world, third only to Norway and Finland. Boat ownership is diverse, and varies by region, but high levels of boat ownership provide a good base market for upward mobility and potential growth.”
top left. Cutting the cheese at the boat show in Toronto January 2007
top middle. Paolo Ponti, the Italian Trade Commissioner for Canada
top right. The new Azimut 47 Flybridge premiered worldwide at Genoa 2006 International Boat Show won the prestigious award ''Boat of the Year''!!
Who is selling the Italian boats in Canada?
• Comitti Yacht SRL
Jonathan Blair/Nada Stancheson
Port Sandfield Marina
1327 Peninsula Rd.(#7)
Port Sandfield, ON P0B 1J0
• Nautique International Inc Azimut and Benetti
Avenue Du Port
1000 de la Commune Est
Vieux Port de Montreal