Stanton Murray, president of Murray Yacht Sales, manages three offices, offers sailing lessons and adventure charters, and is the incoming president of the Yacht Brokers Association of America (YBBA) for 2012. In between, he finds time to be very convincing when discussing why sailors need not become powerboaters in their twilight years.
Tim Murray, Stanton’s father, started Murray Yacht Sales in 1974, and Stanton stepped in as president in 1990. Today, they operate with seven brokers plus service and support staff in New Orleans, Pensacola and St. Petersburg. Murray carries new power and sailboat models including Beneteau, Transpacific Marine, and J Boats. Approximately half of Murray Yachts’ sales are from new boat sales in the Gulf and parts of Florida, and half are brokerage boats sold worldwide.
Their sweet spot is boats 30 to 60 feet with a 75% concentration in sailboats. And this is where it gets interesting. At a time when brokers bemoan the movement of Boomers from sail to power, Murray sees no reason for older sailors to make the switch, so he is sticking to the sailboat market as others defect to selling powerboats almost exclusively.
“With the technology today, there’s no reason for anyone to decide they’re too old for sailboats,” says Murray. “We have electric winches, furling head and mainsails, and joystick docking like that offered on the new Beneteaus. Even the accommodations are different where people now live above the waterline rather than below it with large windows and shallow companionways.”
Whether sailors are becoming powerboaters is moot – Murray is very convincing when he sums up how sailing is easier today than ever. The argument must work, because 40% of Murray’s sales are to repeat customers.
Murray feels that the biggest factor in anyone becoming a boater, and certainly a sailor, is the confidence factor. That’s why his company was one of the first ASA-certified sailing schools in the country and today also offers offshore charters to build the skills that lead to confidence. “The more we can do to help someone feel confident and in control, the more we grow the whole market,” he says.
Murray sits on the board of Sail America, is a Certified Professional Yacht Broker and is taking over as the head of the Yacht Brokers Association of America, where his challenge will be to grow YBBA’s membership by offering an improved value proposition and increasing the organization’s involvement with the industry. In his spare time (as if he had any) he searches for additional brands of new boats to represent. “The market is soft and the momentum is low, and I’m scared to death to stock boats. But new designs sell.”