Barrett Canfield is an optimist. How else would you describe someone who purchased assets out of bankruptcy and started a boat brokerage and dealership in 2009, when the industry was brought to its knees? Today, South Coast Yacht Sales (SYC) in San Diego, CA, the company he co-owns with one of his customers, is thriving, in a world where 40% of boat brokerages that existed only three years ago no longer exist.
SYC carries new Beneteau models, both sail and power, as well as the Schock Harbor 20, 25 and 30 daysailers. Approximately 40% of the business comes from pre-owned brokerage boats, which is a change from the past three years when the ratio was closer to 50/50. “The new Beneteau powerboats are getting wide acceptance, the sailboat designs are fresh and new, and the company warranty is great. So we are bucking the trend and selling more new than used these days,” say Canfield. “They make it easy because they build a nice boat. It’s a Beneteau thing.”
Despite the addition of powerboats, the sweet spot for SYC is sailboats 30-60 feet, and 50% of their customers come back to buy another boat when they’re ready. At the beginning, Canfield had to buy several new models out of bankruptcy and today, he stocks 5-6 new boats at a time which is about half of the average during the industry’s glory days.
To start, he and his partner had to present a record of good financing and a comprehensive business plan. “Beneteau didn’t just hand it to us,” he says. Then, in 2011, they won the Beneteau President’s Award for Superior Service and the President’s Award for Superior Sales at the Annapolis sailboat show.
Canfield’s five brokers and ten staff are all passionate boaters, and many are sailboat racers who live and breathe their jobs. A unique aspect of SYC’s clientele is that half are from out of state. Many Arizonans keep their boats in San Diego and commute, which means the boats have to be ready to go when the owners arrive. Canfield offers complete yacht management including turndown service and a chocolate on the pillow. Canfield’s dedication to do whatever, whenever, clearly shows that his customer service is much more than just a job.
Since many of their customers are new to boating, SYC offers a lot of education, including boat handling and maintenance lessons. They also organize an annual Beneteau rendezvous on Catalina Island and a Beneteau Cup racing challenge where the formula is 75% social and 25% education. “We do what we need to keep them confident,” adds Canfield. “They come to have fun on their boats so we make sure that happens.”
SYC sold more boats by mid-2012 than they did in all of 2011. “I think we’ve made it into this change year because we’ve been a very positive group,” he adds. “But if this year’s trend continues, we will have no reason to exaggerate our optimism.”