Roch Lambert Delivers Conference Keynote Address

The highlight of the 2011 Boating Ontario Conference and Trade Show was the keynote presentation by Roch Lambert, Group President at Rec Boat Holdings.

Roch Lambert was previously with Bombardier and BRP, holding a series of  increasingly important positions in that corporation, working on BRP Sea Doo and most recently Evinrude outboard engines before joining Rec Boat Holdings, now builders of Four Winns, Glastron and Wellcraft Boats.

In June 2009, Minneapolis-based Genmar Holdings, Inc., which owned all three boat manufacturers at the time, filed for bankruptcy protection. All three brands were sold to private equity firm Platinum Equity LLC of Beverly Hills, Calif., following a two-day auction in January in which Platinum emerged as the winning bidder at $70 million for most of Genmar’s assets.

The task ahead of Roch Lambert is to revitalize these previously strong brands and he shared a significant amount of important internal data with the Boating Ontario Conference audience about the state of their markets globally and individually. In the data were unit volume numbers for Four Winns and Glastron as well as their main competitors. The extent of the US market downturn in particular, was dramatic and he shared that globally, sales were still down year over year by -10%.

While the total market numbers remain a major concern, Lambert was very positive about Canada. The Canadian sales numbers showed that we are the only market that's up for Rec Boat Holdings and we are up 13% in Canada.

In a previous story in Boating Industry Canada Newsweek, we announced that the Boat Warehouse in Kingston, Ontario was Four Winns’ World's Number One Dealer. Dave Mayhew of the Boat Warehouse was on hand at the conference to welcome Roch Lambert before the presentation.

As positive as Canada’s results have been, Lambert emphasized the depth of the US market problem and said he believes that declining housing values and mortgage foreclosures were not over yet.

Owners Platinum Equity are willing to bet on the future though and Lambert showed new models from Four Winns and Glastron, explaining how they were reorganizing the lines, redesigning the boats and rationalizing options, variations and total SKUs in the manufacturing process.

The company has launched 13 new products now with plans to increase that to 22 over the next 18 months. Lambert emphasized that new products are what drives consumer excitement and they want boats that look new.

Another chart showed a comparison of existing boats in use versus new production and he noted that with little or no new product being built for such a long stretch, there could be a rapid rise in sales coming.

While that would be very positive, Lambert noted that emissions control requirements and other changes mean that the basic family 18 footer has gone from a show special price of $19,999 to probably $25,000 even though the market is way down. Naturally, that raises the price of entry at a time when we need to be attracting more people into boating.

Roch Lambert’s presentation was frank, informative and a great way to wrap up the 2011 Boating Ontario Conference and Trade Show.

Photo: Dave Mayhew (left) of the Boat Warehouse was on hand at the conference to welcome Roch Lambert before his presentation. The Boat Warehouse in Kingston, Ontario was Four Winns’ World's Number One Dealer.

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