Beneteau will launch its new Boat Club at the beginning of 2018. Borrowing the idea from the US, the French boatbuilding giant is counting on it to generate significant growth. We interviewed Bruno Lescher, head of the Boat Club.
NauticExpo e-magazine: How will the Beneteau Boat Club work?
Bruno Lescher: We’re using a concept that’s worked well in the US for 15 years.The business model is halfway between buying and renting. It’s very attractive for us because it builds loyalty among existing clients and, especially, should help draw new customers. The goal, after all, is to expand the boating market and put more people on the water.
How does it work? A person joins and buys credits for boat usage. The member uses the credits as he/she wishes to rent boats in a variety of locations, all via the internet. Vessel availability is visible in real time and reservations take just a few clicks, whether for tomorrow or in several months.
“A person joins and buys credits for boat usage. The entry-level membership is 2150 euros for 50 credits.”
The big plus is that each member has unrestricted access to all the boats, wherever they’re berthed. Of course, it costs more for a large boat in mid-summer than for a small one during the off-season. We have membership plans with 50, 100 and 200 credits. The more you buy, the cheaper they are. The entry-level membership is 2150 euros for 50 credits. This is what’s called shared usage.
NE e-mag: What are the membership requirements?
Bruno Lescher: The only requirements are to be over 18 and have a boating license. The role of a boat club is to help those who are hesitant or don’t feel perfectly confident in taking the plunge and getting out on the water. We’ll accompany them to ensure their safety and make sure they go out relaxed. We’ll go with them on their initial outings, remind them of how the boat works, go over docking maneuvers, anchoring, etc. We’ll take whatever time is necessary. Our message is to enjoy boating without stress. This service is included in the price.
NE e-mag: Aren’t you afraid that beginners may damage your boats?
Bruno Lescher: We’ve come to realize that beginners are more careful. There’s much less damage in a boat club than with a traditional rental because there’s a feeling of belonging to the club. Indirectly, members feel more responsible for the boats and take better care of the material than in a rental situation. In any event, the membership plan includes insurance that covers any damage. The only thing not included is fuel.
NE e-mag: What’s your target clientele?
Bruno Lescher: We’re looking at two types of client. First, there are those who have their own boats, but for a number of reasons don’t go out often. It might be because they’re a little stressed. Those around them feel it and don’t want to go with them again. Or perhaps they always do the same thing—out to the same place and back again. The club is there to show them that there are a lot of things to do with a boat. You can ground the boat somewhere and go fishing on foot. You can explore a new port, etc. This re-whets the appetite of those who’ve been boating for a while.
“We already offer about 100 boats in 28 locations, and probably 35 next season.”
The second group consists of newcomers who don’t own a boat but want to get out on the water. They’re younger—the internet generation—and don’t want to put all their time and money into one activity. These people want to go boating, but they also want to play golf and ski. Boating has to fit into their schedule and their budget, and it must be easy. We meet their needs because they don’t waste time finding a slip and spend less time on maintenance. Reservations are easy and practical. The time spent on the boat is pure pleasure.
NE e-mag: Why didn’t this system reach Europe before?
Bruno Lescher: I don’t know—maybe it’s cultural. The important thing is that it’s been working very well for a long time. We’re onto something interesting, but.we have to adapt it to European habits. Beneteau’s strength is our network of dealers all over Europe. That means we’re going into our first season with the infrastructure already in place. We already offer about 100 boats in 28 locations, and probably 35 next season.
NE e-mag: What kinds of boats are available?
Bruno Lescher: Today, most boat clubs offer small power boats—outboards from five to 10 meters, the easiest to handle for day or half-day outings. Beneteau will make available its Flyer, Barracuda and Antares lines. However, one of our Mediterranean dealers wants to offer a somewhat larger yacht. This will enable us to test larger craft.
NE e-mag: Will the Boat Club boost sales revenue?
Bruno Lescher: We see investment in this activity as a strategy for sector growth. It offers the advantage of significant returns for a small initial investment.
NE e-mag: Is boat sharing the wave of the future?
Bruno Lescher: It’s part of the response to today’s problems and needs. There’s boat sharing, private party rentals and boat clubs. Each is part of a whole, and each contributes to democratizing getting out on the water. It’s in everyone’s interest to foster the desire to go boating simply and responsibly. We can’t escape the fact that it’s also in the interest of builders. More people on the water means more boats.