Want to know how to sell boats? One of the best people to ask is Andrew Short of Andrew Short Marine. After starting off in a small workshop annexed to a factory, his business has grown into a multi million dollar venture with premises at Taren Point, Port Hacking, Mosman and Birkenhead Point, with over $15 million of luxurious Sea Rays in stock at any one time. Over the years he has maintained a high profile racing career, recently purchasing the legendary Brindabella, currently known as Aurion V6 after a lucrative sponsorship deal with Toyota. We spoke to Andrew Short about 25 years of surviving and thriving in a notoriously tough industry.
According to Short you need three things to be successful in a marine business: a good work ethic, products that the market knows and respects, and decent premises to operate from. If any of these factors are missing, the business faces an uphill battle to remain solvent. Like other luxury products, boat sales are amongst the first to suffer in an economic downturn. ‘You see a lot of people come and go’ he commented. ‘A lot of people get into the marine business thinking it’s a leisure business, thinking that it’s going to be all nice and easy, they can just watch the money roll in but it doesn’t work that way. You’ve got to work hard and lead by example.’
‘You need to have known name brands, brands that people know. It’s hard enough to sell a boat let alone to try and sell a boat that people don’t know or haven’t heard much about.’
‘Then there’s location, you’ve got to be in the right spot…it’s no good selling boats in an area where people don’t use boats.’
And though he didn’t say so, a competitive nature, eye for a deal, great family support, and decades of experience on the water probably don’t hurt either. It’s obvious after only a brief time of speaking to him that these factors have played a crucial role in his success. When asked if he had any business mentors early in his career, Short’s answer is immediate and automatic: it was his father Fred Short.
Short has boats in his blood; Fred was commodore of Melbourne’s Ocean Racing Yacht Club, Managing Director and part owner of Victoria’s Savage Boats. As a child Andrew would often visit the Savage boat yard and spend nearly every weekend with his family on the water. ‘…we were always going out in powerboats just about every weekend, we’d go down to Queenscliff and row around or whatever.
When he was six years old the family brought their first Sabot and Andrew and his brother Ian discovered a love of sailing that was to remain with them for life. It quickly became apparent that both boys liked to compete; soon Andrew was racing the Sabot in the International Cadets ‘which was a hot class down there in Melbourne.’ His racing peer group included highly respected names like John Bertrand and Tom Stevenson.
After placing second in the National Championships, Andrew and his family moved to New South Wales, sailing up the coast in their 42 foot aluminium Warwick Hood ‘Mary Blair’ with all their belongings packed onboard. Arriving in Sydney, Andrew had a brief stint racing OK dinghies then as a teenager gradually moved into keel boat racing.
At age 21 he was bitten by the big boat bug; Ian had made the sails for a 60 foot Pocket Maxi called Innkeeper, the boat’s new owners lacked the necessary sailing experience so Andrew was asked to steer. Helming the magnificent yacht proved to be a momentous experience. ‘I suppose that’s when I fell in love with bigger boats, and a lot of boats in between, up until now with Brindabella.’
In 1988 Fred Short decided that he wanted to retire and was keen for his son to take over his boat building business which was operating from a factory on Taren Point Road. Andrew wasn’t interested in boat building ‘it was a lot of hard work for very little reward’ and he really liked dealing with the public- so they sold this business and Andrew moved into small premises not far from the boat building factory. The move represented the first step in the process of building up his independent retail operation.
It wasn’t long before the fledgling brokerage had outgrown these premises and the decision was taken to rent a larger space which was also on Taren Point Road. As the business continued to expand, rental costs kept pace, and Short was forced into a tough decision: borrow to buy larger premises or face the prospect of steadily increasing rent?
In the end he took the gamble and in 1996 paid $1.5 million for a building at nearby 96 Taren Point Road. Although it had seemed a huge amount of money at the time, it turned out to be a very sound commercial decision that helped finance the purchase of stock.
‘We brought it for 1.5 million and it’s valued now for well over 11 million. That was a real kick along in life.’
But it wasn’t the only reason that the decision to buy was a good one. ‘When we started we just had a little loft and all the boats were kept outside. It doesn’t take them long to deteriorate and look second hand. We used to go to boat shows and say ‘we do so well at the boats shows, why don’t we do so well at our normal showroom?’ And the reason is that at a boat show you’ve got the boats looking all nice, shiny and well presented with all the gear in them, all set up.'
‘When we moved to 96 Taren Point Road we had half the goods inside and half the goods outside and the stuff inside was always selling well.’
In 2003 the business moved to its current premises at 1 Box Road, Taren Point, thereby creating Australia’s largest undercover boating showroom and an atmosphere Short describes as being ‘like a boat show every day.’ In line with his policy of only stocking well known names, the dealership specialises in brands including Sea Ray, Boston Whaler, Stacer and Mercury outboards.
Short said that people love the convenience of an undercover boat showroom and that the move contributed to his being voted the international Sea Ray dealer of the year for the last three years in a row. The company which started in a small loft continues to expand, last year purchasing Ferguson’s Boatshed Marina with its 44 berth marina, 31 Tonne travel lift and on site restaurant Plonk! Café at the Spit in Mosman. Watch this space- there are some more big improvements and changes planned for the next 2 years. Contact details:
Andrew Short Marine
1 Box Road
Taren Point, NSW 2229
Telephone (02) 9524 2699 or (02) 9524 2280