As superyachts get bigger and the quest for novelty continues, there's growing demand for custom tenders and toys at sea and on land. Josh Richardson saw the opportunity to deliver, but there's more to this story than luck. We met up with Josh to learn about the challenges and trends behind the meteoric rise of Superyacht Tenders & Toys.
How did you first get into the yachting industry?
I have always been into competitive sailing, sailing on the UK and European circuits which led to running an RYA training school in the Solent after university. I accrued many qualifications during this time including my Master 200 and Yachtmaster Instructor for both power and sail. My wife (girlfriend at the time) and I then took a job running a new-build Oyster yacht as a captain/chef couple.
After a number of years, including a Pacific crossing and a refit in New Zealand, we decided to move ashore for a new challenge. This move was to Hill Robinson in Antibes where I was a yacht manager, managing vessels such as MY Amaryllis, MY Ecstasea, MY Pelorus, SY Germania Nova and others.
When did you decide to start Superyacht Tenders & Toys and how did it come about?
As a yacht manager I was purchasing a huge number of tenders and toys for yachts and spent a lot of time researching, sourcing tenders, liaising with manufacturers and managing the build of new tenders, and I saw a gap in the market for someone to provide a specialised service to take this time consuming work away from yachts and managers.
There was no one-stop-shop for tenders and toys from someone with unbiased, specific knowledge of tender options who was able to project manage builds and advise on how to integrate them into yachts. Having always wanted to set up my own business this was the first idea that I thought would actually work! I was tired of dealing with small companies who did not reply or respond to my requests and thought that if we could provide this service with great customer attention then we would have a business.
You’ve grown very quickly in only a few years, what do you put that down to?
I believe we have a niche in the market but, above all, it’s down to hard work and having the right team. I strongly believe that by always being available to yachts and being quick to respond, we continue to gain business. We also decided from the very beginning to offer the best value and most comprehensively supported packages in the industry, and this works. There are no inflated prices and people know that they are always getting a good deal from us. We provide excellent after-sales support, so most of our customers come back to us again and again whether it’s for a tender, Seabob, jetpack or a wetsuit.
As a company you’re also very hands-on, presumably because you’ve worked at the sharp end?
I do think I am quite hands on and hope I have something to add, but I also believe in delegation and empowering others. Only through the team being responsible for themselves and being able to make their own decisions will we grow as a company. Initially I had most of the relationships with shipyards and captains but now the rest of the team have developed their own relationships and I love hearing the phone ringing in the office for someone other than me!
Where is the bulk of your business now?
Most of our business comes from Western Europe and the Middle East and we are predominantly shipping to the Western Med, Middle East and northern European shipyards. A significant part of our business is new build yacht outfitting. This year we outfitted two thirds of the new builds launched in Germany and in Holland and we have a large number of significant 100+m yachts currently in build that we are scheduled to supply and outfit.
Around 50% of our business is in providing toys and 50% tenders.
When fitting out a new build, how early do you get involved and who do you typically work with?
The earlier we get involved the better to avoid the owner having to compromise on the tenders and toys they are able to carry onboard. We can work with designers from the beginning of the concept in order to suggest garage sizes and available equipment space, integration of tenders and boarding. I believe that someone needs to fight the corner of the yacht garage!
Far too often this space is heavily compromised to make space for other things on the yacht which results in tenders being demanded that have too shallow a profile to be dry, and are not as safe or fit for purpose, but can fit in the tender garage. Toys are becoming a primary part of the yachting experience and owners and charter guests now expect to see a large toy inventory onboard and this requires a good use of space.
In the normal course of things, toys are usually considered at a later date in the build, often only a few months before launch as, for the most part, they have a shorter lead time. But for the best end result early planning makes a big difference.
How often is the wish list constrained by space and design?
The wish list is always tailored around the space available and the owner profile - whether they have kids, if they like adrenalin sports or relaxing on the water, if the boat charters etc. Space and design are huge considerations. Tender requirements are always based on size – the yacht wants the biggest tender they can get that will fit in the available space so clearances can be very slim at times!
The very largest inflatables need a decent storage space and may need a crane to help deploy. We build custom cradles for these to assist stowage, launching and recovery so retrofitting is usually the way this is done but, if this was a consideration during the early life of the yacht, this is included in the design. We have huge resources to assist and make all toys as manageable as possible by the crew, after all, we are ex-crew and know the issues and considerations.
Which is your best selling product or range at the moment?
There are a number of products we stock such as Seabobs, SUPs and inflatables (such as slides, docks and climbing towers) which always sell well. The popularity of SUPs is continuing on a global scale and there is a growing interest in electric powered surfboards. We offer such a huge range of products though that we don’t really have a best selling product. I believe our niche is that we offer almost everything on the market from one place.
Josh (centre) and the team at the Monaco Yacht Show
What are the current trends and do you see differences between the US and European markets?
It’s a bit of a generalisation but we do see a tendency for yachts to favour manufacturers from their region. In terms of the production toys, European yachts tend to like Aquaglide and Jobe products whereas US yachts might prefer Rave and O’Brien. This is probably a result of marketing in those regions.
In terms of tenders we see a lot of US boats choosing fiberglass rigid hulls such as Boston Whalers, Intrepids and Marlins for example, often with very large engines. European yachts feature a wider variety of onboard tenders, more RIBs and higher end custom choices such as limousines and open tenders. As there are so few US built yachts we rarely get involved in the specification of these tenders.
What’s on the horizon – what’s your prediction for the next big thing?
Lately we’re seeing more and more interest in land based activities. The watersports market is perhaps getting a little saturated and people are looking to new sports and more land based activities such as beach cinema set-ups. We have outfitted larger yachts with toys such as 4 x 4 Polaris Rangers, Harley Davidson and KTM motorbikes, amongst others.
To cater for these activities we are getting lots of requests for landing crafts. Yachts need a good workhorse to transport equipment to and from the beach – from screens and speaker systems to motorbikes and sports cars!
Quadski amphibious quadbikes are also selling well for the same reason and I see this as being the trend for 2017. We offer the only EU road licenced versions in the industry.
SYTT Head Office in Ipswich, UK
Do manufacturers of new products usually come to you first or do you actively research what’s out there?
Increasingly manufacturers come directly to us, however, sometimes it’s the owners, captains and crew that come to us. They see something they like, either on another yacht or in an article somewhere and then they come to us with a request. This way we can take the legwork off them in researching the item, negotiating trade prices, arranging shipping etc. Usually we can get a much better price from the manufacturer than they can directly so we pass this on to the client and offer a huge amount of added value, especially when you consider the time taken in organising shipping etc.
What is your vision for SYT&T, where do you imagine the business to be in five years?
We have grown well since we started and have a very stable and knowledgeable team. We are currently recruiting and continuing to grow. Given our focus on customer service we are always keen to recruit before someone is needed in order to stay ahead. Over the next five years I hope this continues.
Our biggest obstacle has been people not understanding why to use us or what we do. This is partly because we created this niche in the market but it is finally changing as people realise the added value we can bring to a project or a purchase.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned through running your business?
Think big even, when you start off small, to allow room for growth. Think ahead and have the right systems in place from the beginning so that when you do grow this can be managed easily. Hire the right people and make sure that it stays enjoyable.
Who do you most admire in the world of business/yachting, who has inspired or influenced you?
I’m not sure that there’s any one person I can think of but I suppose I have been influenced by lots of people during my career so far. There are several management styles I have come across that I have tried hard not to emulate! Communication is the key in business, just as when running a yacht, so we try to keep lines of communication open both in the office and with clients and keep our working environment fun and flexible.
More generally, what are the challenges facing the yachting industry today?
Yachting is a global industry, with boats cruising all over the world. On land, borders are going up and countries are not always making it easy for international trade to follow these yachts. Shipping is our biggest headache as so much of it is out of our control and this is where clients can get frustrated when things get stuck in customs or can’t get on flights for one reason or another. We try our absolute hardest to meet all of our clients' expectations but sometimes the shipping lets us all down and that's incredibly frustrating for all involved.
Not all suppliers are created equally either! Innovation often comes from small companies who can underestimate the demand for their product and struggle to keep up so we are always fighting against lead times and poor customer service.
What does the future of yachting look like?
Boats are getting bigger and that trend seems set to continue. That said, we find owners are starting to choose to have a number of different yachts at the same time so that they can cruise to those far reaching destinations or have a support vessel for the toys. We know some owners with a sailing yacht for racing, a comfortable motor yacht and a fast, fun day boat or toy support vessel. All of this is good for us as guests are also thinking more about the activities they can enjoy while on board.
Which is your favourite yacht and why?
MY Ulysses - it was fully outfitted by us and full of the coolest equipment and boats on the market. Without question if I could buy a superyacht I would go for something with a garage like this!
Which is your favourite destination?
Fakarava, an atoll in the Tuamotu islands north-east of Tahiti. We spent some time here when crossing the Pacific and did some incredibly memorable shark diving!
Which three objects would you take to your desert island?
The wife and my two boys (Jacob who is 3 and Sebastian who is 1). Can they be called objects?! If not then a picture of them and some peace and quiet!
What is your motto?
Yikes. Work hard, play hard?
About Superyacht Tenders & Toys
Superyacht Tenders and Toys is a one-stop-shop for all your superyacht toy and tender needs. SYTT is a dealer for all the popular brands at competitive prices, offering invaluable advice and assistance regarding choice, specification, options, build, delivery and integration, with ongoing after-sales support for every purchase. Superyacht Tenders and Toys has particular expertise in custom toys and tenders, project management, new build yacht tender and toy inventories, as well as tender and large toy charter.
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