Norfolk and Suffolk boat builders set sail for Southampton Boat Show
PUBLISHED: 08:23 14 September 2017 | UPDATED: 08:23 14 September 2017
Boating businesses from Norfolk and Suffolk are brimming with confidence as they set course for the south coast for one of their industry’s biggest shows.
The Southampton Boat Show, which runs for 10 days from tomorrow, will see some of the region’s leading boat builders and retailers showcase their products as they aim to bolster order books and raise their profile.
The industry generates revenues of £292m a year in the East of England and also supports 3,903 jobs, according to figures from British Marine.
Justin Haines, director of Haines Marine in Catfield on the Norfolk Broads, is among those making his way to the show off the back of a strong year to date – which he said was 50% up on the same period last year.
He said: “I don’t think we have ever headed there in a more positive place in terms of the business.
“We have had a staggering nine months in terms of sales with orders coming in from Europe, across the UK markets – in offshore, sea-going and riverboats – and from locations all over the country.”
Mr Haines said he felt the firm could fill the rest of its order book for 2018 at the show if the trend continued and he hoped Haines could secure two or three sales there. He added he was considering strengthening his team of just under 20 staff to keep up with the level of demand.
Stephen Pitkethly, director of wooden pedal boat builder Dad’s Boats, said raising the profile of his company, currently a one man operation, was the key factor behind attending. He said: “We are two-and-a-half years old now as a company but we are still relatively unknown so in the main it will be about raising awareness and marketing. Sales would be nice but a lot of it is about building confidence in the company.”
Mr Pitkethly, who was inspired by the designs of his father-in-law, David Williams, to grow the Ludham company, said while he was not necessarily expecting sales last year a visitor had come over to the stand and pulled his wallet out right away to make a purchase.
Suffolk exhibitors at the show include the International Boatbuilding Training College, based in Lowestoft, Adrian Donovan, a former student at the college who now builds wooden boats at Sweffling, near Saxmundham, and masts, booms and spars maker Z Spars UK, based at Hadleigh.