An absence of croissants and BOGOF puddles: was Friday a gloomy financial forecast?
You may have noticed that the Southampton Boat Show is the Dorian Gray of the yachting calendar. Everything else changes while it remains disconcertingly yet comfortingly the same.
It’s comforting because, for one week, you feel as if time has stood still. Yet it’s disconcerting because the show may seem ageless but its occupants are not, and now you come to think about it, this is your 5th/10th/20th/30th year (delete as appropriate).
The Guinness may be the same, the Squaliday Inn is the same, the people are the same, Lee Sanitation, Jimmy Green Marine and Brunton Propellers are in their rightful places. Puddles appear in their predictable locations. On the face of it, the only really new thing this year was the mud last week — deluxe, extra BOGOF mucky puddles.
Under the surface, however, the predominant mood is one of unease. This time it really is different, and the fear is that things have changed in ways we don’t yet fully appreciate.
This press day, for example, was the first I can remember for many years (no, no clues) when there wasn’t a morning press briefing by Barclays Marine Finance. No surprise: profits are way down and the price of croissants and pains au chocolat has risen by 49%.
Taking on more debt is not very fashionable right now, and credit is not so easy to get. Nor does parting with capital seem like such a great idea, and it’s no great comfort to wake up today and find that share prices are falling faster than secondhand yacht values.
Naturally, people are wondering which part of the business it is going to affect most. The big growth area of 40-45ft production cruisers? Smaller boats? Are the big luxury yachts really immune? The Southampton Boat Show ought to provide us with some collective clues, but I doubt it will. Brave faces are being put on all round.
Photo courtesy of OnEdition