For Christopher DiMillo, the past year has been a perfect storm of consumer trends and brand alignment. Although those in the yacht sales business might shirk from that metaphor, there is no denying the confluence of forces that has seen DiMillo's sales double twice over the last two years as larger, more expensive yachts steadily increase their market share.
Benefiting from an exclusive partnership with two Maine boat builders and a focus on larger watercraft, DiMillo's Yacht Sales in Portland bounced back from a sales low of $5 million in 2008-2009 to post "just shy" of $20 million in 2011, according to DiMillo, president and founder of the company.
He credits the boom to an hourglass effect in the luxury goods marketplace, where high-end vessels are still selling well. These days when people consider a yacht purchase, they are looking to make waves with the best products available.
"We're doing far fewer transactions and far higher sales," with average sales between $500,000 and $1.5 million, says DiMillo. "We used to do a lot of $100,000 boat transactions, more middle class, more affordable. We would do 60 of those a year. Now that's way [down]."
Nationally, despite a decline of 204 in the number of boats sold, the total value of completed sales rose $64 million from October 2010 to October 2011, according to a survey of YachtWorld member brokerages. Dominion Marine Media says boats measuring over 55 feet largely account for the increased valuation, with sales of 55-foot-plus boats doubling from $722,000 to $1.9 million in the last year.
An exclusive dealer of Sabre and Back Cove Yachts, DiMillo said the two local companies made a smart recession-era move in marketing the technological advancements of their new product lines to capture the attention of would-be captains.
"We had a little dip for a couple of years where people really reined in what they were [spending], but Sabre and Back Cove have this marketing statement, 'Technology is the new luxury'. A lot of our success has come from representing Sabre and Back Cove exclusively," says DiMillo.
Based out of South Casco, Sabre has recently captured the yachting world's attention with easy-to-pilot, joystick-controlled designs and one of the quietest motors on the market, says DiMillo. "Sabre has invested a lot in new product development and that's what's' helping us. People really like the new products and can't get them on the [used] market," DiMillo says.
The company's best-selling Sabre product is the 48-foot Salon Express. Boasting a joystick control and high fuel efficiency, the yacht debuted last April with a price tag of between $1 and $1.2 million. DiMillo's has sold eight of the boats in the last year.
DiMillo's Yacht Sales also operates offices in Freeport and Glen Cove, N.Y. With New York sales accounting for nearly half his business, DiMillo says seasonal Maine-resident represent a high percentage of all other sales.
The recession years have seen a leaner payroll for the company but have also ushered in a more focused, lucrative business model, says DiMillo. "I probably carry 10% of the inventory that I carried in years when I had less sales. The downturn made us get a whole lot better at what we do. We're staying with products lines we have and it's really working," he says.