Simpson Marine: Asia’s biggest dealer just gets bigger
Long established as the region’s largest dealer, Simpson Marine has already confirmed 2021 is its record sales year. And even with the staff count across seven countries and regions now topping 130, the company founded and still led by Mike Simpson has plans to expand.
By John Higginson
Simpson Marine staff gather on a Sanlorenzo in Singapore
Just when you thought Mike Simpson might be ready to sail off into the sunset on his Beneteau Oceanis 46.1 Freedom, there he is at this year’s Cannes Yachting Festival. Up on stage, not once but twice, collecting awards for Simpson Marine’s sales of both Sanlorenzo and Bluegame at the brands’ beachside press conference in front of Le Majestic hotel.
Continuing to lead from the front, the man who developed Simpson Marine into Asia’s biggest yacht dealership – by far – seems as committed to his work today as he has been for the last 37 years since creating Simpson Marine in Hong Kong in 1984.
Mike Simpson (centre) collecting awards during the Sanlorenzo-Bluegame event in Cannes
In Cannes, Simpson first stepped up to collect the prize for ‘Best 2021 Service and Sales Performance for Sanlorenzo Composite Yachts and Superyachts Worldwide’ before heading back up to collect Bluegame’s ‘Best 2021 Sales Progression’ award.
“Frankly, I was quite shocked when I realised what had been announced,” he says. “However, there could be no better testimonial to the amazing performance of the Simpson Marine sales teams around Asia and the support they have had from the service, marketing and administration teams. I was very proud to receive these awards on their behalf.”
Simpson Marine is one of Asia’s longest-established dealerships, but far from sitting on its laurels, the company has had to change direction and switch partners on more than one occasion, no more so than in recent years.
Although the company’s representation of Beneteau harks back to 1985 and was later joined by Lagoon, the four other yacht builders it represents today are all relatively new to its portfolio, with Sanlorenzo (2015) followed by Aquila (2018), Fairline (2018) and Bluegame (2020).
Yet spearheaded by remarkable demand for Sanlorenzo, it’s these current partners combined with Hong Kong’s vibrant yachting market in the Covid era that has led to Simpson Marine announcing a record year – again.
The dealer had a record 2020, announcing over US$200 million in turnover following sales of 112 new and pre-owned yachts, yet even by October the company was happy to confirm that 2021 has been its most successful year to date.
“Like many people in the yacht industry, we feared the worst in early 2020 as Covid spread rapidly around the world. Unexpectedly, as travel restrictions were tightened, sales picked up in Hong Kong and by July it was clear that 2020 was going to be a record year,” Simpson says.
The Sanlorenzo Asia office in Singapore opened in 2020
“In other parts of Asia, the restrictions brought sales to a standstill and recovery has been slower. In the third quarter of 2021, sales orders reached unprecedented levels and this will be our best year ever. Orders for 2022 are also looking very strong.”
The company’s sales in Hong Kong post-Covid are about 50 per cent up on the previous average and helped to maintain the company’s business when countries in Southeast Asia were far more affected by lockdowns, although the company says these other markets, most notably Singapore, are recovering.
Mike Simpson among Simpson Marine staff at the 2020 Thailand Yacht Show
Furthermore, the company’s staff, which has averaged about 100 in recent years, has risen to 130 in its offices and service centres across seven countries and regions: Hong Kong, China (Sanya, Shenzhen), Taiwan (Kaohsiung, Penghu), Singapore, Thailand (Pattaya, Phuket), Malaysia (Port Dickson) and Indonesia (Jakarta, Bali).
SANLORENZO, BLUEGAME TEAM UP
Far from a household name in Asia before 2015, Sanlorenzo has arguably been the brand success story of the region’s luxury yacht market in recent years, with Hong Kong as its red-hot core.
Sanlorenzo’s notable recent design innovations include the SL line’s Asymmetric models, the SX range’s large aft platform and enclosed flybridge, the three-level master suite on the 44.5m Alloy, the 500Exp’s stern helipad, the 52Steel’s ‘floating garage’, the open aft deck of the upcoming 44m X-Space and much more.
A Sanlorenzo SL118 in Hong Kong
Simpson Marine, which represents the Italian builder as Sanlorenzo Asia, has sold almost every available model (plus many discontinued models) in the three fibreglass ranges: the SL planing line (78-120A), SD semi-displacement range (96-126) and the SX crossover series (76-112). For plenty of the models, the dealer has sold multiple hulls.
Even among Sanlorenzo’s mighty Superyacht collection of alloy and steel builds, Simpson Marine has sold two units of the Alloy (44.5m), a 500Exp (47m), a 46Steel, plus a 52Steel to Southeast Asia, the latter announced this summer.
Simpson Marine sold a 52Steel in Southeast Asia
Richard Allen, Simpson Marine’s Group General Manager, said: “These two record years are a culmination of the six years since Simpson Marine took on Sanlorenzo. We have invested heavily in making Sanlorenzo the number one luxury brand in Asia. Record sales in Asia accounted for over 23 per cent of Sanlorenzo’s global sales in 2020 and this trend is continuing in 2021.
“When you add in Fairline, Bluegame and Aquila along with our long-standing distribution of Beneteau and Lagoon, Simpson Marine represents the market leaders in many of the yachting sectors. The company is also a trusted outlet for pre-owned yacht sales and has a strong service team, while the Simpson Yacht Charter and Yacht Management divisions are growing throughout the region.”
A Bluegame BGX70 in Hong Kong
The growing number of Sanlorenzo yachts sold into Asia is mirrored by the growth of the company’s Yacht Management division, which now handles over 40 yachts. As the fleet under management in Hong Kong grew, so did demand for management elsewhere, with Simpson Marine now offering the service in its southern China hubs of Sanya and Shenzhen, as well as Singapore, Bali and Jakarta.
Simpson Marine’s connection to Sanlorenzo strengthened last year when it took on Asia representation of Bluegame. Acquired by Sanlorenzo in 2018, Bluegame effectively continues the SX’s aft platform design in smaller models.
Simpson Marine started representing Bluegame in 2020
Demand has rapidly risen this year and the company’s sales have included three BGX70s, a unit of the newer BGX60, and a BG62 and two BG42s from the Open range. At this year’s Cannes Yachting Festival, Bluegame premiered the brand-new BG72, which is effectively an Open version of the BGX70, built on the same platform.
BENETEAU, LAGOON COMMUNITIES
In contrast, Simpson Marine has sold several hundred units each of the Beneteau and Lagoon brands across the decades. Beneteau and Lagoon are established world leaders in the production of sailing monohulls and sailing catamarans respectively, and Simpson Marine has ensured they lead their respective sectors in Asia, although both face increasing competition.
The first Beneteau Cup Hong Kong attracted 21 yachts
Earlier this year, Simpson Marine sold a flagship Oceanis Yacht 62 into Hong Kong, where it will become the biggest of the brand’s 200-plus boats in the city. In July, the company collaborated with Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club to stage the local premieres of Beneteau’s next-two biggest sailing yachts, the Oceanis Yacht 54 launched in 2020 and the First Yacht 53 that premiered in 2019.
However, the brand’s biggest event in Asia this year was the first Beneteau Cup Hong, which was held across a sunny weekend in May and featured 21 entries including Mike Simpson on his Oceanis 46.1, with the trusted support of Allen among others.
A Beneteau Antares 11 in Hong Kong
Beneteau’s motorboats are also becoming more popular in Asia, from the smaller Flyer and Antares models to the sleek Gran Turismo sport cruisers and the longer-range Swift Trawler models, which inspired the brand-new flagship Grand Trawler 62, which will arrive in Hong Kong in early 2022.
Lagoon is Simpson Marine’s second-most successful brand, behind Sanlorenzo, and the dealer has sold an estimated 400 of the brand’s catamarans across Asia. Lagoon has a great history in Malaysia, big numbers in Hong Kong and Singapore, a strong fleet in Sanya and many in Thailand.
Asia’s first Lagoon Sixty 7 powercat (right) with a Sixty 5 in Hong Kong before delivery to Taiwan
Its catamarans continue to sell consistently across the region, although the most exciting recent developments over the past five years have been the releases of the ‘Big Four’ – the Seventy 7 and Sixty 5 sailing cats, and Seventy 8 and Sixty 7 powercats.
Simpson Marine’s recent sales and deliveries include a Sixty 5 that arrived in Hong Kong late in the summer, a Sixty 7 powercat delivered to Taiwan in October and a Seventy 8 scheduled to arrive in Hong Kong in 2022.
Simpson Marine’s Thailand staff host VIPs on a Lagoon 46 available for charter
Lagoon sailing cats make up much of Simpson Yacht Charter’s fleet in Thailand, where the company has also organised multiple editions of the Lagoon Escapade. The group’s charter business has been typically anchored in Phuket, where the drop in tourism following Covid forced the company to tailor new types of packages and target more residents and locals.
Charter business is also growing in Pattaya and the Gulf of Thailand but most notably in Hong Kong, where the increased demand to hire yachts has paralleled the desire to buy.
Reanna Wang, Manager of Simpson Yacht Charter, says: “In Thailand, we have an experienced team who have created new day and weekend packages for more local audiences and opened a base in Pattaya, which we think has a lot of potential.
The Lagoon 46 joined Simpson Yacht Charter’s fleet in Pattaya in 2021
“In Hong Kong, our fleet of CA (central agency) yachts started to grow right before Covid, enabling us to capture the growth of luxury yacht charters here. We’ve also collaborated with luxury hotels, concierge companies and other local charter agents, so our packages include hotel room nights, helicopter rides, ‘happy hour’ prices around the harbour on weekdays and more.”
MORE TO COME FROM AQUILA, FAIRLINE
Simpson Marine moved into a new sector in early 2018 when it took on Aquila, which was producing its best-selling Aquila 44 Yacht and 36 Sport, each model going on to sell well over 100 units globally.
An Aquila 36 Sport in Hong Kong
A 2012 collaboration between US-based MarineMax and Sino Eagle, the brand initially started with a US focus but has become increasingly global in the past three years, reflected by the appointment of Simpson Marine and other dealers around the world.
Aside from the Aquila 36 taking considerable market share among 30-40ft powerboat sales in the US, the brand has gained global attention with this year’s releases of its 54 Yacht and 70 Luxury models, which both exhibited at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show in late October. Simpson Marine has sold a 54 Yacht scheduled to arrive in Thailand in the first half of 2022.
Allen said: “The decision to take on Aquila has paid off as the brand has grown quickly, now producing powercats from 28ft-70ft. The quality is very good, the clients love the handling, unique features and space onboard, and we continue to see sales increase, especially in Southeast Asia. With some great long-term plans, we expect Aquila to continue to grow throughout the region.”
Fairline is Simpson Marine’s newest yacht brand and one of the iconic British builders founded in England in the 1960s, although it’s based inland, in Oundle, unlike its south-coast contemporaries.
The first Fairline Squadron 50 in Hong Kong was quickly sold
The brand bounced back from going into administration in December 2015 by renewing its historic Squadron flybridge (50-68ft) and Targa cruiser (45-65ft) ranges with fresh designs by celebrated Italian designer Alberto Mancini.
In 2019, it released the F//Line 33 designed by Mancini, its smallest and fastest boat, with Simpson Marine bringing in Asia’s first unit last year. At the start of last year, Fairline extended Simpson Marine’s coverage from Hong Kong and the Philippines to also include Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia andMyanmar.
However, the onset of Covid has delayed the flow of Fairline yachts into key markets, so Allen expects the brand to grow significantly in Asia once more start arriving. A unit of the new flagship Squadron 68 Evoque with an enlarged master suite is scheduled to arrive in Hong Kong early next year following the model’s premiere at Boot Dusseldorf in January.
“With many new models being introduced in 2022, 2023 and beyond, Fairline will grow in our region as we bring these new models to the market,” he says. “We are confident Fairline will become one of our leading brands within the next two to three years as it fits very nicely between our Beneteau motorboats and Sanlorenzo ranges in terms of size and price.”
Simpson Marine’s staff count keeps growing
With over 130 staff in 11 offices in seven territories across Greater China and Southeast Asia, Simpson Marine remains the clear leader among dealers in the region. However, the man who started it all has no intention of pulling back on the throttle.
“It was always our intention to look after our clients wherever they go cruising, so we’ve established service points in strategic cruising destinations,” Simpson says. “We had intended to open an office in the Philippines and in Vietnam in 2020, but for obvious reasons that was put on hold. When borders reopen, we will go ahead with that plan.”
A new Sanlorenzo SL78 packed with water toys has been added to Simpson Yacht Charter’s fleet of offerings in Hong Kong.