The boating industry's struggles haven't yet sunk John Giglio's dream to build a boat club with national reach.
Indeed, Giglio believes in the model so much he recently bought out his business partner at the Freedom Boat Club, which sells members boat use without maintenance, storage and upkeep. The Venice-based company runs 11 corporate-owned stores on the Gulf Coast, and there are 50 franchise facilities, including locations in Texas and New Hampshire. “I'm hoping to put a real emphasis on franchise growth,” Giglio tells Coffee Talk.
Giglio bought out his partner, Bob Daley, early last month. The pair bought Freedom from its previous owners in early 2010. Both Daley and Giglio had worked at the company for several years; Giglio began in sales in 2004. Daley, meanwhile, will stay on with the business part-time.
Founded in 1989, Freedom Boat Club has grown rapidly over the last few years, which defies the industry-wide slowdown. Annual revenues grew 20% in 2011 over 2010, executives say, and Giglio expects to grow at least 20% again this year. He declines to discuss specific figures, though the company previously stated it was between $16 million and $25 million a year in sales. (See Business Review, May 19, 2011.)
Giglio believes the slowdown has actually become an opportunity for Freedom, because it bills itself as a less expensive alternative to boat ownership. Club members pay a onetime fee of about $5,000, which is followed by monthly payments of $149 to $199. Members then have access to a wide fleet, everything from fishing boats to cruisers. Members pay for fuel for each trip.
“The boating industry isn't what it was five or 10 years ago,” says Giglio. “But people are out spending money on boats again.”
One of Giglio's first moves after he took full ownership of the business was to refocus on growing the franchise segment. The firm recently hired a franchise sales director, and it targets markets in Chicago and Michigan, near the Great Lakes, and areas around the Chesapeake Bay, in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.