Regal Marine: 30 years on


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Regal Marine’s Pete Kent speaks to TrailerBoat about surviving and thriving for 30 years in the marine game.

Regal Marine: 30 years on
Regal Marine: 30 years on

Although Melbourne’s Regal Marine celebrated three decades of business last year — a considerable achievement in anyone’s book, let alone the highly competitive Australian retail boat market — the seed that started this highly successful boat dealership may be traced as far back as 1964.

This was the year that Regal Marine owner Peter Kent, then aged six, was first exposed to the wonders of watersports, when the family acquired a Savage Javelin skiboat. It was fitted with a 55hp Chrysler, an air-pressure activated speedo, a float-gauge in the fuel tank and not much else. It had no electronics or fancy devices of any kind, and boy was it one flashy piece of gear that turned heads wherever it went, towed behind the family EH Holden station wagon.

Pete’s love affair with boats developed from there and so it was on December 14, 1979 that the "real" Regal Marine story began. Aged 21, he opened a dealership in the Melbourne suburb of Dandenong, selling Flight Craft Skiboats, Stacer tinnies, and Mercury engines.

As is often the case with new businesses headed by young entrepreneurs, Pete had no shortage of detractors, but he quickly went about proving them wrong.

By 1984 — Pete was aged 26 — Regal Marine had won the National Dealer Award and by 1990 Regal took on a prestigious Malibu franchise that continues to this day.

The meteoric growth continued and more room was required, so a few years later Regal moved to its present location in Vermont, in Melbourne. Still the business grew, so a neighbouring property was acquired so that the premises could accommodate all the departments that make Regal Marine the ultimate one stop shop you see today. These include a full skishop, a tackleshop, a chandlery, a busy six-bay service division, a mechanical workshop, a finance and insurance division, and of course the 100 or so new and used boats on site on any given day.

PACE OF CHANGE

Thirty years is a long time in any industry, and Pete says Regal Marine is no stranger to the many substantial changes that have affected the marine business over the years.

"For one thing, people have become pickier and more specialised, there are more niches today," he says.

Regal’s extensive Malibu range is a perfect example, which covers every watersports requirement from the entry level Vortec Response to the lavish Wakesetter 23 LSV. The same goes for the TABS range of aluminium fishing boats, which satisfies every conceivable fishing need, from small dinghies right up to 7.8m offshore rigs. European-made Poseidon fibreglass Boats were also introduced early this year.

Much has changed in the boat world in three decades — the Savage Javelin is a far cry from Pete’s current favourite skiboat, the Malibu VTX — but when asked to pinpoint the most significant change over the years, he rates the introduction and ever-increasing accessibility of electronics as the most influential. He says it was a gradual phenomenon that arrived in lots of little waves, with GPS and cruise control the most noticeable.

Some things, however, don’t ever change, like the lineup of familiar faces (still) working at Regal. There’s Ross and James from sales and administration (11 and 15 years respectively); Terry, who heads the retail shop (10 years); technicians Greg and Tate (15 and six years); and of course Pete with his own 30 years of experience.

Funnily enough, sometimes it’s the customers who are the "familiar faces" — in a manner of speaking anyway.

"I have people come in saying ‘g’day Peter, how are you going, remember me?’ They’re six foot six but the last time I saw them they were 12 years old, when they came in with dad to buy a boat," he says.

"It makes me feel old," he laughs.



THE COMING DECADES

Reminiscing on the good times is well and good but Pete believes that the marine industry will experience even more substantial changes.

"Boat manufacturing will become globalised and boats may be manufactured in a similar way as motor vehicles," he says. "The niche markets will remain, but the mainstream volume-manufacturers will be taken over by global rather than Australian manufacturers. This might, for example, mean some local boatbuilders will make boats under licence."

However, he believes that these likely changes will not affect dealers nearly as much as manufacturers. "At the end of the day, they still need someone to sell it, someone who knows what they’re talking about."

Prophetic words, perhaps, and likely to ruffle a few feathers? One thing is for certain — Regal Marine will very much be around in 30 years, and so will Pete.

Regal Marine is located at 514 Canterbury Road, in Vermont, Melbourne. Call (03) 9874 4624 or visit www.regalmarine.com.au for more information.


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