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Plain sailing for Newtown yacht equipment manufacturer's expansion into the USA

by Business Wales 11 Nov 2022 07:15 PST
Chris Brown, Finance Director at Makefast UK © Phil Blagg Photography

A Welsh marine equipment manufacturer is on track to significantly grow its exports with the opening of a dedicated base in the USA following a surge in demand for its products across the globe, thanks to support from the Welsh Government.

Powys-based Makefast Group, which employs over 100 people at its Newtown factory, designs and manufactures equipment for the marine and safety industries, as well as systems for super yachts and luxury boats including retractable sunroofs, awning units, and bathing platforms.

Following soaring demand for its products in the USA, the company is set to open its first American headquarters in Preston, Maryland later this year. The news comes as sales within the industry have bucked the trend during the pandemic, continuing to climb over the last two years - increasing by 40% in the American market alone.

The company has also set sights on opening its own manufacturing plant in the USA to continue growing the export side of the business and develop the best possible customer service.

International sales currently account for 67% of Makefast's trade - equating to £1.2m year on year growth - with the company exporting to over thirty countries from its factory in Mid Wales, including Italy, France, Brazil, Taiwan, and the USA.

Chris Brown, Finance Director at Makefast UK, said: "Our presence in the USA has continued to grow during the pandemic, when boat sales increased as more people looked for solace from lockdowns on the water and spent less time traveling abroad.

"Demand for our products has surged and we saw the opportunity to increase our sales in the USA by opening an office there. We don't see demand slowing down anytime soon and our new base will enable us to keep up with this pace and meet the growing order books of American boat builders."

Founded in 1974 by husband and wife duo, Bill and Brenda Brown, the company was originally focused on producing safety hardware for the marine industry, supplying some of the largest life jacket manufacturers in the UK including the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. Soon after, it began expanding its product range to produce higher value items, and explored overseas markets as a means to grow the business.

While exports of the hardware products still exist, the company's main export revenue is generated from marine systems sold into two of Makefast's largest key markets - the USA, and Italy, a leading manufacturer of luxury yachts in Europe. Makefast Group has eight exclusive distributor contracts there including its Italian subsidiary, Makefast Italia.

Makefast's export success has been helped by support it has received from the Welsh Government over the last fifteen years, including assistance moving to its state-of-the-art facility in Powys, and funding to invest in equipment and new projects. The company has also been supported to attend trade missions to meet new customers in new markets such as Brazil, as well as benefiting from market research conducted by the Welsh Government into prospective new markets to establish the appetite for sales, such as in the case of the US.

Chris added: "The USA has a large-scale marine industry and with the benefit of research support, we have been able to determine the best route into the market. Our products have been adapted to meet the needs of American customers - specifically the day boat clientele who we had established would be a lucrative market.

"As we further developed the shade and other marine systems for day boats, we successfully secured a contract with Pursuit Boats, a major luxury American yacht and boat manufacturer, and US-based IAG Yachts, the name behind the 140ft luxury super yacht, 'King Baby', which installed a Makefast sunroof system. The luxury vessel can be chartered for $195k per week in the Bahamas. Recent success has resulted in new business with other American manufacturers such as Bertram Yachts and Boston Boatworks."

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