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[Jim Damaske | Times (2008)]
MarineMax CEO Bill McGill sits at the helm of a 52-foot Sea Ray Sundancer.
Company information
May 2008

Address: 18167 U.S. 19 N, Suite 300, Clearwater, FL 33764; (727) 531-1700;

Business: Recreational boat and yacht sales

Ticker symbol, market: HZO, NYSE

Market capitalization: $209-million

Annual dividend: None

Top officers: William McGill Jr., chairman, president and CEO; Michael McLamb, executive vice president and CFO

Employees: 2,000

(Year ended Sept. 30, 2007)

Revenue: $1.3-billion, up 3.5 percent

Net income: $20.1-million, down 49 percent

Per share: $1.04, down 50 percent

Return on equity: 5.6 percent

Two-year stock return: -65.2 percent

Biggest challenge: There's little MarineMax can do to reverse the twin causes behind its declining sales, rising gas prices and the weakening economy. But because of its size and general financial health, the Clearwater company is in a better position than most of its competitors to ride out the recession. In the meantime, it will need to be judicious about cutting costs. Laying off too many workers MarineMax cut about 10 percent in January can damage morale and customer service; reducing inventory too deeply can try the patience of customers who want their new boat delivered now; slashing marketing costs too much can diminish sales. But if MarineMax can hold out until the economy recovers, it'll emerge with a greater market share than before. And what about the company's anemic stock price? When sales rebound, the stock price likely will, too.

Corporate culture
May 2008

The smooth ride gets choppy, but it's still sell, sell, sell

For years, it grew faster than algae on a boat's hull. Then this January, the unthinkable happened: MarineMax laid off 10 percent of its employees, victims of a soft economy, consumer jitters and rising fuel prices. But how the nation's largest boat and yacht retailer allocated those cuts says a lot about its business model.

The Clearwater headquarters absorbed a disproportionate number of the layoffs. At the retail branch next door, general manager Noelle Norvell didn't fire a single sales person. She mostly cut service staff, who had fewer new boats to rig and deliver than in the past.

Meanwhile, MarineMax decided not to cut back on its "getaways," the one- to 10-day caravan trips that are planned, led and largely paid for by the company. Anything to keep the company's pampered clientele happy and thinking about upgrading to a more expensive model.

"It's meeting their needs, talking to them about their family, 'When are you going boating next?' " said Norvell, whose 50-person staff generates roughly $70-million per year in boat sales and repairs, plus more for brokerage and financial services.

Though they haven't lost their jobs, Norvell's commissioned sales staffers are feeling the pinch. But having been in the business for years, they understand "the ebb and flow of sales" and arrange their finances accordingly, Norvell said.

"We've got a team here that's smart enough to know that."

—Times Staff Writer

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