BHG Marine celebrates 70th Birthday.
This year Lymington’s BHG Marine celebrates 70 years as a family business in the marine industry.
BHG Marine, now celebrating their 70th year in the Marine Industry, are specialists in the supply, sales and service of outboard motors and small trailerable boats, Jeanneau Powerboats and distributors for key brands such as PropGuard, Drainman, Turboswing and Hurley davits.
The showroom and parts counter is based in Lymington, whilst the BHG Service workshop and new BHG Chandlery is based at Bucklers Hard near Beaulieu.
BHG Marine exports world wide, offers a customer focused service, and have many loyal longstanding customers in the retail, trade and commercial sectors.
At the helm of BHG Marine is Paul Martin, third generation of the BHG Marine family with nearly 30 years experience in the Industry.
As well as running BHG Marine, Paul is Chair of the British Marine Trade Association and a National Boat Shows Director. He is also a Harbour Commissioner in Lymington and still enjoys working with his father David, who has an active role within BHG Marine. Paul plays an active role in the local Lymington communit; a governor at Lymington Junior School for many years and active supporter at many local events and causes - such as towing this year's Lymington Carnival Queen and Princess around the procession in a RIB.
We talk to Paul about seven decades of BHG Marine and the secret of the company’s success.
The early days at ‘BHG Marine’
Bucklers Hard Garage and Marine (BHG Marine), started trading in 1947. It was founded William Martin (known as Bill Martin, pictured opposite), Paul’s grandfather.
Bill Martin was asked by the Beaulieu Estate to set up a facility that could look after both the Auto and Marine machinery on the Estate that had remained after World War II.
Life was tough after the war. Bill built the new premises virtually on his own and the winter of 1946 was very cold with large quantities of snow. As with any new business, the first few years were hard, but Bill combined the business with a taxi service for the area and his wife Rhoda (Paul’s Grandmother) also operated a small village shop from a shed next to the garage. It was all very much a family business!
In 1966, BHG Marine looked after Sir Francis Chichester on his record solo global sail on Gipsy Moth IV, which is now back on display at Bucklers Hard. BHG Marine looked after his generator on board and Paul’s Grandmother supplied all the provisions for the trip.
Also in 1966, the Auto side of the business moved to a new facility with William’s son, Chris Martin, and the marine side of the business stayed at Bucklers Hard, where Paul’s father, David Martin, worked alongside Bill.
“In those days the mentality was very much ‘make do and mend’ and new kit and machinery was fairly scarce. Everything, wherever possible, was recycled for another purpose and throwing anything away was very rare,” reminds Paul. “Even back in the late 1980’s I can personally remember locals bringing in garden implements for Bill to repair.”
“Nowadays, it is often easier and cheaper to replace with a new replacement item or unit, and people tend to take little care of their kit, knowing it can easily be replaced.”
Paul has many great memories of going to work with his father and spending the day at Bucklers Hard playing from a very early age: “I started working part time from the age of 11, doing odd jobs and keep floors swept and serving petrol (imagine an 11 year old serving petrol now!!). From there I worked weekends, school holidays and special events. It was very much a way of life.”
BHG Marine has been closely involved in the motorboat market for many years.
“During the early 1980’s we started to see the a trend for the modern RIB, and we worked closely with Avon,” says Paul. “The Avon Searider was certainly the first mass produced RIB in the UK and BHG Marine were very much involved in this early market. From there our power boat sales developed and grew. We now sell inboard cruisers up to 46’. Ironically one of our tag lines is ‘BHG – from a canoe to a cruiser’ !”
BHG Marine first became Yamaha Outboard Dealer of the year in 1993 and has been one of Europe’s biggest Yamaha dealers ever since.
The company achieved a £million in turnover in the late 1990’s and doubled the size of their premises in 1997, opening a new, larger, purpose-built facility at Ampress Park in Lymington. It was a huge calculated gamble, with 15,000 sq ft of undercover boat display.
“In our sector of the industry it was a unique throughout Europe and we reaped the rewards from 2004 to 2006. Unfortunately the recession saw a huge downturn across the Marine Industry and we managed to sell the premises at Ampress Park four years ago.”
BHG Marine now have a more centrally located site in Lymington on Bridge Road. This year they have opened a new chandlery and workshop at Bucklers Hard Boat Yard, in addition to the original premises, so now have three sites in total with well over twenty members of staff.
Surviving the decades
We asked Paul how BHG Marine has managed to survive and maintain success.
“We have managed to adapt our business several times over the years and have learnt not to rely on one particular sector of the market. Therefore we retail, supply trade customers, service commercial customers and also distribute key boat brands and products throughout Europe. Spreading ourselves over these different markets enables us to focus on certain markets that are doing better than others.
We have also remained a family business, with an ethos that reflects this, focusing on good service and honest trading. We have invested heavily in our brand and logo over the years, and our customers can clearly identify us from our competition.”
The future of the marine industry
“The biggest concern I have is understanding the market in 10-20 years time. The current generation lease their cars, rent their music from spotify and do numerous pastimes, gaining as much experience as possible. They have a monthly set expenditure amount and what to do as much as possible with it. Will owning a boat be part of this?”
“My generation buy their kit, whether its a CD or a car or a boat. Knowing this, what will boat ownership be like? Will people still buy or will everyone rent a boat? I am currently part of a special assignment group within British Marine trying to get our heads around this issue.”
And Paul’s vision on the future of BHG Marine?
“Since I joined the business, the company has grown and become internationally recognised. I would like to see this continue, open additional sites and grow a network.”