An Interview with Eric Lepeingle, Head of Business Development – Power Division, at Wally
“Today the client is becoming more and more educated, he knows a lot more about what he wants to buy, how he wants to buy it, at what price and how much he’s willing to commit.”
How did you enter the yachting world?
Oh! Yachting business! It is a very interesting story. I was at the time working in America, in the IT business – the company I was working with was IPO in New York, in 2000. So then I went back to France because I was getting a new mission in an IT company in Paris, and I decided to change my life so I came to live in Cannes because I used to have some friends living around here and I decided to come by and change my life because I used to spend so much time in front of a computer. I got a chance to meet Mr. Rodriguez, father and son, and we started to discuss together and they gave me the chance to become a sales broker for the company. Well I started, and I ended up working with them in America, being the general manager of the Rodriguez group in New York and Miami, and this is more or less how I came into yachting.
How did your collaboration with Wally start?
So with Wally, it was a long process. It was a personal process first of all, I used to be very passionate about the design of the boats and the story, and what Mr. Bassani had done on his own, being an entrepreneur, being able to transform a dream of his own into a product for the market. We had never gotten the chance to meet before but it was always a company that I had in my mind and recently we got a chance to meet through 8 business meetings and operations, and I found it natural being in the office and discussing together so we ended up working together.
What differentiates Wally from the rest?
What I appreciate about Wally is the fact that, first of all, they are real “experience” boats – they’re all built around a concept that’s coming from a usage, meaning that the design board is not the first action in the process of building a wally. The first action is thinking about how we can improve what’s happening right now on the water, and how we can be better, how we can be simpler, how we can be faster. This is a real, artistic product for me and sometimes when I discuss with the designers, I realize that in the way they work, they always deconstruct the product to be able to redesign something in a simpler and easier way to use.
Compared to other Yachts, Wally proposes a very different, more futuristic design.
How is this perceived by the market?
As always, when we start to be an iconoclast, because you want to prove to yourself that what you think is the best for the rest of the world too, the perception of the “outside” people is always different. There are two directions they go in – the people either love it or hate it. But what is funny with Wally – and I’ll take a very special case: when we talk about the Wally Ace for example, which is the one we are sitting on right now – 4 or 5 years ago, when it was first shown, the market didn’t understand it because it was too advanced in terms of what we wanted to achieve. This year we realized that it’s not that the market doesn’t understand us, but that the market is starting to copy us once again because they know that something’s going to change in the future.
What do you think is the future of the yachting industry? What future trends can you predict?
So, by experience, after the last 15 years in the industry, there have been a lot of changes, a lot of chaos, a lot of new ideas and stories. Some people passed away in terms of business, others started a new road of business. I think that before, the clients were the essence of our business because no client means no business, but today the client is becoming more and more educated, he knows a lot more about what he wants to buy, how he wants to buy it, at what price and how much he’s willing to commit. Before it was more like an excitement, everything was based on joy and in the way of a way of life – being on board, no matter the money, no matter how it worked and they were willing to spend for everything and nothing in the same time. The clients we have now are very educated, they know where they want to 9 go and I think the market needs to become more and more professional. The position of the company in the industry has changed, brokers don’t have the same power they used to have. The clients have understood that almost everything can be found on Google. The market is becoming more and more specialized and we need to specialize ourselves to be able to cope with the specific demands of the new owners.
How has this worldwide technological progress wave affected the Yachting world?
If we look at what is going on from a macroeconomic perspective, the chartering business will change going towards the Airbnb model, for sure. There are already signs that clients want to charter boats in different ways, especially with medium and small sized boats – they want to be able to charter them easily, quickly, simply, from the night until the day after. Buying a yacht is also becoming very different because the producers are putting a lot of products on the market, the brokerage business is changing and the market is very active for up to 50m boats. For us, since we are specialists, our clients are passionate and if they want to have one of the fastest, innovative, design sailing yachts, for example, there aren’t many companies that they can go to and ask for them – there is probably Wally and a few others, but the client makes the choice in the end. It’s very different and technology is very impressive in the way the boat can be built the way that the boat can be managed, the way we can now work on the conception and be better for the planet too – it’s something that we are working on and we’re trying to make things happen.
What do you think the new generations will look for in yachts, design-wise?
I think that today, the easiest piece of design is in our hands: the iPhone. I think Apple shows us every day that design is in our everyday lives – everything is about trying to find the best line, the best design, the best efficiency in everything so because of this, the young generations are now educated to design – the old generations are less educated to design. Young people are more educated in the sense that their ability to change and go for something new is a lot faster than it used to be, and for older generations, like ours, we need to adapt ourselves to what is happening new but as you can see, kids today know how to use an iPad better than a notebook. But in the end everyone will choose what they want from a design and will buy what they like most.
Do you see this new phenomenon affecting brand communication?
Of course! If we talk about our brand today – we have a very strong brand, and we know that. I think we need to be very clever in our communication, we probably need to start using social media a little bit more but it’s something that we are working on and we’re trying to find a social media strategy that works with our product and what we’re doing. However, I don’t think that advertising and big campaigns are very good for what we are doing today, instead tactical campaigns suit our products better.
Written by Ioana Rucareanu, Msc in Luxury Management 2018
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