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Plain Sailing

Simon Boyde  

Simon Boyde on his yacht, Cave Canem, enjoying Hong Kong’s renowned sailing conditions


Simon Boyde’s decision to leave a career in IT and start his own business doing something he loves has been a breath of fresh air for the marine industry.

Set up in 2005, Storm Force Marine supplies boatbuilders and chandlery shops with products at cost-effective prices. The company is able to trim its margins because of Hong Kong’s sourcing efficiency and duty-free port. These savings are passed onto customers, who can secure a better range of imported products at cheaper prices than before.

Mr Boyde founded the company with his brother, Nic, and partner Louise Connolly, a banker. The British-born, long-time Hong Kong resident inherited a love of the sea from his parents. He’s been a recreational sailor all his life, and once rowed for Hong Kong in the Junior World Rowing Championships.

When he’d “had enough” of his job in IT, the marine industry beckoned. Hong Kong offered the opportunity.

“We recognised there was a market for a marine product distributor,” Mr Boyde said. “All the shops were importing before, as there was no local wholesaler. Now, most of the retail outlets in Hong Kong buy from us, as we can give them better prices.”

Competitive Edge

Various factors make this possible, particularly Hong Kong’s favourable tax structure. “Hong Kong is a free port, which gives us a considerable competitive edge,” Mr Boyde said. “Transport links to Hong Kong are extremely good for getting products in. And the inbound air freight [charges] are lower than any city in Asia.

“Hong Kong gives us access to all the major European and American brands, which invariably have a presence here. Another advantage is that our business targets the Chinese mainland, to which Hong Kong is the gateway.”

  Storm Force Marine supplies a wide range of products to the boatbuilding and pleasure-craft marke

Storm Force Marine supplies a wide range
of products to the boatbuilding and pleasure-craft markets

Domestic demand is strong. Hong Kong is the home port for 12,000 pleasure vessels, a market several times the size of Singapore, and 20 to 30 per cent bigger than Thailand. Hong Kong is Asia’s largest sailing market, after Japan.

In addition to distributing to retail marine outlets in Hong Kong, Storm Force Marine supplies the mainland’s burgeoning boatbuilding industry and its growing export market. “China has upwards of 200 boatbuilders, and we supply half of them,” he said. When it comes to the fit-out, only reputable European brands will meet their customers’ expectations.

Pillars of Strength

Mr Boyde said these “three pillars” – the local, China and export markets – have kept his business afloat, even during the economic downturn.

“Our sales between year one and year five are up 1,000 per cent,” he said. “Years three and four [during the downturn] were flat, and this year, we expect a 40 to 50 per cent increase in sales.”

To meet increasing demand, the company has doubled the size of its premises, and opened representative offices in Weihai, northern China, and Zhuhai, off Hong Kong, both of which are located within a cluster of boatbuilders. It is also planning an office in Xiamen next year and possibly another retail outlet in Hong Kong.

Mr Boyde said turning his lifelong hobby into a business was the best career decision he has made. And Hong Kong was “absolutely” the place to do it.

“It’s a growing market – not overcrowded, like Europe. Our staff, recruited locally, is hardworking, loyal and multilingual; we could not have achieved such high turnover without them. And there are no hurdles to setting up a business in Hong Kong, as everything is so easy.”

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Storm Force Marine


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