From family business to marine industry dynasty: the rise and rise of the Haines Group
Since starting out in the 1960’s, The Haines family of Brisbane have taken ‘messing about with boats’ to a whole new echelon – creating an enviable empire, which in its 48th year, is showing no signs of slowing down.
Fortuitously for the company, recreational vessel ownership in South East Queensland alone has risen 20% since last year, and with the country’s marine industry worth $5.5 billion, The Haines Group seems set for another financial year of smooth sailing.
In the past decade, the marine industry magnate has undertaken a persistent buyout of rival companies, invested heavily in research and design launched new vessels and became the exclusive distributor of Suzuki outboards across Australia and New Zealand.
Managing Directors and brothers Greg and John Haines have consciously orchestrated their business activity to position The Haines Group differently in the already crowded marine industry; hoping to distance their family company from competitor Haines Hunter.
While the two marine rivals are often thought to be one and the same, The Haines Group Managing Director Greg Haines maintains there hasn’t been a Haines in Haines Hunter for over twenty-eight years.
Haines Hunter was established by the same Haines Family that now own and manages The Haines Group, however since 1980 the only Haines family involvement has been the use of their name, the two being very separate companies.
Brother’s John Snr and Garry Haines started their backyard fibreglass boat building business Haines Hunter in the 1960’s which soon became one the most awarded fibreglass boat builders in Australia and New Zealand.
The success of Haines Hunter during the 1960’s attracted questionable admiration from overseas interests, and while the Haines brothers welcomed the new shareholders and directors into the business in the early 1970’s; by 1980 they were forced out of their own company through a bitter legal dispute.
John Haines Snr (AM) started boat building again in the 1980’s, unveiling the first of his Signature series boats which were to become the biggest selling fibreglass brand that decade.
After establishing Signature as the premiere fibreglass boat brand in the marketplace, The Haines Group recognised a niche market for competitively priced ‘no frills’ boats. The Haines Traveler brand was launched in 2000 and the company established an entirely new dealer network for the sales and service of Traveler vessels.
Suzuki Motor Corporation approached The Haines Group in 2001; seeking a reputable Australian company to distribute their range of Suzuki two and four stroke outboards. Suzuki has since become the fastest growing marine outboard brand in Australia; the third largest company in terms of Australian market share.
Securing the exclusive distribution rights for the Nautiques range of wakeboard and ski boats in 2000 took The Haines Group in a new direction.
Manufactured by US company Correct Craft, Nautiques are used by both ski and wake board professionals as well as recreational users on a global scale.
The exploration of new markets continued in early 2007, with the launch of the Ensign™ range of virtually indestructible and unsinkable polyethylene vessels.
Polyethylene boats like the Ensign™ range outlast traditional tinnies; remaining structurally sound for over thirty years. Unlike metal alloy boats or tinnies which contain multiple sections welded together, Ensign™ boats are built in a single mould process; producing a smooth consistent finish which is maintenance free, safe and strong.
The Ensign™ was intentionally chosen by The Haines Group to challenge the stranglehold of the aluminium ‘tinnie’ market.
The Haines Group further increased its market share in 2007 with the acquisition of Gold Coast competitor Seafarer, and more recently was awarded the exclusive distribution rights by US company Walker Bay® Boats for the company’s range of inflatable boats.
A substantial $1.2million by the company coupled with federal funding allowed The Haines Group to develop a unique closed moulding manufacturing process which ensures product consistency and reduced styrene emissions, while improving product consistency and output at the same time.
Coined as Resin Injection Vacuum Assisted Low Emission (RIVALE™) technology, The Haines Group will use their exclusive technique for the future production of their fibreglass boat brands including Signature, Seafarer and Traveler.
“Because the emissions are well below world minimum standards, we can manufacture in Australia and keep jobs here unlike many companies in the USA and Europe who have moved their operations to third world countries due to no emission controls and cheap labour,” Greg Haines said.
After two years of research and development, The Haines Group have created a robust and virtually unsinkable 4.85m dinghy using RIVALE™ technology.
The first of its kind, the fibreglass dinghy weighs 320kgs, can carry five passengers and can be ‘customised’ with numerous alternative configurations; a feat that has never been achieved by the marine industry before.
The Haines Group has gone from backyard business to marine giant through strategic product development and procurement, and in doing so have positioned themselves as one of Australia’s largest leisure boat businesses, with a boat for every body and every budget.