By Jeff Hemmel
A major new player is poised to enter the PWC aftermarket business: Blacktip Jetsports.
The company will soon be offering traction mats and seat covers.
While Blacktip may be a new name to the PWC industry, the names behind the enterprise are quite familiar. The company is the brainchild of SBT founder Greg Pickren as well as John Salvatore, who has spearheaded the WaterCraft SuperStore. It’s important to note Blacktip will not be a WCSS or SBT house brand, but instead a completely separate business unit. Likewise, it will not be an inexpensive alternative to current suppliers, but its own premium brand.
“Our goal is not to focus solely on cost,” said Salvatore. “We’re going to make sure it’s a premium, high-quality product.”
According to Salvatore, Blacktip has been lurking in the market’s waters since September. One impetus was obvious. Not a day went by where the pair’s existing outlets — SBT and WaterCraft SuperStore — didn’t sell mats and seat kits. Salvatore and Pickren also sensed a change in the marketplace.
“We were starting to see more and more people refurbishing or reconditioning older skis, maybe due to the economy,” Salvatore said. “Instead of spending $15,000 on a new ski, people are putting a couple hundred dollars into their old ski and making it look like new again.”
The duo also felt the industry could use another supplier. “There is one dominant player, and a few smaller ones, and quite frankly delivery is often poor,” Salvatore continued. “We felt like there was an opportunity for us to get in and change that, and market the product through some existing outlets.”
Salvatore insists Blacktip will have a competitive advantage over other players.
One difference will be in its mat kit’s ease of application. Rather than require potentially messy contact cement, all Blacktip mats will come standard with a peel-and-stick, pressure-sensitive adhesive. Peel-and-stick eliminates much of the hassle typically associated with mat replacement. Mats themselves will be made of 6.5mm EVA foam, fabricated in a cut-and-groove traction pattern, and offered in 10 different colors.
Likewise, seat covers will be fabricated from premium, marine-grade vinyls that are soft and supple, UV-coated and sewn together with UV-stable polyester thread to prevent dry rot. Multiple colors and textures are being offered, including some carbon fiber looks and nonslip textures.
All products will be fabricated in-house in a new facility in Clearwater, Fla.
The other way in which Blacktip will be different is in its delivery. Since December, Blacktip has been steadily churning out kits to build its inventory. “We’ll have mats in stock all the time,” said Salvatore. “It will be same day or next-day delivery, not two or three weeks to wait.
“We offer high quality and quick delivery. We’re not going to run out.”
While building inventory prior to launch is key, another way in which Blacktip plans to speed up the process is through a proprietary cutting method for mat materials. Though Salvatore was unwilling to share details of the technology, he did reveal it allows the company to not only quickly produce mats, but also to rapidly integrate new patterns or designs into production.
The company also has heavily invested in the resources necessary to make certain they will be able to fulfill customer demand. “We’re producing stock now to have on the shelf,” said Salvatore. “In April it wouldn’t be unusual to have 2,000 mat kits on the shelf. We’ve invested in all the resources and raw materials it will take to keep up with the demand.”
While Blacktip will stand alone as its own unique brand, it will be distributed through existing resources. WaterCraft SuperStore will be the exclusive distributor of Blacktip Jetsports Products to the consumer. SBT will serve as the exclusive distributor to the dealer and wholesale market. Salvatore notes this latter arrangement will be a good opportunity for shops and dealers already dealing with SBT to get add-on sales.
In addition to mats and seat covers, storage and trailering covers also will soon be coming online under the Blacktip name. Again, quality, not price point, is key. Covers will be made from 600-denier solution-dyed polyester, UV coated, double-stitched and custom cut to match the dimensions of individual watercraft. “It should be the nicest cover you can buy, short of going to a custom shop,” said Salvatore.
Still, prices for all Blacktip products will be competitive with other quality competitors. “We’re still going to be competitive, or slightly below market, but these are not price-leader items,” said Salvatore. “These are premium pieces.
“We’re going to work really hard over the next couple of years to build the brand of Blacktip. Honestly, we think the industry could use another brand of accessories. There really aren’t that many name brands left.
“Marketed correctly, we think the business can really take off.”