by Jeni Bone
Captain Nemo’s at Helensvale Homeworld Centre, just minutes from Sanctuary Cove on Queensland’s Gold Coast, is one of three Pool, Marine and Spa concept stores owned by Roger Braun, specialising in Zodiac products and unique in the world. That’s no exaggeration, as the description comes direct from the brand’s French headquarters.
Capt Nemo’s Helensvale, ideally positioned for the Gold Coast water-way of life.
Roger Braun has amassed 25 years in the pool industry in Queensland, the right climate to take advantage of its residents’ love of an aquatic lifestyle.
'Going in to boats just seemed natural,' he says. Four years ago, he opened a Zodiac store in Mackay, north Queensland, and two years ago another two stores – one near Brisbane and another on the Gold Coast.
The massive Gold Coast warehouse is a haven of all things Zodiac – pools, filters, cleaners, products, accessories, spas and boats – every variety of RIB and inflatable in the range.
'Zodiac has always had a phenomenal reputation in inflatables and as they expanded their presence in the pool and spa segment, we felt it was a good fit. Pools and boats and all the accessories are very compatible, particularly on the Gold Coast where people like to maintain an image and have everything under the same brand. It works well for us.'
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Zodiac has positioned itself as 'living for the outdoors', with products that promote fun, active and healthy lifestyles. As well as inflatable boats – rigid inflatables, tenders and professional boats – Zodiac also makes some of Australia's best known pool equipment brands such as Baracuda, Polaris, Clearwater and Driclad.
Zodiac is the choice of Swim Australia, Surf Life Saving Australia, Coast Guard, the armed forces and other professional groups in the Asia Pacific region.
Roger says the aim of the well-lit, beautifully laid out store, with soaring ceilings and attractive merchandising that evokes all the fun and freedom of the Zodiac brand, is to 'move away from the grubby, smell pool shop and create a real lifestyle vibe', according to Roger.
It’s working. Predominantly from word of mouth, the store has a solid base of loyal clientele, and despite the downturn, Roger says business is ticking along.
'We have had to cut back on some things, like casual staff and in other areas, and it has been tough. But we have been heartened by good results at the recent Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show.'
The weather was no deterrent to buyers. Roger reports sales that were 35% up on last year. 'For us, the show was very successful and encouraging. It shows us we have the right product for the market right now. People understand that Zodiac stands for quality.'
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From a period of competitively priced Chinese and other brands entering the market, consumers are coming back to Zodiac. 'They have realised that the cheaper boats are not necessarily a good buy. They’ve tried them and the boats have failed. Zodiac has an unparalleled reputation in the inflatable and RIB category. It’s a case of ‘you get what you pay for’.'
Zodiac boats are unique, not only for their more than 70-year history as the pioneers in inflatables, but also for their lightness, durability, patented thermobonding technique, 5-year worldwide manufacturer’s warranty and use of high-tech neoprene and other materials, devised by the Zodiac aerospace division.
The Gold Coast is the ideal market for the Zodiac range of products. 'People live on canals, on the beach and waterways, or they get out on the water – that’s why they moved here, for the climate and the lifestyle.'
In August, Roger is off to Toulouse, France to visit the Zodiac factory. 'It’s an opportunity to visit the factory and see what’s happening. There’s always something new, some improvement or new development. That is key to the Zodiac brand.'
Captain Nemo’s is a Platinum Dealer for Zodiac, and highly regarded by the French headquarters for its innovation and sales results. Says Roger: 'Zodiac Australia offers excellent dealer support, second to none. And that support comes right from the top, everybody has so much confidence in the brand.'
And as for the name of the stores, for the younger generation, Captain Nemo’s is named after the protagonist in Jules Verne’s 'Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea', not the Disney animated film starring a clown fish!
More at www.captainnemos.com.au