“Our experience gives us a detailed view in any project”.
For many years, Merk&Merk has been considered a reliable partner for yacht owners and everyone who wishes to become one. Founded 15 years ago as a teak repair and installation company, the name Merk&Merk quickly became synonymous with market expertise and know-how. Behind the well-deserved success is Julian Merk along with his father Walter.
1. Founded in 2004, after moving to Croatia You set up a yacht servicing company and then entered into brokerage business and worked as a distribution partner for shipyards. Mr. Merk, can You tell us how it all began?
“Even before coming to Croatia, my father had a boat repair company in Germany. As I also trained as a shipbuilder, I was involved in the business from a very young age. We ran a mobile service – traveled around France, Croatia, Italy and the Netherlands. This kind of lifestyle involved a lot of hard work, it required a lot of driving, but it didn’t give satisfactory results. So we decided to settle down and look for an adequate place to live. In deciding where that place would be, we followed the logic – let’s go where we get the most orders from – the Adriatic and Croatia. We rented a house in Split from one of our clients, and that’s how the story started. Like all big companies (laughs) we started in the garage. We worked teak decks, collaborated with local manufacturers, and soon inquiries we received expanded to include additional works on boats such as polishing, antifouling, mechanical and similar works. As we were present on the entire Adriatic coast, in 2008 we were given the opportunity for a new location – this time in Tribunj, which suited us well, since Tribunj is located approximately in the middle of the Adriatic coast. That’s how on 01.08.2008 we started with permanent work location in Tribunj, where today we have about 40 employees and with our infrastructure we can cover all the requirements that a boat owner might have with regard to yacht service and refit”.
2. Today Your company has more than 40 employees in Marina Tribunj and represents the brands Solaris Power, Solaris Yachts and Princess Yachts. How did Your business develop?
“Prior to working with the brands you mentioned, we were an exclusive Sunseeker servicing center for the Adriatic area for approximately six or seven years. Working with them was a valuable experience for us. We learned how big companies work, how dealership and brokerage work, and how after sales works. As Sunseeker Germany left the market after a while and our cooperation with them ceased, the only logical step was to take care of the clients who remained from them. While cooperating with them, selling boats would bring us into conflict of interest, but after the end of our cooperation, the situation seemed different. With the clients they left behind, and all of our business contacts that we created over the years, our customer base grew so much that we could see what their preferences were and how they made decisions. We decided to include new and used vessels in our portfolio, in order to round up our offer from start to finish – acquisition of a boat, maintenance and management of the vessel, and finally sale, and all over again. Now in our portfolio we have something for everyone – from luxury day cruisers such as Solaris Power 48 Open, via the prestigious sailboats from Solaris Yachts, the mainstream motor yachts from Princess shipyard, where we also have larger yachts, such as Flagship Princess X95”.
3. Can You tell us what the most important factors that lead You to succeed and achieve Your goals are?
“The most important is an honest approach and relationship with the client, all with the aim of realizing the project according to the client’s wishes. Of course, always within realistic possibilities. In order to achieve this, it is very important to develop the right processes that will elaborate the whole project, document it, and deliver the finished product according to the client’s expectations. The business we do is comparable to that of much larger companies. Our experience has enabled us to break down a complex project into segments and give a special offer for it with maximum detail”.
4. Is it always possible to fulfill all Your clients’ wishes? What is Your biggest challenge?
“We do our best to satisfy all the wishes of our clients. We strive to be available to them at all times, to assist in situations that may not be directly related to our core business and our clients appreciate it. Trust is important. The biggest challenge, in fact, is unrealistic expectations – either in the execution of the project or in the financial construction. There is always a need to balance a little in that segment, but most often we manage to reach a compromise to mutual satisfaction”.
5. If You compare sales of new and used boats, which is better and which is more in demand?
“It’s hard to compare. It all depends on the client, his wishes, time and of course the budget. If clients want a boat immediately, they are more likely to buy a used boat.
Those clients who want a boat by their wishes from the bow to the stern, they will more often opt for a new boat. So they can let their imagination run wild and design whatever suits them. The most important thing is that the market is alive, that the boats are circulating and that the customers enjoy navigation”.
6. What models were the most sought after in 2019?
“Generally, our sea is ideal for yachts of about 50-65 feet, so these are usually the most sought after models. We made sure that our offer is adjusted to the maximum”.
7. How do You see the future of the global nautical industry and in what direction is the development in the region going?
“Trends in the nautical industry change every couple of years. We could say that open models – such as the Solaris Power 48 Open or Princess V55 – are very well accepted by the market right now. Such yachts have many advantages – they can be used independently as day cruisers, but can also be used as a tender to a superyacht! There is also a trend towards improving performance and reducing fuel consumption, as well as gas emissions.
Furthermore, a trend that never goes out of style is comfort and luxury. All the brands we represent are known for quality, durability and design. In addition, for example, with its X95, Princess brings the definition of comfort to a whole new level – providing as much as 30% more interior space than yachts of the same size.
As information is available today with just one click, I believe that development in the region will follow global trends.
I must emphasize that we are specifically promoting the trend of partnering with our clients. You will often hear from a yacht owner that there is no specific problem, but that they will come to us for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and a chat. They know that they are well cared for in our company and that, if they need it, they will get all the solutions at one go. There are few who can deliver this. Say, for example, a broker is somewhere in Germany or England – how will he solve some problem in the summer at sea? Our philosophy is to live a yachting lifestyle with our clients, for good or ill! Everything below that is merely a compromise”.