Alexandra Foineau Oakley, Global Product Manager for Lumishore, describes her career journey from retail through to manufacturing and explains how the Young Professionals Club is an important part of her METSTRADE agenda.
What attracted you to working in the marine industry?
My parents always owned a sailboat and I got involved in its winter maintenance as soon as I could hold a brush. Years later it was natural to take an internship for my bachelor's degree at a French Riviera shipyard that sold boats and built charter catamarans. I also spent the five summers as a sailing instructor teaching children in dinghies.
I later needed business experience in a foreign country to validate my master’s degree in digital marketing, so I joined Multihulls Solutions in Australia for a few months. While there I worked on my research paper at the Brisbane Library and visited the Sydney Boat Show and Sanctuary Cove Boat Show. It was great fun and the connection with multihulls was also made – I now live on one!
On returning to France, I was hired by boat distributor, EURO-VOILES, as a sales assistant. I took in as much experience as possible over the next seven years and grew into a marketing role looking after the company’s websites, customer data and newsletters.
Following that I moved to VDM-Reya in Toulon as a product manager in charge of 93 suppliers from several different countries. I did a lot of interesting things there, even skippering a boat in a fishing competition. Then personal circumstances saw a move north to Saint Malo, where I took over sales and marketing management of wholesaler InterDist. It opened the opportunity to work with a further range of significant international suppliers such as Spinlock.
I joined Lumishore in November 2019 as Global Product Manager, just in time to attend the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show that year. My focus was on the company’s new above-water range of LED products, based out of my home in Saint Malo but with regular trips to the US and to Lumishore’s headquarters in Wales, until the pandemic intervened.
So, my career to-date has moved from retail through wholesale to manufacturing – I don’t think you can get higher than that!
Tell us about your business?
Lumishore creates above-water and underwater LED lighting solutions for the marine industry, for superyachts through to small day boats. All products go through torturous testing before they are sold. Knowing they survive that provides great confidence when products are placed on the market and used out on the water.
What I really like about Lumishore is that we develop and manufacture propriety products. We are always searching for the best way of doing something and embracing new technologies. If the market requires something that doesn't exist, then our development team will make it happen.
That innovative way of thinking and desire to stay at the top of our field is apparent in all areas of the organisation.
What interesting trends are you seeing in the marine industry?
I didn’t previously believe the marine industry could adopt digital tools as quickly as it has in the past year. We are often 10-20 years behind industries like automotive and computing, but COVID-19 restrictions have forced us all to move quickly.
It was exciting to see a normally very traditional Paris Boat Show launch its virtual Nautic last year. It offered the ability to walk your avatar around a 3D show floor and interact with others. I’ve also really enjoyed engaging with the people that gather for Ben Taylor’s International Marine Network virtual meetings on the first Tuesday of each month.
The second obvious trend is greater environment awareness. I've seen this start to grow for a few years now, but it used to feel like it was driven as a by-product of industrial priorities, such as how to save costs by using less material to build boats.
Environmental thinking appears now to be more generally embedded throughout all processes in companies, such as the impact of materials and packaging. When I was a kid, we used toxic paint to stop marine growth on a boat. Now, customers are much more reluctant to make purchases that are environmentally damaging. I’m sure we’ll see new niche markets arise because people are really examining impacts and ready to pay for alternatives.
What is the importance of METSTRADE to your business?
Very important. It's the place where our distributors and their customers can visit our stand to see our new products. METSTRADE enables us to have technical discussions with all the key people in one place. Plus, we like to ensure we are among the listings in the show, participate in the DAME Awards and continue our support of the IBI METSTRADE Boat Builder Awards, where we sponsor the Rising Star category to encourage the industry’s next generation.
How do you plan a typical METSTRADE visit?
I have been lucky enough to be part of the METSTRADE Young Professionals Club and that’s always been an important part of my programme. It offers strong advantages, including the opportunity to meet with, and gain personal advice from, high profile guests and keynote speakers such as former Beneteau CEO, Hervé Gastinel. The networking with other Young Professionals Club members is also good and we learn from each other.
A major focus of my current role is researching market insights for our development team at Lumishore. For that reason, the greater part of my day is spent on the floor of METSTRADE. It’s a massive show and can be quite daunting, but it’s important to see as much as possible, to observe trends and developments in interior design that we need to understand.
Which METSTRADE areas and activities do you most look forward to?
Ever since my time at VDM Reya I have visited the halls hosting Asian companies as we imported from that region. Activity there is an important indicator of what is happening. The SuperYacht Pavilion is another area that I look forward to and the DAME Awards display is always instructive to look at.