Brief History of Norman Fletcher and his Boats
This is why they were popular, stylish, fast and roomy
From a model shop in the West Midlands Norman Fletcher built his first boat for speed and performance. They proved so successful that people were asking him to build boats for them. This was around the late 1950’s and England was recovering from the dreadful war years and the swinging 60’s were just around the corner.
Futuristic in design and still very popular
Norman in the following 10 years built Fletcher Boats into a global force in the sports boat market and become the largest producer outside the USA a remarkable feat.
At every boat show there was a new Fletcher or a facelifted version of an existing model, people were queuing to buy. Fletcher was by now a huge success, but Norman sold out to the Hornby Group in the late 80’s and sales dropped, possibly because his passion was not in the new owners company. Fletcher became a significant moulder for the likes of Avon Inflatables and Sunseeker Boats, they also produced thousands of mudguards for ERF Trucks.
Fletcher was suffering a double blow by now, because Europe was still recovering from a recession and there was a massive increase in cheap imports. Some disastrous Group decisions also served to put pressure on an already stretched company, so in 2002 the administrators were called in.
Fletcher had their own trailer division and this was a significant part of the supply chain as without a trailer the boats weren’t going anywhere. They were also the largest single boat trailer user in the UK so quite a prize for a manufacturer.
SBS Trailers in Wolverhampton started to make approaches in the early nineties and after much persuasion was awarded the exclusive contract to supply trailers to Fletcher. The design and branding remained the same and this started a long association between the two companies. Having outgrown its current premises SBS was looking to relocate so when Fletcher got into difficulties SBS approached them with a view to buying them out and combining the operations at the Fletcher site. Their initial attempt failed and the company was bought by someone else who distinguished themselves by going into liquidation barely a year later.
Nevertheless, despite the recent bruising SBS made another bid, this time for the name, IPR and design rights and managed to secure a deal. Combining the two businesses on an already overcrowded site was never going to work so new premises were sought and both businesses then occupied a significant factory of 70,000 square feet near Junction 2 of the M54.
Global competition and currency exchange rates are a fact of life and SBS tried to carve a new niche for Fletcher, but the company eventually failed leaving SBS as a trailer manufacturer only again.
This was my little Fletcher GTO in the mid 1980’s. It was brilliant, so was the little SJ410 as a tow car for it.