Aero Toy Store sees U.S. sales plummet while exports soar

 - May 17, 2008, 5:01 AM

It’s no mystery why the Aero Toy Store travels here to Europe’s EBACE show each year. The Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based aircraft broker has witnessed a dramatic turnaround in sales. “With the fall of the dollar, our sales are now 90 percent outside the U.S. That’s a total reversal since 2000 when 95 percent of sales were within North America,” senior vice president Gary Anzalone told EBACE Convention News. Part of the message is conveyed on the Aero Toy Store Web site home page, which offers greetings in a choice of 20 different languages.

On the surface, Aero Toy Store is well known for the wide array of tempting items for sale–including custom motorcycles, exotic and antique cars and yachts. But, insisted Anzalone, “Our core business is buying and selling airplanes. The cars and yachts are fun, and they are a part of our history. But we’re about buying and selling airplanes.” The company currently has an inventory of 22 pre-owned jets and helicopters, some of which are here on the EBACE static display.

Aero Toy Store is also in the aircraft charter/management business, but Anzalone doesn’t focus on that when it comes to EBACE. He said his company doesn’t manage any aircraft outside the U.S., and isn’t interested in opening up that avenue. “If anyone thinks we’re here at EBACE to find, say, a Russian customer and
offer to manage his airplane, then, no. We’re not competing with European management firms.”

Anzalone did comment that EBACE has been a highly productive show in terms of making direct contact with aircraft end users. He said of all the shows he attends for Aero Toy Store, this one is the best, by far, in that regard. He estimates that about half of the traffic he sees at EBACE is made up of qualified potential buyers, compared with an estimated 10 percent at the U.S. NBAA show.

With his focus on the market outside the U.S., Anzalone has a bird’s-eye view of what geographic areas are strongest. Looking back to the immediate post-9/11 era, he said it was the Russian appetite for business aviation that first caught the attention of Western companies. “Russia made us all stand up and take notice. It jump-started the business after the slump following the terrorist attacks on the U.S.,” he commented.

In Anzalone’s view, the Chinese market is also growing, after many years of people wondering when it would start to become a factor in business aviation. Among the other emerging regions to show an increasing interest in business aviation are India and the Middle East, and Anzalone expects to be able to make contact with potential customers from all those areas here in Geneva this week.