Aero Toy Store's name may suggest it deals in model aircraft. In fact, the "toys" it sells change hands for millions of dollars. The Fort Lauderdale company is arguably the world's biggest reseller of large business jets, mainly Bombardier Challengers and Globals, Gulfstreams and Dassault Falcons. Last year it traded around 75 new and used aircraft, which should see 2007 revenues double to around $1 billion.

The business, founded as prestige car dealership Auto Toy Store by Montreal entrepreneur Morris Shirazi in 1985, has expanded rapidly since it changed its name and focus to business jets in the mid-1990s. Lately, the biggest growth has been overseas. "Two years ago, 70% of our customers were from North America," says Ben Shirazi, chief operating officer and Morris Shirazi's son. "This year, 80% will be from over the ocean."

Shirazi says this growth is due to the fast-emerging market for business jets in Asia, Europe, Middle East and former Soviet Union. "Our domestic sales haven't gone down. It's the sales in the rest of the world that have gone up so quickly." A "good communications and advertising" strategy has helped Aero Toy Store's reputation spread. The company is a regular at the EBACE European business aviation convention in Geneva, which "allows us to meet eye to eye" with high net-worth individuals from the developing markets, says Shirazi.

As a result, the company is looking to open its first overseas site, although the Shirazis have not decided where. Aero Toy Store operates from two North American fixed-base operations, with hangars and completion facilities at Fort Lauderdale and Montreal. At the latter, construction is under way on a 4,180m² (45,000ft²) expansion. There is also a new sales centre at Las Vegas's McCarran airport.

Aero Toy Store has two main businesses. Around 60% of the aircraft it sells are new or have low flying hours as a result of purchasing positions in manufacturers' backlogs. The remainder are secondhand, most refitted by the company with its own cabin styling. In July, it announced an exclusive deal with Pininfarina to fit the Italian design house's interiors. "We offer customers an Aero Toy Store aircraft, with our own mark on it," says Shirazi. "It's a turnkey solution. But we don't do anything wild. It is seldom someone says 'It's not right for me'."

On the new jets, the company's niche is that, unlike smaller brokers and traders, it has the clout to put down sizeable part-payments to secure green aircraft, says Shirazi. "We have strong enough capital behind us to take the risk. But we do that because we believe in the market." Aero Toy Store staff are despatched to manufacturers' factories to oversee final stages of production. Even with new aircraft, which arrive completed, Aero Toy Store will tweak the interior. "We like to give it our signature," Shirazi adds.

It means Aero Toy Store can offer the widest availability of aircraft on the market, he says. "If you want a new [Bombardier Challenger] 605 in the next few months, you are going to have to come to us."

Another selling point is Aero Toy Store's private collection of 50 collector's cars, many of them on show at Fort Lauderdale and which the Shirazis occasionally trade. "We're not in the car business any more," says Shirazi. "The cars are window dressing. People turn up at our FBO. They go to look at the cars and end up looking at the airplanes."

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Source: Flight International