Sunseeker is certainly one of the main pillars in international boating industry. Since its birth, in the mid-1960s, its development in terms of project and design innovations has marked most of yachting’s one. Its small boats, conceived for an almost lake recreational boating, have progressively increased in size acquiring more significant design and marine qualities.
Unfortunately, this long prosperous period experienced a sharp showdown because of the 2008 global crisis and faced some troubled years at least until 2013, when losses totaled many million of pounds. But in September 2014, Sunseeker decided to take the bull by the horns and recruit a turn-around expert: Phil Popham.
In his 50s, native of Redditch, a town situated about 20 km far from Birmingham in the heart of England and far from the sea, Phil started his career with a degree in management obtained from Aston University in his pocket.
He spent most of his career in the luxury automotive segment, where, just a few hours before landing in the perilous waters of Sunseeker, he was the Jaguar Land Rover Global Operations Director.
We gladly accepted the invitation to have a chat with him on board a Fly bridge exhibited along Miami Collins Avenue.
Mr Popham, you’ ve joined Sunseeker after a career spent in the luxury automative industry.
How did you transfer your business strategies and experience into the luxury yachting world?
I spent all my career in the world of luxury brands, especially in the luxury automotive segment and what I can say is that there are a lots of similarities in terms of planning, engineering, production, marketing and sales processes. There’s much to import in terms of techniques, processing and processes from the automotive world. I see a lots of similarities and opportunities to learn to the benefit of boating industry. The added value resides in the ability to adjust analysis and intervention processes to a market which differs from the automotive one in size and dynamism. We’re trying to do that with results which prove to be good”.
Speaking of results, 2017 starts after a very troubled period. Looking at 2016, whose results are clear, what’s your assessment?
We’re very satisfied. 2016 was a really good year for Sunseeker in terms of sales, which significantly raised up already during 2015. We introduced 5 new boats last year, from the 131 Sport Yacht to the latest edition of the Manhattan 52. So, a good range of products, good investments and good sales, which have increased by almost 25% year by year; an important commitment which has allowed us to resurrect our fortunes after difficult years and establish a good investment for the future”.
Which are the key elements which make Sunseeker products really unique?
I don’t think we have any particular secrets. I think it’s about the history of this company. Sunseeker is a brand which has been existing for decades, an inspiration brand. What makes it unique, what represents its DNA is a good combination of performances, an unmistakable unique design and craftsmanship, a combination of skills and competence having their roots in the history and traditions of our country. These are the key elements which make a Sunseeker a true Sunseeker.
Have the so-called Brexit referendum and the popular decision to get out of the EU market affected your business?
Right after the referendum we couldn’t expect that pound increasingly became “cheaper”. However, this made our products even more competitive. People still spent their time and interest into luxury yachting market showing a complete confidence in the quality of our products and in the stability of the United Kingdom, which keeps on leading the European market. No changes have affected us.
In an era, when social media ad digital communication play an increasingly more important role, how does Sunseeker use this instruments to reach its potential customers? Do you find them efficient?
In the marketing world, social media are becoming increasingly more important and our customers are well-competent, well-connected. They spend a lot of time on Internet and social media; we have to be active in this sense. After all, we’re a global brand sailing in 45 different countries. It’s important for us to represent the position and contents of our brand, its consistence through any means and language.
Finally, the usual question: what about your next plans?
We already introduced 5 new boat last year. Last January, we presented our new Manhattan 66. I can’t tell you more but what is certain is that there will be some important investments worth about 50 million pounds. A part of them is for facilities, adjustments and new productions in order to support our growth and capacity to build new boats efficiently and with high-quality. Another part is destined to new products.