Bigger isn’t always better

When the owners of Sabre Yachts launched the Back Cove brand in August 2004, they were targeting consumers who were moving up — but that’s not who has been driving the brand’s success.

The concept for Back Cove began with Sabre dealers who were asking for smaller boats to give them more volume, explains Bentley Collins, vice president of marketing and sales for Sabre and Back Cove. Sabre responded by creating a line of downeast lobster-style boats that it expected to appeal to owners of outboard boats interested in moving to inboard power for its fuel economy and diesel engine durability.

Instead, the brand appealed to big boat owners. About half of Back Cove buyers turned out to be multi-boat owners that wanted to add to their flotilla. A lot of folks who move back and forth between the North and South have found transporting a boat to be very costly, and keeping one boat in each location to be preferable, says Collins.

Another third were older big boat owners (aged 60 plus) who still love to be on the water but found they weren’t spending a lot of time cruising any more and wanted to cut down on maintenance.

“Cost of operation, cost of ownership is driving a large number of clients toward boats that are easier to access, easier to get on the water, easier to get underway,” Collins explains. “More of our customers are acknowledging that they don’t spend days and weeks aboard their boats. Their boating experience is more weekending or dayboating. We’re accommodating a lot of customers by acknowledging that.”

The company’s effort to break into the production boat business was tough at first, says Collins, but it’s now reaping the rewards — and the opportunities for growth are very big. In fact, Back Cove is actively growing its dealer network, pursuing inland dealerships in particular in areas such as Lake Tahoe, Lake of the Ozarks and the Great Lakes.

“Right now, we’re at 80 units per year and about to ramp that up to 100 units,” he says. “And frankly, if we find the right dealers, there’s nothing to stop us from going to 200 units in fairly short order.”

There’s no denying the trend toward bigger boats. Sabreline, Sabre Yacht’s motor yacht line, is actually launching both the largest and smallest models in its line-up this year, and Back Cove is introducing its biggest model this year, a 33-footer.

The lesson is, as Collins puts it, “Rather than look at bigger, bigger, bigger, look at what your customers want. Don’t outgrow your customers and leave them behind.”

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