MIAMI: Contender Boats focuses on customer service

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MIAMI BEACH — Contender Boats has reinvented itself during the last few years. It now produces boats with stepped hulls as well as traditional deep-vee designs, and its luxury edition, geared toward day boating, is now a significant part of its fleet.

The builder also has been busy beefing up customer service with aggressive dealers who are committed to making customers part of the family, Contender marketing director Les Stewart Jr. said Wednesday night at a Contender mixer at the Casablanca Seafood Bar & Grill in Miami.

“It’s not that we didn’t stress customer service four or five years ago. We just know that the market demands an even higher level of professionalism and attention to consumer satisfaction,” said Stewart, the son of the company’s co-owner, Les Stewart.

I met one of the dealers last night — Eric Raistrick of Eric’s Outboard Marine Service in Miami (http://www.ericsoutboard.com). “The customer service has always been a natural thing for me,” said Raistrick, adding that Contender has boosted his sales and repowering numbers since he took the line on a year ago last fall.

“I’m a little different dealer than most,” Raistrick told Trade Only Today at the event. “I’m a big service dealer. We do anything we can to support the company and product. It’s definitely brought me a bigger playing field.”

Contender has improved itself in several ways, he said. “They’ve added stepped hulls and the wiring is incredible,” he said. “The construction is much better. There’s a lot more amenities for [boaters] than just for fishing. We support fishing, but we also see a lot of those weekend warriors” who want other perks.

Contender’s efforts have turned into success, Stewart said. “We’re building 4-1/2 to five boats a week right now,” he said. “In 2009 we hit our bottom and it has just picked up. We are rocking. We are very busy.”

Fast facts:

• Contender’s fishing boats and bayboats range from 21 to 40 feet.

• The company is based in Homestead, Fla.

• The Contender 28S, the 22 ST and the bayboat have been the three biggest sellers, Stewart said. The 32 ST and 35 ST are also popular these days.

• The builder might soon introduce two new models — 22- and 24-foot center consoles, Stewart said.

• A 35-foot Contender with Yamaha Helm Master is being shown in the in-water portion of the Miami International Boat Show at the Sea Isle Marina.

• The builder has about 50 dealers up and down the Eastern Seaboard and along the Gulf of Mexico.

— Chris Landry

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