Bryant Boats reports market-share gain

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A year ago, when John Dorton acquired the majority interest in Bryant Boats, he said he had big plans for the Tennessee-based company.

One of the first things he told Trade Only that he wanted to do was strengthen the dealer network, which has increased 30 percent in the last year.

“We’ve doubled our run rate, and our year-to-date market share has improved 17.63 percent in our segment,” Dorton recently told Trade Only Today. “We’re still amongst some giants, but we’re breaking into the top 10,” according to sales numbers through June.

“We’re doing that with carryover product,” Dorton said. “So outside of the patented sport porch, which comes as an option, this is with product the company had been producing for a while. We have a new-product launch schedule of four new boats each year over the next three years.”

Bryant quality has always been strong, Dorton said, and he wants to maintain that quality while responding to market demand. “The brand lacks awareness of the bigger names, but for people who are aware, the character and quality of the product are second to none.”

Bryant will launch two new boats next month at the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo in Orlando, Fla., — a 22-foot luxury family runabout called the Calandra and the 18-foot “sportabout,” which comes at an entry-level price point that he hopes will help the boat compete with outboard runabouts and deckboats.

The 22 will have more space than other comparable models, Dorton said. “Instead of creating cramped seating for 14, we’re focused on oversized, comfortable seating for 10.”

The first two “bottom-up boats” — boats started from complete scratch for the first time in years — will represent the “new, evolving look of the Bryant line.”

“We’re expanding our line based on a couple market needs we see,” he said. “Our dealers are very excited. We’ve already pre-sold our first two quarters of production on those boats.”

Dorton said that although production and factory staff have increased by 25 percent to keep pace with demand, he has had to hang signs up stating that the company is not accepting new applications.

“I’ve got stacks of applications,” Dorton said. “There’s a good buzz about us in the community, which is full of boat plants. They know they have to get the job done, they don’t work any less, they just know we put a premium on quality. We’ll spend whatever time we need to get the boat just right. We don’t have a production horn out there.”

Dorton said he doesn’t want to sound boastful, but he is proud of what the company has accomplished and looks forward to what lies ahead.

“It’s a happy story in the industry,” he said. “To me, it’s been very humbling to be in a business of this size. It helps make me appreciate the pioneers who started the industry and paved the way by rolling up their sleeves and wearing a lot of hats.”

— Reagan Haynes