Premier Marine sees shift with growing dealer network

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Premier Marine signed 10 new dealers since Aug. 1, some of which had given up fiberglass lines to take on the pontoon brand, and has others in the works.

The shift points to what some call an overall trend in the marine industry as some baby boomers trade power and speed for comfort and versatility.

“The pontoon business is growing with baby boomers on the water and I think that will continue for another decade,” Premier Marine sales manager Jim Antolik told Soundings Trade Only. “A couple of dealers that were at the meeting had dropped their fiberglass offering and are just doing pontoons and aluminum fishing [boats] because they think that’s where the market is. Not that that won’t change, but it seems to be where dollars are doing the best at this time.”

The segment also has seen a boost from the popular country song “Pontoon” by Little Big Town, which used Premier models in its music video, Mike Menne of Take it to Eleven, the firm that handles marketing for the company, told Trade Only. (Menne is also the nephew of Premier owner Bob Menne.)

“I think the biggest change I’ve seen ... is from the younger generation,” Menne said. “Little Big Town has a younger following, so that is attracting more youth to the segment.”

Premier’s dealer meeting in August saw a 10 percent rise in attendance, but a whopping 40 percent spike in orders. The company attributes that not only to the segment’s growing popularity, but also to the brand’s aggressive pricing of its Leisure line, an entry-level model, Premier sales and marketing manager Connie Weinman told Trade Only.

The company said it is also doing very well with its high-end luxury models.

“Premier is a very strong name with brand recognition, and where we’ve really done well in the last few years is in more the mid- and higher-level product,” Antilok told Trade Only. “Maybe the economics haven’t affected those people quite as much. We got more aggressive this year with styling and pricing on the entry-level part of the line. That part is still growing, but we think our dealers are going to take a bigger chunk out of that market.”

— Reagan Haynes