At the Southampton Boat Show I was fortunate enough to be invited to interview CEO of the moment, Phil Popham of Sunseeker for Luxury News Online.
By James Phillips for Luxury News Online
All images Luxury News Online
Phil Popham is leading Sunseeker back to profit with a wealth of experience in the luxury market and an impressive CV at Jaguar Landrover.
Phil Popham and James Phillips
Sunseeker International has revealed that it moved back into profit in the second quarter of 2016 and has forecasted an overall return to profit for the full year. The business also announced a massive £50 million of investment to be spent across new products, improved shipyard facilities and the continued recruitment of people over the next five years.
So it was a pure delight and a privilege to be asked to interview Phil, who I found to be a very level headed down to earth professional and an all round nice guy.
As we settled down in one of the meeting rooms at the spectacular Sunseeker stand at the boat show, I began by asking Phil to describe what his first priorities were and still are for this famous British luxury brand…
Phil – Getting the product and the brand right was already in place, for me, setting up the infrastructure with a focus on operations and production were my key priorities. We needed to be quicker and more efficient at what we do while operating at a lower cost, but maintaining the high quality we are known for while mitigating losses and staying ahead in the industry by replacing and expanding our products. Efficiency in business is key to lowering cost and keeping it consistently low.
James – What drew you to Sunseeker, and what were your aspirations for the brand?
Phil – I always wanted to be CEO of a successful company, preferably a British one, and coming from Jaguar Landrover I was well used to working with a high profile luxury brand and Sunseeker was an obvious choice. I came to Sunseeker with a three year turn-around plan and a 5 year growth plan and to launch 5 new products.
The new Sunseeker 95
James – Where do you see the future for yacht design and for Sunseeker? I have seen some manufacturers looking at floating gardens and quite radical ideas…
Phil – Some are going down this route, but for me, this lays firmly in looking after our infrastructure and customers in ‘a perfect way’ which goes hand in hand with distinctive design, craftsmanship, bespoke choice, performance, weight, the use of interior design and the best use of space within our boats. The brand has the potential to build bigger boats.
James – How do you plan to stay ahead of your competition?
Phil – Investment in a long term product plan and life cycle of each boat we produce. Creating the ‘why buys’ and investing in our dealer network. We are very strong in Europe and the US and we are looking to replicate this globally. After-sales service is key, if a customer buys one of our products, then it is of paramount importance they receive the best after-sales service possible, if their boat needs maintenance or operational assistance, I want to make sure they get it immediately and wherever they need it.
James – How do you see your marketing and sales strategy, the use of ambassadors and bloggers and social media to connect with the man or woman on the street?
Phil – We need to ensure that consumers are engaging and interacting with our brand and products, and social media and blogging definitely have a role to play in assisting with this. People are on the move, and we need to engage with them on their terms, understanding their profile and demographics. By connecting with consumers on social media and showing them the lifestyle we can offer, we also need to show customers what they can loose if they sell their Sunseeker or opt out of boat ownership. We need to show consumers what they could spend their money on and the fabulous lifestyle Sunseeker ownership can offer.
James – Are you worried about the future of SuperYacht sales? That high-net worth individuals may even dry up?
Phil – Through extensive on-going research we have seen the numbers of high-net worth individuals has risen by 20% and as the world develops we are seeing that investment in the family of dealerships world wide is really paying off, so no I have no worries in this area.
Phil concluded with: “I am delighted with our performance. 2016 has been a defining year for Sunseeker and we are confident of achieving strong, profitable and sustained long term growth as we continue to invest in the business for the future. This was just the start of our journey, we will continue to invest heavily over the next five years in new product development, shipyards and our people.
A big thank you to Phil Popham for his valuable time in talking with James from Luxury News Online and to Georgie and Chloe at Mckennatownsend