Find the Gap

I was just sitting down to write this column when I heard that administrators had been called in at Fairline. Back in 1987, my first ever marine Ad was for Fairline, so I could hardly let this news pass without comment.

I sincerely hope Fairline can be saved, not only for the people whose livelihood depends on it, but because it’s such a part of the British boating landscape.

Whenever a country has at least two strong players in a market, they usually thrive. They constantly spur each other on, which makes them fitter and stronger. Just look at BMW, Audi and Mercedes, or Ferretti and Azimut, Bénéteau and Jeanneau.

The same was true of Princess and Fairline for most of the past 30 years, with Sunseeker encroaching on their territory too in recent times.

But it only seems to work if the players are of similar size. If one falls behind, economies of scale make it tough to stay competitive. Which is what happened to Fairline when it didn’t follow the others into bigger, higher-margin boats.

So could Fairline possibly now find a different territory to inhabit? Could it differentiate itself and find its own niche – higher quality, a lower price, a different style? Identifying the gap is one thing. The hard part is finding the courage to aim for it.