Brian Williams of Alaskan Outfitters Inflatable Boats (6th Avenue Outfitters) commented on his boats in the Alaska Series thread, and I thought I'd start a new one focused on his boats. I wrote this to Brian, hoping he would have time to respond. I think the information would help a lot of folks make a purchase decision.
Do you folks have a website where we can look at some more photos and especially specs on your boats? The image you posted in the other thread was nice, but I really can't see how far the prop is from the water.
Buckeye made some pretty serious statements and I appreciate you coming here to clarify. More information from you would be a huge help. I'm talking about boat lengths, tube diameter, rocker, D-rings, fabric type, fabric weight per square yard, base cloth type- the works. This kind of information is very important for consumers, and for folks like me who write about boats. I would also be interested in knowing how long you folks have been at this game, and how your product is uniquely suited to Alaska.
I'll offer a counter-point to your comment about companies that work through a single dealer. You suggested that competition (or lack thereof) is what drives prices. In some cases that is true, but the fact is that AIRE, SOTAR, NRS, Hyside, etc. charge the prices they charge because they make a really good product, and folks are willing to pay for quality. They've been around a long time and have a proven track record in terms of both quality work and customer service. I don't see any gouging going on here, just some good solid boats that are priced within the reach of most folks. If there was another AIRE dealer in Alaska, I doubt you'd see much price movement between competitors. In fact, it is a proven marketing technique among producers of top quality products, to refrain from discounting prices because it erodes the perceived value of the product. People (especially Alaskans) know a good product and are willing to pay top dollar for it. They don't want to be ripped off, but they don't mind paying premium prices for premium gear. The opposite also holds true; if you try to be the low man on the price totem pole, the perception among many is that you have a junk product to sell. Sometimes that assessment is incorrect, but as they say, perception is everything. Set the standard high and hold the line. Apple Computer is a great example. They use a standard pricing scheme for their products and do not allow price cuts, discounts, or sales. The price is what it is, and if you want the product, you pony up the cash. Believe it or not, folks line up for that. It works.
Good customer service is also extremely important. People do look at the warranty. I don't know yours, but one of the best I've seen is AIRE's, where they don't even question how the boat was damaged. They just repair it or replace it for free within the first ten years of the life of the boat- regardless of how many times it has changed hands during that time. Some companies restrict the warranty to the original owner, reserve the right to decide whether the issue will be covered at all, and are not willing to swap the customer for another boat while theirs is being repaired. People notice stuff like that, and if you treat folks right, they'll sing your praises from the housetops. If they think you're ripping them off, they'll tell their ten friends.
Another thing that interests me is intelligent innovation. Not just building something different to be different, but really thinking about what Alaskans want or need, and catering to those desires. A certain controversial individual up in Fairbanks has made quite a name for himself doing just that with some interesting inflatable boat designs. I don't agree with everything he's done, but there's no arguing the fact that he treats his customers very well, and is not afraid to try something new and unconventional. Some of it has worked out well for him so far, and some may not work at all. But he's trying to give folks what they want. That's what I'm talking about. So a question for your operation is this: What are you offering that I cannot find elsewhere? Do you have any new innovations we should know about?
Not jumping on your case here, I'd just like to learn more about your product line, and what you guys are up to. Please post more photos, or refer us to your website for more information. I looked at your stuff a long time ago, but it would be great to get a fresh perspective straight from the source.
(I don't work for any of the companies I mentioned, nor do I benefit from recommending one over another)