At a press event in Las Palmas on the island of Gran Canaria, Navico (corporate parent of B&G, Lowrance and Simrad) announced their three-brand strategy and the very clear delineation between the lines.
In the process, they introduced the enhanced features of a comprehensive offering of B&G navigation equipment including hardware and software. B&G has been reaching beyond the basics of instruments for several years and their new positioning is aimed at making it easier for the market of average boaters to understand the brand’s strengths and capabilities. It is a clear effort to shed B&G’s reputation for high-priced, high-end instruments only affordable to the racing elite, and to reach out to the club-racing and weekend cruising sailor at every level.
According to Product Line Director, Alan Davis, 2013 will be the solidifying year where B&G offers products across three price points: value, mid-range and premium. This good-better-best strategy uses the names Navigator, Offshore and Grand Prix.
With this strategy, all boats, from entry level to Volvo Ocean racers will benefit from B&G’s technology. At the same time, Simrad will cater to the power cruising and large sport fisher market, while Lowrance will continue their traditional focus on fishing, both salt and fresh water.
Navico also took that press opportunity to divulge their revenues, an interesting and self-promoting move since a private company is not compelled to share any financials with the public. According to the numbers gathered by Navico, (and not necessarily confirmed by other electronics manufacturers) Navico’s three brands dominated the market in 2012. B&G, Lowrance and Simrad combined, experienced a 27 per cent growth Q4 '12 over Q4 ’11 and 15 per cent year-over-year growth, 2011 to 2012. Navico’s operating earnings (EBITDA) grew by 43 per cent to $41.4 million and annual revenues were $256 million. Those are impressive numbers in any economy, much less in difficult times. More importantly, Navico claims that in both timeframes, Raymarine, Garmin and Furuno were all in the red with only Humminbird showing miniscule growth. Navico estimates they increased their global market share by around four percentage points.
So what does all this mean to the average boater? Let’s take a look at some consumer-level benefits.
Technology shared across the three brands translates to greater production volumes and that leads to economies of scale and possibly to product affordability. Whether that means more features, lower prices, or both, the boater is simply getting more for the money.
Also, a healthy company like Navico is likely to value and invest in customer service which is another benefit to the boater. As the B&G line integrates radar, charting, instruments and wireless viewing and control for tablets and smartphones (their GoFree apps), installation and use of various products aboard should be seamless if only because all the electronics now come from one manufacturer. More and more, boaters are looking for comprehensive electronic solutions, not just electronic components.
It may also stand to reason that Lowrance, which has traditionally served the center console fishing market, will have influence on how small and affordable hardware can become. In other words, why couldn’t even the smallest daysailer soon be outfitted with powerful navigation tools in compact plotters that rival the toys on large yachts?
Finally, charting and radar technology was brought over from Simrad and then enhanced with B&G’s sailing-specific features like mark and min/max laylines, wind histograms that show lift and header history, rudder state and so forth. Additionally, Zeus by B&G now uses C-Map as well as Navionics Platinum Plus cartography. Read about B&G’s SailTime and SailSteer in our Miami boat show blog from February.
It seems that Navico’s evolving strategy has left them well-positioned and quite healthy as a company, which presumably would translate to more innovation, better customer service, and some really targeted solutions since as Navico CEO, Leif Ottosson stated, “B&G is the only brand in the world dedicated to sailing.” And now that means all levels of sailing, not just the guys and gals you’re likely to see on ESPN.