I was recently on an airplane sitting next to a guy who works for Brunswick. We started comparing notes of the industry each was in. I explained to him that I have never claimed to be a bowler, but I was on a league once many years ago and had a 151 average. I asked if he was in a league and he said he had been a professional bowler but didn’t last long. I had no comeback for that one.
Like some manufacturers in the lawn and garden industries, Brunswick has gone through many changes throughout the years. They make bowling balls and offer almost everything to make a bowling alley. For example, if you see it in a bowling alley after walking through the front door, Brunswick probably built it. Lanes, oil for the lanes, ball returns and even the little fans that dry your hands. They still have towels, bags, wearables, accessories, and more. They do private labeling and have their hands in many different products. Brunswick, over time, has purchased other bowling companies that were considered competition.
I asked him if Brunswick has aftermarket companies that have become their competition. I was shocked when he said “no, not really.” He mentioned that a cheaper ball can be purchased, but it doesn’t work as well as the good balls. He said it is the resins that cause the ball to be inferior. A.D. being who he is (a secret reporter who spans the globe for true and actual information through the internet) started looking into whether there are aftermarket competitors for Brunswick. What I found was no shock – there are aftermarket companies! They offer rollers, belts, and other critical parts that make the ball return work. They have gloves, solvents, balls and more. The bottom line is there are companies aiming for Brunswick to get their business.
Compare that to our industry. We have several companies that share a similar story to Brunswick. A few that come to mind are Stanley, Black and Decker (SBD), and even engine manufacturers Briggs & Stratton and Kohler. There are many but we’ll focus on these few.
When SBD bought the name Craftsman from ailing Sears in 2017, it was a game changer. Many people wondered why a company would pay $900 million dollars for a brand name? Whether or not Sears survives its reinvention, the Craftsman name that many people recognize will go on. You can find Craftsman brands in multiple locations, including Lowes, hardware stores and independent dealers. SBD recently purchased 20 percent of MTD (which is manufacturing many of the Craftsman items) and will have a chance to buy the entire company in 2021 if they choose.
Briggs & Stratton can be found in almost every dealership throughout the country. In 1998 Briggs did the unthinkable and purchased Generac portable generator division. What made this so interesting for our industry is a major engine manufacturer was now in the wholegood business. Like Brunswick, Briggs was on its way to obtaining industry companies. Since that time, Briggs acquired fine companies such as Murray, Simplicity, Snapper and Ferris.
Kohler is well known for its kitchen and bath fixtures, but did you know Kohler is in the hospitality business – which includes some of the nicest golf courses in the world – and also owns a furniture company? In 2007 Kohler acquired Lombardini Diesel while acquiring Pure Power and Clarke Energy Systems in 2017. Like Brunswick, Kohler started as a family owned company. But, unlike Brunswick, Kohler remains a privately held company today.
All these lawn and garden companies face stiff competition from aftermarket companies. There are the big three from the U.S., but, just like Brunswick, there are offshore aftermarket companies that are bringing stiff competition.
Many dealers are telling me they need to offer an aftermarket replacement for an OEM part. It’s too bad that you have to do that, but people are price conscious. Are your customers price conscious or quality conscious? I can’t tell you how many conversations I have heard at the local grocery store comparing the prices to another store. We see Aldi grocery stores starting to go up everywhere, and people are shopping there. You can buy more brand products these days at Aldi, but what made them who they are? Low prices and quality products.
Are you offering high quality and low prices or high prices and high quality? Have you figured how to offer a lower price and still make money? My suggestion is you better, because, just like Brunswick, Briggs, Kohler and SBD, there are companies coming for your business. Are you ready?
As always, I would love to hear from you. It’s fun to hear from you even if you think A.D. is way off base. As always, keep your mind and blades sharp. You can contact me by e-mail using OPEMAGAD@gmail.com or tweet me using @OPEMAGAD.