I was intrigued when I saw the BIC Sports exhibition stand at the Sydney International Boat Show at Darling Harbour. Here was a company that I had previously known only for disposable pens, shavers, and lighters, and now, here they were promoting a full range of water sports craft including sailing dinghies, surfboards, and kayaks.
My friends and I inspected the thermoformed / blown extrusion polyethylene (PE) products, and were impressed with the innovative design of the kayaks (tri-hull design for improved speed and stability) and manufacturing quality (lightweight, yet strong, twin sheet technology).
So, what drove a manufacturer of cheap disposable pens, lighters, and shavers to enter the water craft sports market?
The simple answer is BIC, a French company founded in 1945, acquired a wind surfing board manufacturer, Tabur Marine, in 1979. The company became the biggest manufacturer of wind surfing boards, and renamed itself BIC Sports in 1985. The company soon expanded into manufacturing surf boards, kayaks, sailing dinghies, and most recently stand-up paddle (SUP) boards.
The BIC Sports division now contributes almost 18m euros to annual revenue and is a strong growth division within the BIC product portfolio.
However, the strategic answer is BIC re-defined ‘what they do’.
They were not just another manufacturer of low value, disposable plastic products – pens, shavers, and lighters. They did understand that their core manufacturing capabilities were high volume, low cost, durable plastic goods. They did stick to their company principles of simplicity and accessibility – making easy to use products for a mass market. And they did seek to leverage their strong brand name.
Hence, by applying these elements together to define ‘what they do’ and ‘how they will grow’, BIC uncovered a new opportunity to increase sales and profits – the manufacturing of water sports craft that is easy to use and affordable.
Like pens, shavers, and lighters….BIC Sports is making water craft sports accessible to everyone.
By the way….my sailor friend purchased a BIC kayak on the spot!