On June 30, Fiskars Corp., a Finnish company and owners of the Gerber Legendary Blades division based in Portland, Ore., announced it had signed an agreement to acquire the Silva Group, headquartered in Sollentuna, Sweden, and its U.S. subsidiary Brunton, based in Riverton, Wyo. Terms of the sale were not announced. The deal does not include the marine electronics equipment, which will be retained by the previous ownership.
In a statement from Heikki Allonen, president and CEO of the Fiskars Corp., Silva's sales in fiscal year 2005-06 were placed at Euro 250 million (approximately USD $320 million). Sixty percent of the company's sales were European, with the remaining sales coming primarily from the United States, Allonen said.
Both Silva and Brunton will be operated within the Gerber division, which is headed by President Jason Landmark.
Silva is known for its compasses around the globe -- but not in the United States or Canada. Silva compasses sold in North America are manufactured and sold by Johnson Worldwide. Gerber will rely on the Brunton compass brand for North American sales -- compasses made by Silva in Europe, but sold under the Brunton brand. GPS instruments, binoculars, portable solar chargers, stoves and headlamps round out the Silva/Brunton product mix. In addition to knives and multitools, the Gerber product range includes LED lighting products for outdoor activities as a result of the 2004 acquisition of CMG, and recently a line of hydration packs, directly as a result of the acquisition of the patents and designs from Duncan Robins after he shut down his company, Boldt, also in 2004.
"Products sold under the Silva and Brunton brand increase and complement the range (of Gerber-branded products) in an interesting way," said Allonen in the June 30 release.
Gerber, well known in the hunting and fishing market in the United States, is counting on Silva's well-established distribution network in Europe to expand its sales influence internationally.
"We have distribution in Europe currently through our connections with other parts of the Fiskars family -- sales reps currently throughout Europe who, as a part of their business will also sell Gerber products," Bill Bradley, vice president of marketing for Gerber, told SNEWS®. "However, what we are very excited about is that Silva has key distribution and marketing centers in the UK, Germany and France that already exist and that really gives us a chance for much broader and richer distribution, as well as the expertise to do that -- frankly, that was one of the top advantages for the merger."
Synergies also exist for manufacturing. Silva has production facilities in Sweden and China where Silva has been manufacturing products since 2005, and Brunton will soon be occupying a state-of-the-art production facility in Riverton, Wyo., slated to be up and running in September.
Though it is too early to tell, a few retailers we spoke with expressed mild concern about Brunton distribution plans under Gerber's direction.
Bradley told us, "To be very candid, it is too early to tell what the plan will be for Brunton. The current plan will be to stay the course and learn from both sides what is working well -- they can learn how we have done things and how we have grown distribution, and we can learn from them how they protect distribution."
John Smithbaker, president and CEO of Brunton, has faith that Brunton will remain specialty focused. "Brunton has been built on the specialty market, has its roots in the specialty market and that is what has made Brunton great, and I would expect and trust that to remain consistent," he told us.
When we asked Bradley about how Brunton and Gerber might become more integrated, perhaps influencing new products under both brands, he responded, "We don't know what we will do with the product mix at this time, although I assure you the current plan is to keep brands as they are. As we begin evaluating new products and product lines, we will look at new lines within each brand at that time."
One thing Bradley wanted to make very clear is that for the consumer, there will be little visible change.
"Our plan is that the consumer will not see much different. On the packaging and on printed materials and the website, it will say, 'a Fiskars Brand Corporation,' but that will be all. Brunton, Silva and Gerber each have a grouping of loyal customers and we want to preserve that without question," he said.
One interesting twist to this acquisition is that Smithbaker actually owns another company, North American Gear (www.nagear.com), founded several years ago to distribute Primus and Origo watches. Brunton has served as the de facto warehousing and distribution facility for North American Gear, but that might change with Fiskars now as the new owner of Brunton. One thing that will not change, though, is that Smithbaker will remain as president of North American Gear.
"North American Gear is not part of this transaction and, as you have pointed out, I am part of that ownership group. Fiskars is aware of it and have approved of the arrangement. It is a very viable business," Smithbaker said.
SNEWS® View: Perhaps a little sorting out is in order for those who have seen the press release that Gerber purchased Brunton. That is NOT the case. Fiskars Corp. is a publicly traded company based in Finland. Fiskars Corp. is the buyer of the Silva Group, which includes Brunton, a brand Silva acquired in 1996.
Fiskars Brands is the U.S. division of Fiskars Corp. and is based in Madison, Wis. Fiskars Brands is responsible for the marketing and distribution of all consumer products owned by Fiskars Corp. -- got that?
Fiskars Brands has five divisions or families of brands:
- School, Office & Craft, including Fiskars, DuraSharp, Oficut, Gingher, Heidi Grace Designs and Cloud 9 Designs.
- Garden Tools & Accessories, including Aquapore, PermaScape, Moisture-Masters, Wilkinson Sword, Sankey, Zinck Lysbro, Home Leisure, Planterra, Royal, Werga and Ebert.
- Outdoor Recreation, including Gerber, Superknife, Winchester (and now Silva and Brunton).
- Housewares, including Fiskars, Kaiman, Kitchen Devils, Raadvad and Montana.
- Consumer Electronics, including Power Sentry and Newpoint.
This is a very interesting purchase, and we trust, as does Smithbaker, that retailers and consumers will see little change, other than perhaps greater research and development resources that will result in increased innovation from Brunton, a company that has been very innovative over the last four to five years under Smithbaker.