Malibu Kayaks set to open dealers the right way - SNEWS

Malibu Kayaks set to open dealers the right way

Malibu Kayaks, in business making and selling its own brand of kayaks directly to consumers for over three years, is ready to take on a limited number of retail dealers, the company told SNEWS® last week.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

Malibu Kayaks, in business making and selling its own brand of kayaks directly to consumers for over three years, is ready to take on a limited number of retail dealers, the company told SNEWS® last week.

Sean Caples, owner of Malibu Kayaks, launched into the manufacture of his own line of boats after parting ways with Cobra Kayaks.

"Sean had been selling thousands of boats for Cobra since opening a retail store, Malibu Ocean Sports, in 1994," said Ric Hawthorne, technical director and vice president for Malibu Kayaks. "However, they decided to part ways when Cobra's distribution decisions and Sean's philosophies didn't mesh."

Caples purchased a very small kayak company, Competition Kayaks, which specialized in making a high-end competition surf kayak -- not exactly a booming market. In short order, Caples added the Pro 2 Tandem, his first kayak design, to the lineup, continuing to sell only through his two stores.

In 2001, the company decided, with the introduction of yet another design, the Pro Explorer, a single recreational kayak, to display at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market.

"We got a great response from the dealers and were very excited when we headed home from the show," Hawthorne told SNEWS®. "However, when we started trying to produce the orders, we quickly realized we did not have the facilities to meet demand so we decided to tuck our tail between our legs, focus on servicing our own stores, and focus on selling direct to consumers."

For the next two years, Malibu fine-tuned production in the company's Santa Fe, Calif., factory, and built a name for the brand the old-fashioned way -- word of mouth. That tact appears to have paid dividends. Head to any number of web-based bulletin boards (www.plasticnavy.com, www.kayaksportfishing.com, etc.) and passionate paddlers sing Malibu's praises.

Now, with six boats to offer, all sit-on-tops, and a strong following in Texas, California and even overseas, Hawthorne said the time was right to begin supporting dealers.

"We have signed on 15 dealers since deciding to start selling through the retail channel in March," Hawthorne said. "Our goal is to have nationwide coverage, but we are going to be very particular. We will not allow any direct competition within the same town or locale.

"I know that some brands believe that if they open up a dive shop or a surf show within a few miles of a paddlesport shop, they are not undercutting their paddlesport dealer because they believe the customer is different, but I disagree. As a manufacturer, you have to support your product and your dealer by building on your brand reputation and driving consumers to those select shops that fully support your product with strong merchandising, promotion and a well-trained staff," Hawthorne said.

Ultimately, Malibu wants to have a dealer network established so that no consumer has to drive more than two hours to get to an authorized Malibu Kayak dealer.

As the dealer base grows, Malibu is exploring opportunities to open up an East Coast production facility to alleviate shipping and warehousing costs.

Malibu, which decided not to exhibit at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market this year, hopes to participate in trade shows in the future, but for the time being sees steady growth of one to two dealers each week appropriate progress.

"We want to concentrate on fulfilling every order from every dealer completely and on-time. When we can do that with our established dealer base, and feel the need for more growth, we'll likely exhibit at Outdoor Retailer," Hawthorne said.

Malibu grew at a 40 percent clip last year, and Hawthorne thinks the company will exceed that as it adds more quality dealers. If a recent order is any indication, Hawthorne may be underestimating -- 65 boats in a 40-foot container to Hawaii for a new dealer's opening order.

What is driving all the growth and interest in the company's product line?

"Kayak fishing, pure and simple," said Hawthorne. "Surf kayaks have become a very small part of our business. Fishing editors and experts will tell you that while fishing remains the largest outdoor sport, it is stagnant. The only area in fishing that is growing and adding excitement to the sport is kayak fishing."

What has made Malibu's new eXtreme such a sought-after boat, according to Hawthorne, is that the company designed the boat from the hull up specifically for kayak fishing.

"Most other companies have simply taken an existing sit-on-top design and modified it for fishing, and that's just not as good an approach," he said.

SNEWS® View: We've read the passionate preaching on the bulletin boards, and we've talked to some Malibu kayak owners, and we have to say, we're impressed. Malibu has recovered nicely from the early blows-it by leaving dealers hanging, and it is hitting the market at just the right time -- dealers are looking for a manufacturer they can support that will, in turn, fully support them and not just look to open another door down the street in a quest for more volume. As long as Malibu takes a cautious and measured approach to expansion of its dealer base, we see no reason the company can't continue to grow, and keep dealers and consumers smiling broadly. To contact Malibu for more information about becoming a dealer, call 562-921-8591.

Related

Ascent-Advising-09.jpg

Business Solutions Forum: A right and wrong way to set employee goals

All industries can interact and communicate to help out each other -- ours are no different. The Business Solutions column in our Expert Network section is designed to be your personal business advisory sounding board with experts from different business areas available to answer ...read more

Cobra claims victory, Ocean Kayak says no

After a two-year battle in the courts, Cobra Kayaks issued a press release claiming it had won a victory against Ocean Kayaks over the company's alleged infringement on patents pertaining to the Malibu II kayak seating designs held by Ocean and was "now free to go back to the ...read more

Hurricane-Kayak-Logo.jpg

Hurricane Kayaks shakes up rep force

Hurricane Kayaks has laid off three independent reps and is moving to a “hybridized rep force” to improve its service to dealers, Brad Taylor, vice president of sales and marketing for Hurricane Kayaks, told SNEWS®. “We’ll use independent reps in territories where it makes ...read more

Ocean Kayaks Wins One, Goes After Another

llllllooooooWe reported in September 2000 about Ocean Kayak's suit against Watermark for patent infringement on its Malibu Two and Cabo sit-on-top kayaks. Because of the pending suit, Watermark's Islander division did not show any of its Festiva kayaks at Outdoor Retailer Summer ...read more

Confluence warns dealers of leaky Tarpon boats

Paddlepsorts dealers must have had that sinking feeling when they learned in early May that certain Tarpon kayaks sold this year could possibly leak. Mike Plante, general manager of Travel Country Outdoors, received a letter from Confluence warning him that several Tarpon boats ...read more

Federal Judge Rules In Favor Of Ocean Kayak Against Cobra

Ocean Kayak's relentless pursuit of those the company feels have infringed on its patents bore fruit earlier this week. In a judgment handed down in Federal District Court in Portland, Ore., it was deemed that as a matter of law Ocean Kayak's Malibu Two patent is valid. The Oct. ...read more

Federal Judge Rules In Favor Of Ocean Kayak Against Cobra

Ocean Kayak's relentless pursuit of those the company feels have infringed on its patents bore fruit earlier this week. In a judgment handed down in Federal District Court in Portland, Ore., it was deemed that as a matter of law Ocean Kayak's Malibu Two patent is valid. The Oct. ...read more

TMA_DealerCamp-09-Group.jpg

TMA launches first dealer camp in the Northeast

As retailing clinic time and budgets are stretched even thinner, an increasing number of rep agencies are turning to dealer camps as a means to ensure quality time with front line retail staff. Such was the motivation for the inaugural Mad River Glen Dealer Camp put on by Three ...read more

Nikwax warns dealers of unauthorized distribution

Nikwax contacted SNEWS® earlier this week to alert us that the company was informing its dealer base about possible unauthorized distribution of Nikwax products. Nikwax N.A. President Chas Fisher told us the official notification was triggered because a recent return generated ...read more