With nearly four months of assessing Bodyguard and getting to know the fitness business now under his belt, new General Manager Gaetan Blais told SNEWSÂ® it's time to make sure the brand becomes a much bigger supporter of its dealers and keeps its focus on quality despite all the inside changes of late.
"We have the support of the owner and shareholders," Blais said, who added that owner Raymond Dutil "has assured continuity."
"I've wanted to put a very strong focus on North America," said Blais, who effectively took over the duties of former North American Sales Manager Dave Taylor who parted ways with Bodyguard just before Christmas after about two and a half years. "It's very, very important for the general manager to be very, very close to the dealers. It helps me become a better general manager."
Blais, who comes from sales and marketing management at large companies such as DuPont, stressed three keys for him as he begins to move the company forward again: consumer satisfaction, financial success of dealers and continued success of the corporate parent. For more on some of the recent changes, click here to read a Jan. 6, 2006, SNEWSÂ® story, "Bodyguard again going through changes, but product status quo."
Although Bodyguard had in the past promised new categories, new equipment and a new look (click here to see Dec. 2, 2004, SNEWSÂ® story, "New image, products in the works for Bodyguard"), Blais said that isn't necessarily the focus of the company and certainly isn't anything it will hurry into.
"The focus of the company has always been assuring the products meet very high standards," he said, noting that some new products have taken longer to test out as "stellar" and, subsequently, have been delayed. "We're finding our target audience finds our looks and our quality appealing.
"We're trying to be innovative," he added, "but at the same time we want to have a worry-free piece of equipment."
Still, he said, Bodyguard isn't going to let itself just rest on its laurels, although it won't add features and tweak looks just for the sake of doing that. At this point, he and the company are analyzing the market and deciding where it is going, particularly in the elliptical category.
"I know we need new products, but I want them to be the right products," Blais added. "We're not taking anything lightly; we know we need to fill the gaps."
Among challenges Canadian-based Bodyguard and its parent Procycle are experiencing is an increase of late in the strength of the Canadian dollar -- up some 30 percent or more with a forecast that it will break 0.90 cents this year in its exchange rate with the U.S. dollar when it had been as low as about 0.60 cents.
With that in mind, Blais said, "we are putting everything in place to be competitive."
Being competitive has included building its own facility in China where not only its two newer entry-level treadmills (T240 and T260) are produced, but also any ellipticals will be produced.
Promises, Blais won't haphazardly make: "We will come out with quality products. That's all I can promise."