Seven years after Bodyguard's purchase by Canadian Procycle, the solid yet staid fitness equipment manufacturer is on the move -- new executives, big plans for new markets, plus the hint with a glint in the eye that product changes and additions are on the horizon.
"We're going to take this company and make people aware of who Bodyguard is and what we can do," said David Taylor, North American sales manager.
But all within reason: "We're not trying to be one of the big guys on the playground," he added. "In the grand scheme of things we're a small player. We don't have unrealistic expectations."
Still, expectations do exist â€¦ and have been building since the summer. What prompted the plans for changes? First, Jack Landry, general manager of the Bodyguard division of Procycle since it was acquired in 1997, retired in May. Denis Jutras, who had been general manager for Procycle's Rocky Mountain Bicycles division for five years, was named as the new general manager in June. Then longtime International Sales Manager Mike Cochrane, also with Bodyguard since 1997, announced it was time to step back and take a little time off for travel (see SNEWSÂ® story, Sept. 3, 2004, "Bodyguard's Mike Cochrane semi-retiring: going to Greece, chillin'"). Meanwhile, Taylor, who came to Bodyguard in July 2003 to help manage the new Newton strength line after 12 years at Muscle Dynamics, had moved into additional responsibilities himself.
"I saw a ton of potential that I didn't think was being realized," Taylor said. "It was a good product that wasn't being promoted."
Solid base that needed tweaks
But to promote the product properly, they all agreed, it first needed even more of a makeover than it had been getting recently.
"There's a very good base of product here," Taylor added, "that in certain categories needs to be tweaked and in some categories needs an extreme makeover."
Bodyguard was at the Club Industry show in October 2004 for the first time, more to get its name in front of more dealers and clubs to start gaining some recognition than to nail down oodles of sales. The change itself, the company knows, won't happen all at once. But remaining complacent and not confronting change wasn't the way to remain successful.
"It won't happen overnight, but we're going to change the face of this company," Taylor said. "It's going to be a competitive, product-driven company."
Changes down the road
Taylor insisted the company won't just copy anybody and that it also won't discontinue any lines. Treadmills will continue to be the company's strong suit; Bodyguard's bikes and ellipticals "need some work," he said. And the strength category -- no longer known as Newton -- will expand into additional price categories.
Broadly speaking, what onlookers will see are certainly a raft of aesthetic changes, but also electronic updates and upgrades. In addition, the show booth and company brochures and materials will also get a facelift. Â
Overnight? No. The process will take 18 to 24 months, Taylor said. As he pointed out, "We're just getting started here."
When Bodyguard shows up at IHRSA in March 2005, there'll be a few changes, but "not much yet," he said. But by the Health & Fitness Business show in Denver in August, more will be noticeable.
"When you see us at Denver, I think the operative word will be 'Wow,'" Taylor said.
Jutras' office said it sees the most potential in the vertical market. Taylor also mentioned a higher-end retail market as key, with the competitive emphasis on quality not price.
"I'm not saying we're Mercedes and I'm not knocking a Chevy," Taylor added. "We're not the low end, and we're not the very high end."
In terms of sales, the Quebec, Canada-based, company said about 60 percent of its business is in the United States, with 30 percent remaining in Canada while 10 percent is outside North America.
"We're a company that's starting to realize what we have," Taylor said, "and what we can do with it."
SNEWSÂ® View: Bodyguard was always the pat-on-the-back company that came out with solid workhorse equipment, albeit pieces that weren't of late keeping up with the electronic and aesthetic changes of other companies. Maybe a curved line, TV screen or new paint job doesn't mean a lot in the bigger picture, but you have to admit that the splash and dash of others grab the attention of the end-user. And grabbing attention is vital in this highly competitive market. Being a solid, but staid company isn't the way to pave the road to increased sales. A few changes and a different emphasis could be golden for Bodyguard. We can't wait to see the transformation.Â Â