The acquisition of Valeo, known for gloves and strength-training accessories, by EB Sport Group should be transparent to the sports and specialty fitness industries when it comes to staff, service and brand -- until the product innovation and planned growth kicks in.
Although some may wonder why EB -- with accessories already under the brands Bally, Everlast and Sportline -- would want Valeo (www.valeoinc.com) when it seems to be in the same channels with much of the same product, EB President Brian Anderson can list several reasons:
>> Valeo is stronger at some accounts where EB's brands are not, such as in the specialty channel as well as in sporting goods stores such as Dick's and Hibbett's.
"Valeo was in earlier and is stronger," Anderson told SNEWS®.
>> Although Everlast and Bally brands have some of the same strength-training products, the gear hasn't been developed to the degree that Valeo's line has been.
"Valeo is very strong at gloves and belts," Anderson said. "We have them, but we're not glove, belt experts."
>> The integration will be easy since it can run very efficiently, as it has under founders Ted and Lisa Yewer, while using EB's infrastructure.
"We can bring a lot of value to the table with our resources," Anderson said.
Certainly, the EB Sport Group is "actively looking at acquiring companies," he said, but Valeo was put on the market by its founders who were looking to retire from the business and let someone else grow the business further. EB was one of several interested companies, he said. Financial details were confidential in the deal where EB will now manage all of Valeo's assets, including intellectual property.
"It'll synergize nicely with who we are," said Anderson, on his way out of meetings Oct. 10 at Valeo's headquarters at Sussex, Wis., the day after the acquisition announcement.
EB sees huge growth potential, particularly in the specialty and big box areas, as well as in Valeo's workplace safety division, and a big opening for product innovation building on the core line Valeo is known for. For example, the brand could very quickly begin to offer some items from EB's other brands but branded Valeo and designed for its markets, he said.
EB (www.ebbrands.com) is always on the lookout for smallish companies that do small, packaged, fitness-oriented products, Anderson said, although it is also eyeing non-fitness areas, such as outdoor. EB Sport Group is the sports and fitness division of the parent company, E & B brands, which also has a gift division and a travel accessories division. Under the EB Sport Group flag are companies Sportline (www.sportline.com), which produces timing and step-counting gear, and Sports & Leisure Technology, with accessories brands Everlast and Bally as well as some private label accessories.
Under EB ownership, the sales, marketing and customer service teams will remain, as well as all independent reps. He said the new ownership has growth plans for Valeo similar to what it says it has accomplished at Sportline and Sports & Leisure, where growth has ranged from 15 percent and 40 percent annually in the last several years.
"We are interested in seeing Valeo grow and, more than any other company, felt EB Sport Group was the best partner to make that growth happen," Ted Yewer, founder and CEO of Valeo, said in a statement. "They have respected brands, an outstanding management team and a great reputation in the sport and fitness market. That combination convinced us that they have what it takes to help Valeo reach its next level of potential."
SNEWS® View: Like Bell Sports' recent news about its move into accessories and promises of innovation (click here to see a Sept. 17, 2007, story, "The-brand-formerly-known-as-Bollinger: Bell's relaunch into fitness begins in earnest"), Valeo could also move strongly in that direction with its foundation. Perhaps accessories aren't -- or don't have to be -- the commodity that everybody seems to think they are. We too believe there must be other ways to look at belts, gloves, bells, jump ropes and the like that will attract more customers. We say, let's see more companies go after real innovation since in the end that will only spur on the marketplace.