A STATE OF THE INDUSTRY REPORT: THE OPTICS MARKET
Innovation, Quality, Growth - Watchwords in 2001
SWIFT — CHANNEL SELECTION A KEY
As we enter our 75th anniversary year, our new catalog illustrates eight entirely new binocular models and adds solid improvements to ten more.
In 1958 our famous 804 Swift Audubon 8.5x44 wide angle was the first binocular designed especially for birdwatchers. Now in the 21st century this beloved binocular has evolved with the latest technological advances. We have added hermetically sealed waterproofing, fog proofing, shock resistant rubber covering, lightweight magnesium body, twist-up eye-cups and a well-balanced ergonomic design, creating our new optically superior 820 Swift Audubon. It has been Swift's objective to design special purpose binoculars for different sports. Model 712 Trekker 8x26 wide angle, which has a formula chosen by NASA for the astronauts is a perfect set of optics that may be carried anywhere. There's a 7-20x21 wide angle zoom and a 10x22 waterproof compact. Also introduced was the new 7x50 Sea Gull, a marine binocular that floats and is waterproof.
A clear trend in the binocular industry is toward waterproof glasses, which are usually rubber-covered for protection, and roof prism glasses that are waterproof with a new type of phase coating, making them optically equal to a porro prism glass in relative brightness.
Since it is highly important that sales personnel recommend the right binocular for the right purpose, Swift supplies training films to dealers, which in 12 minutes teaches them to make the right recommendations.
Although warranties have been getting longer, Swift has had a lifetime guarantee for 30 years, which is backed up with quick service for hunters, birdwatchers and tourists. The future binoculars will be decreased in weight, because of new materials, and new coatings will increase brightness.
The personnel of camera stores are well qualified to sell binoculars because of their knowledge of optics. Swift's desired position in the marketplace is to sell its products through specialty stores, which have sales personnel capable of selling quality products.
Humphrey H. Swift
President of Swift
MINOLTA — BINOCULAR CATEGORY STILL A PROFITABLE VENTURE
When it comes to cameras, binoculars, or other accessories, consumers recognize Minolta as a trusted and well-respected brand name. Retailers understand that Minolta products represent profitable sales opportunities. This is especially true for binoculars with a range of features and price points to match every customer's needs. Minolta binoculars are designed so users can get the most out of sports, theater, travel, hiking, nature and many other activities and are available in the most popular range of magnifications.
All Minolta binoculars offer designs that are lightweight and comfortable to hold and feature high quality multi-coated optics for clear, crisp images. From theatergoers to birdwatchers to outdoor sporting enthusiasts, Minolta has a binocular design that is perfect for their needs. Rather than taking a one-size fits all approach to binocular design, Minolta's diverse line of binoculars reflects the varied lifestyles of our users.
For example, the stylish UCIII binoculars are ideal for indoor uses such as in museums, theaters or concert halls. These compact binoculars easily fit in a pocket or purse for added convenience. On the other end of the spectrum, Minolta's Activa waterproof binoculars provide easy handling in any type of weather condition making them perfect for activities such as boating, hiking or a day at the beach.
Minolta continues to add profitable new models to our line. This year alone, Minolta introduced six new models including two Compact II binoculars and four Activa binoculars including a versatile zoom model that's perfect for outdoor activities. These pocket-sized binocular models offer contemporary styling and go anywhere-convenience making them perfect to take along while traveling, hiking or observing nature.
And Minolta is so confident about the quality of our binoculars that they are backed by one of the best warranty programs in the industry ensuring that our customers will be as pleased with their purchase decision in the future as they are today.
Brian Miller, Vice President of Marketing
Minolta Consumer Products Group
BUSHNELL — BALANCING PRICE & QUALITY
Over the last five years the binocular industry has experienced a 12% increase in the volume of units sold at retail. The primary market segment fueling this growth are compact (21-25mm objective) folding roof prism (FRP) binoculars. However, the upsurge in unit sales has only translated to about a 10% boost in the dollar volume. This is mainly due to the declining retail price of the FRPs, which are now often selling at nearly half their former average price. At Bushnell, our market position is to continue to provide the consumer the highest possible value in each segment, achieving the ideal balance of price and quality without compromising the optical or mechanical integrity of the product. This attitude has served us well. Based on independent market information, Bushnell/Bausch & Lomb brands currently hold an approximately 50% share of the U.S. binocular market, and has been on the rise for the last five years. We continue to capture market share with expanded advertising, aggressive marketing, and new and innovative products.
The market is also changing in terms of where consumers are purchasing sports optics. Some of the more traditional outlets are declining, such as catalog showrooms, and new outlets are starting to develop, most notably the Internet. Despite the tremendous growth in the Internet as a whole, the "e-tailer" has not become as big a competitor to the traditional brick-and-mortar dealers as was first anticipated. Most of the major players in that market segment have struggled to find the right niche, and many have folded. We are now seeing a move back to the local camera and sporting goods stores that allow shoppers to handle and look through the binoculars, and compare multiple brands first hand.
The product itself has changed over the last few years as both technical innovations and consumer trends develop. Many consumers have difficulty seeing any obvious differences in optical quality between binoculars priced at adjacent levels. Therefore, the "step up" from entry level product must offer more than just an increase in clarity or brightness. It now contains distinct features and benefits that the consumer understands and appreciates. For example, Bushnell has pioneered and expanded the marketing of binoculars featuring an "Xtra Wide" image, that gives the user as much as 3x the field of view compared to a traditional model. This product is great for sporting events and concerts. We have recently introduced a new waterproof/fogproof line of binoculars that will retail for under $100. This is a breakthrough price point for true waterproof binoculars, and will again give the consumer a clearly understandable benefit worth stepping up to.
Bushnell is excited about the future of the binocular business. Aging baby boomers are adopting a more active lifestyle in their retirement years. Bird watching and travel, two activities that are always high on the "reasons for buying binoculars" list, are increasing dramatically for this age group. We see a great opportunity via new product launches to capture this growing segment of the population.
John Mullett, Product Manager
LIP TRADING — CONQUERING THE SOUTH AMERICAN MARKET
Lip Trading is currently importing and distributing Rokinon and Phoenix brand binoculars and scopes to South America and the Caribbean.
These countries are very difficult to sell in due to the import regulations and the uncertainties of the governments. The market tastes in these countries are quite different from what the consumer wants in the U.S.A. Thus, it is important to adapt to the market conditions. We have been selling and traveling these countries extensively now for 25 years, so we know more or less what to expect. Of course there are always surprises. That is part of the fun of doing business in Latin America. We have a lot of competition from customers that buy direct from China or Korea and we try to offset that by developing relationships and building trust with our customers. We try to give our customers the best quality available, so they will return again. And we develop special packaging and concepts in order for them to market the products successfully. We also try to give them exclusive items.
The market has changed greatly since the days when Lip Trading represented Jason binoculars and the famous Perma Focus models. We feel we have adapted well to those changes and we look forward to continued exploration into new and different markets.