B&W Group Doing More with Less
Other vendor groups address a variety of distribution channels and market arenas with the goal of reducing market risk. But Joe Atkins, chairman and CEO of the B&W Group, says having multiple brands with a consistent business model allows B&W to be "a more valuable partner to the dealer."
B&W Group brands—Bowers & Wilkins, Rotel, Classe Audio and iCommand—all go to market the same way, worldwide, through a select group of independent specialists, reaching international dealers through a network of distributors. The group sells to about 2,500 dealers worldwide, reaching approximately 250 in the U.S. through its distribution subsidiary Equity International.
"We can do relatively more business with each individual dealer, and we can have fewer dealers to achieve our revenue ambition," says Atkins. "Because our brands tend to be in the premium segment, we're less driven by manufacturing efficiencies. There's very little synergy when you are making electronics on one side and loudspeakers on the other."
Atkins acquired the Toronto-based North American distribution business for B&W and Rotel in 1987. He acquired the balance of the B&W Group in 1996. In 2000, Summit Partners invested $20 million in B&W to become a minority shareholder; it also provided strategic advice and feedback to Atkins. Summit Partners, in the past, also has invested in Diamond Multimedia, Staples.com, AMX, Tivoli Audio and Belkin.
B&W Group doesn't require its dealers to sell all of its brands, but hopes they will. Says Atkins, "The more a dealer can satisfy his product requirements with a [smaller] list of vendors, then the more efficient that dealer can be in operating this business, and the more support he can request."
Globally, B&W's dealer network is "quite mature," Atkins says. "We don't have a lot of turnover." He adds, "Ideally, we'd like to reduce the number of dealers we do business with over time."