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une 3, 2002 Business Section
Kayaks a Breeze for Nova Craft
future of London’s Nova Craft Canoe is in the Breeze.
classic canoe maker last week unveiled the first of its new line of kayaks,
called the Breeze, which will
spearhead the Nightingale Avenue industry’s drive to expand into new, global
markets, said Bill Jones, sales and marketing director for Nova Craft.
is very exciting for us.” Says Jones. “It's
a totally different product for us and the initial response has been very
Breeze, to be sold under the brand name Aquafusion, is the latest in a series of
developments for Nova Craft which makes this a critical year in its history.
Along with expanding its product line, Nova Craft is hiring staff,
expanding its dealership network in the U.S., Canada and into Europe and joining
forces with Tourism Ontario and The Bay to raise its profile nationally.
strategy, says Jones, is to base growth on growth.
Over the last two years sales have increased 30 per cent.
With a new marketing plan, anchored by the Breeze, they now have 40 per
cent more dealers in the U.S. selling their product so growth forecasts are also
to one year ago we did not seriously tackle the U.S. market.
We had no sales reps, just a smattering of dealers who found us.
Now, we are growing,” says Jones.
there is a lot to grow into. The total North American paddle sports market is worth $300
million US and of that, only $45 million is in canoes with $130 million in
kayaks. The Balance is made up of
accessory sales from jackets to paddles to personal flotation devices.
thing about a kayak is even as a mediocre kayaker you can have fun, but a
mediocre canoeist in for a challenge,” says Jones.
“For recreational users, kayaks have taken over.”
Craft makes canoes of Royalex, a synthetic material that makes the canoes
lighter and tougher. Kayaks are
made from super linear polyethylene.
Breeze, the 11-foot kayak will be followed by the 13-foot touring model Liberty
kayak, then a 15-foot model called the Quest.
Nova Craft now makes nine different models of canoes.
we get the full line going, we should double our business in three years,”
says Tim Miller, part owner.
average dealer sells 20 canoes to 150 kayaks says Miller,
“Kayaks are more user friendly than 10 years ago…everyone up to an 85
year old grandma can go kayaking, kids love them and they’re popular with
cottagers right now. People like
the feeling and the independence of it.”
Craft began marketing its kayaks in October.
Kayak prices range from $599-$1549 while the canoes range from
the aggressive pricing structure and a competitive retailer program, there’s
lots of potential for growth,” says Jones.
a manufacturing perspective, kayaks are also easier to make.
The material is more readily available and easier to produce, says
Miller. Polyethylene plastic is a
light, robust material and it takes about half the amount of time to make a
kayak as it does a canoe.
production time takes about 60 minutes while a canoe takes three to nine hours
depending on the material and trim material (wood is longer than aluminum or
a completely new process,” says Jones. In
the past, to make the boat waterproof, a cloth of resin was placed over the boat
which often produced air pockets and made the boat heavier, less aerodynamic.
Today Nova Craft uses a new airtight vacuum method.
resin is removed from a boat using a vacuum bag.
This method ensures all cracks and crevices are properly sealed.
This also could save 10 to 15 per cent (eight to ten pounds) on a 15-to
17-foot boat says Jones. Since
Jones came on board more than a year ago. The company has taken on more
territory beyond the tried and true London market.
expansion into the coveted U.S. market began last August.
The company began aggressively marketing to the U.S. Jones started
getting the word out about Nova Craft through trade shows to find the new sales
representatives in the U.S.
year ago U.S. sales totaled about 10 per cent of business, today the U.S. is
close to a quarter of sales and growing,” says Jones.
Nova Craft has something lacking in the American market.
While American canoes are specialized, doing one thing really well, Nova
Craft makes a solid multi-purpose canoe.
U.S. manufacturers have taken classic canoe designs and changed everything just
to make it easier to manufacture.” Miller
observes. “We kept those extra steps in so it retains the classic
company has come a long way from its former 15,000 square foot location,
dispersed between six different units on Exeter Road.
In December 2000 it moved to its present, 55,000 square-foot home.
in 1970 by husband and wife Ken and Elsie Fisher, Tim Miller, Pat Malloy, and
Zoltan Balogh took over Nova Craft in 1987 following the Fishers’ retirement.
the move to the larger space, the company is able to handle growth.
Before if it wanted to increase production, it meant renting more space,
the company is looking for even greater growth by partnering with Tourism
Ontario and its new slogan Paddle the True North, which markets Ontario as a
20 per cent of the world’s fresh water, Ontario is being promoted as a
paddling Mecca. In February, the
Ontario Tourism Association approached the company and along with another
Canadian symbol, The Hudson’s Bay Company, Nova Craft is now featured on the
promotes us in a way that we haven’t been promoted before, those brochures go
out to a 1-800 line, they get that brochure with our name and Web site –
it’s good exposure internationally and domestically, says Jones.
company is also launching a limited edition canoe promoting a Canadian paddling
icon. Bill Mason was an avid
paddler, author and film-maker who spent a life-time promoting paddling.
He died in 1988.
approached the family to do a special canoe and to contribute to his scholarship
fund for every canoe sold,” says Jones. Only
200 prospector canoes are being made.
rest of Canada is also getting more Nova Craft exposure.
This year Nova Craft went from two to eight dealers in Quebec.
Quebec market has been under-serviced by canoe companies.
It’s a good growth opportunity,” contends Jones.
Nova Craft has also cut a deal with Subaru Canada.
New Subaru owners will get a discount on a kayak/canoe from Nova Craft.