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New HQ site clicks for Manfrotto

Growing distributor of camera equipment plans for even more expansion

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William Drysdale, left, with Marco Pezzano, says Manfrotto never considered straying far from its roots.
William Drysdale, left, with Marco Pezzano, says Manfrotto never considered straying far from its roots. - (AARON HOUSTON)

A snapshot of Manfrotto Distribution Inc. would show a company developing a track record of growth, most notably with its recent move to a larger headquarters.

The distributer of camera and video equipment says its growth, despite sluggish times for the industry, demanded roomier quarters, and the move to Upper Saddle River.

Manfrotto, which estimates revenue at $100 million, is part of the imaging division of Vitec Group. The global parent doesn't break down performance for each subsidiary, but United Kingdom-based Vitec Group Inc. reported revenue of $526.9 million and profit of $60 million in 2012, for an operating margin of 11.4 percent. Most products are manufactured in Italy and sold worldwide.

Consumer market researcher NPD Group reports that Manfrotto's market share through 2012 was 26.1 percent, an increase of 3.4 percentage points from the prior year. Its affiliate brand Gitzo rose to 4.1 percent, up 0.7 points from the prior year. Manfrotto said it expects further growth organically and will pursue acquisitions where appropriate.

"We will continue to invest in the United States, where we get results," said Marco Pezzana, a divisional CEO of Vitec. "That's why the new office is well deserved."

About 50 employees work at the new 16,000-square-foot office, on the third floor of a massive building owned by Mack-Cali Corp., almost double the size of its previous headquarters in Ramsey. The Mountainview Road site near Route 17 can handle up to 75 employees.

William Drysdale, managing director of Manfrotto Distribution, the U.S. sales and marketing arm for Vitec Group, said the company never considered straying far from its roots. Drysdale said the company values proximity to New York City, plus most of its employees live nearby.

"First and foremost, we wanted to stay local," Drysdale said. "If we went further out, we would lose somebody. We have a long-tenured team, very experienced team. It is critical in the industry we're competing in."

Manfrotto has been in business about 50 years across four locations in Bergen County, including Englewood and Fair Lawn before Ramsey.

Manfrotto streamlined its headquarters as part of its latest move. The Ramsey location also included a warehouse and service/repair shop, but the company concluded those facilities were not sufficient and it could do a better job through a third party.

Manfrotto partnered with logistics company Panalpina to handle its warehouse operation in Secaucus, where about 20 employees work. The company also contracted with CRIS Camera Services to run its service and repair business at facilities in Chandler, Ariz.

The Upper Saddle River headquarters will house management, marketing, sales, supply chain, customer service, human resources, distribution and logistics departments, among other employees.

The company distributes photo and video tripods, camera lights and lighting equipment, plus bags, backpacks and cases. The Upper Saddle River-based division distributes Manfrotto-labeled products, plus Kata, Lastolite, Elinchrom, Avenger and Gitzo brands.

The company's niche is mostly toward professionals, which account for about 70 percent of its business, though it also appeals to consumers. Manfrotto sells products to dealers, camera store owners and electronics retailers. Customers include Amazon, Best Buy, P.C. Richard, Target and Wal-Mart.

Manfrotto has expanded its product line to include accessories for smartphones.

As traditional film wanes, the company is exploiting opportunities through the growth of digital technology aided by the rise of smartphones and social media. Pezzana said many users aspire to become more advanced once becoming introduced to digital photography through smartphones, some of which contain better picture-taking capabilities than cameras.

"We don't see smartphones as a concern," Pezzana said. "We believe it increases interest in imaging."

Manfrotto is staying atop the trend by adding new products, including LED-light that can be clipped to an iPhone to improve video and picture quality. The company's KLYP product is expected to become available for the iPhone5 during the second quarter; one already exists for iPhone 4 and 4S models.

E-mail to: tomz@njbiz.com
On Twitter: @biztzanki

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