Kent International's revenues have been more than $200 million the past seven years, but after nearly a decade of zero growth in his industry, Chief Executive Arnold Kamler knew he had to find a new way to raise revenue at his bicycle manufacturing company.
This week, he feels the Parsippany-based company will do just that when it announces a deal with Goodyear tire to produce replacement tires, tubes and bike pumps.
“This is a fabulous deal for us, a game-changer,” he said. “We've already had meetings with our biggest customers. This is going to be huge for us.”
How could it not be? After all, who could pass up the chance to fix a flat with a Goodyear tire — at least that's how Kamler sees it.
“We feel strongly that consumers walking in to a store and seeing the Goodyear brand will be a very strong motivator to buy our product,” he said.
Kent, the second largest mass-market bike retailer in the country, sells its products at large retail outlets such as WalMart, Target and Toys 'R' Us under a variety of names.
Sales are steady, but they are not growing despite recent bike-sharing programs and exercise initiatives for children.
“Sale of 20-inch bikes and down has been a nongrowth industry over the past seven to eight years despite an increase in population and demographics,” he said. “In the last seven years, 15 to 17 million bikes have been sold in the U.S. We are playing a game of market share.”
That's why the Goodyear deal is so big.
Kent does not have an agreement to put Goodyear tires on new bikes — right now, it's cost-prohibitive. But it is something, Kamler said, the sides will be working on in the coming years.
Kamler said he hopes to accomplish that before turning the fourth-generation family-owned company over to his son, Scott, who was named president and successor last December.
Kamler, 64, has been running the family business since 1978. And it's been some time since he's been this excited.
“I feel strongly and with all my experience that this is the right move for us,” he said.
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THE BIZ IN BRIEF
NAME: Kent International
CEO: Arnold Kamler
EMPLOYEES: 80 worldwide, 70 in N.J.
HISTORY: The four-generation family business dates back to 1909; it moved to New Jersey in 1947.
REVENUE: More than $200 million annually
ONE MORE THING: Kent builds 3 million bicycles a year, selling them in mass-market retailers such as WalMart and Target. In 2016, it is targeted to assemble a half-million bikes in the U.S., a number it plans to grow moving forward.
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