Berliner Seilfabrik goes USA
Although represented in the North American market by an exclusive partner since 1995, the Berliner Seilfabrik has taken a brave step forward in times when other companies are downsizing. The Berlin-based company has opened a subsidiary in the South Carolina town of Greenville, near the location of the USA BMW subsidiary in Spartanburg.
This region has an excellent infrastructure, and due to the influence of several European companies based there, is characterised by a cosmopolitan outlook, not to be expected at first glance, particularly here in the Southern States of the US. The very active promotion of economic development in Greenville was also a factor which made the choice of this location easier. The time difference between Greenville and Berlin is six hours, which still allows comprehensive communication with the parent company in Germany, while the travelling time from Europe to Greenville is also only around 10 hours.
The “Berliner Seilfabrik Play Equipment Corporation” founded at the end of 2008 has successfully expanded throughout 2009. At the start of the year the company had only around 25 independent dealers in the USA. Now, a network of 60 sales personnel reporting directly to the company has been installed. New sub-dealers have been found and old dealers newly motivated. While the foundation of the subsidiary has caused a drop in prices of up to 30% in the American market, the area covered in the USA has been increased from 55% to 90%. Service within the American market has also been greatly improved, especially through bridging of the time and language barriers. Direct contact to end customers and increased presence in the market has allowed recognition awareness of the brand name Berliner Seilfabrik, already well known in Europe, to be greatly improved in the USA.
During the “crisis year” of 2009, the subsidiary of the Berlin company was able to achieve progress against the general trend and a significant increase in both net sales and contribution margin was achieved at the same time as the sales network was being restructured. In 2010 net sales were increased to more than double the figures of the previous year. This improvement was achieved by a strong media presence in relevant magazines as well as through the creation of USA-specific sales documentation, while the thorough and consistent market development work carried out by the American partner must be given a special mention.
The American subsidiary is managed by a employee with several years’ experience with the company, Lukas Steinke, who previously held the position of regional sales manager in Berlin. After being with the company for nearly five years he did not hesitate to accept when asked if he could imagine relocating to the USA. Mr. Steinke moved to America with his family in the spring of 2009 and organised the new sales network with the support of a temporary team from Germany. In autumn of 2009 an American CAD designer was employed to cover the increasing demand for technical drawings for new projects and in February 2010 an American office manager started work. A manufacturing plant for spare parts and minor net components as well as recruiting of further personnel is planned for 2011.
Products from the sister company “Urban Design Berlin” are also sold from the Greenville location. The colourful, design-oriented playing elements enjoy great popularity in the USA.
The subsidiary has been working profitably since the middle of 2010 and payback on the sizeable investment and start-up costs will be achieved during 2011.
Although important customers, such as the leisure park Busch Gardens in Florida, and several companies determining the American market were already supplied with accessories before opening of the new subsidiary, the city of New York now has numerous playgrounds ‘Made in Berlin’. Children playing in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge as well as in Manhattan and Jersey make use of equipment from the German manufacturer and the trend for rope playing nets is not limited only to the metropolitan areas of the US: an impressive playground has also been built in remote Wyoming.
Climbing nets are 40 years old
In 1971 the first climbing nets for use as play equipment were built at the Berliner Seilfabrik rope factory in Berlin. To celebrate this anniversary the Berliner Seilfabrik is holding the "Berlin Rope Days" in spring of 2011. Invited to this exclusive event with in-house exhibition are all important partners and friends as well as architects and planners, who will be given a review of 40 years of rope play equipment as well as insights into the future.