Hutchwilco has been the leading brand of quality lifejackets in Australasia for over 50 years. Founded in 1894, the New Zealand company was one of the first in the world to manufacture lifejackets, initially from canvas and cork, and still manufactures in Auckland, New Zealand using the latest buoyancy technology.
This month, Hutchwilco has announced a new distribution arrangement in Australia, with a new distributor, Melbourne-based InMarine committing to the Hutchwilco product range.
David Clancy, Managing Director of InMarine and owner of the business, is a long time boater.
This week he talked to MarineBusiness-World.com about his association with the iconic brand and its future downunder, as well as his own roots in recreational boating – a life-long pastime and passion.
'I started sailing when I was about nine years old so for about 24 years I have been on the water. I came up through dinghies and now offshore yacht racing. It is all keelboat boating these days.'
Most recently, David went north this winter with Nutcracker, from Melbourne, up to Airlie Beach. 'The boat is back now and we have just started our 2011 Rolex Sydney to Hobart campaign. But first we are in full training ahead of the Hutchwilco Melbourne to Stanley race, which kicks off first week of November – a qualifier for the Sydney Hobart.'
David’s father, Peter Clancy has 30 years experience in the marine industry, so this runs in the blood. As David explains: 'Peter is a great addition to our team. For the past 16 years, he has been managing the Anchor Marine chandlery and he has been running his own marine electronics company for over 10 years. He is also the Head Radio Officer for ORCV so he is heavily involved with the offshore side of our sport, as the radio officer for all the offshore events for over 10 years.'
For his own part, David has spent the past decade as an Outdoor Sports industry National Sales Manager and Marketer. 'During that time I did spend a couple of years in the marine industry, before going back to the outdoor industry. So once again, I find myself returning to the marine industry.'
InMarine is 100% wholesale, selling only to retailers. David says the company is very keen to distribute the Hutchwilco range of products in Australia.
'When we originally built our business plan, we analysed our competition and spoke with stores and consumers.
'We quickly understood a gap in the market for quality brands, especially well known, well respected brands such as Hutchwilco and from early indications the market agrees.'
'We saw it as an opportunity to work with the likes of Hutchwilco and a couple of other companies like ACR. Our vision is to take those quality products to the market with their branding and positioning that they deserve. '
The Managing Director of Hutchwilco, Gary Sutton says he has confidence in the InMarine team and great expectations for the brand in Australia. 'Hutchwilco is proud to be associated with InMarine and will be fully supporting them to wholesale distribute our range of products into the Australian market.
'We wish David Clancy and his team all the very best and look forward to growing our business relationship in the future.'
There is sound investment in strategy between the two companies. David and his team spent several months formulating a business plan with Hutchwilco in New Zealand, learning about the brand and its origins.
'They are a pure New Zealand company, privately owned,' David says. 'Hutchwilco Limited is a manufacturer and distributor of quality Marine Safety Equipment, Recreational and Performance Water Sports Products and Boating Accessories. The brand has been in the marine industry since 1894 when John Hutcheson and Thomas Wilson established their company Hutcheson Wilson & Co Ltd on Jervois Quay, Wellington, New Zealand.'
Today, it is New Zealand’s leading marine distributor. 'They manufacture quality Hutchwilco and Loose Unit lifejackets, buoyancy vests and wetsuits in their New Zealand factory and they also have an extensive range of Loose Unit water sports products including Water-Skis, Wakeboards, Ski Tubes and Tow Ropes.'
The company’s ambition is to expand into the Australian market 'in a big way', says David.
'It’s our joint aim to return to their former position of being the number one brand for life jackets and inflatable vests and associated equipment,' he adds, stressing that Hutchwilco is well-known for quality. 'They may cost slightly more than a lot of the Asian produced products, but it is chalk and cheese when you compare the products alongside each other on the shelf.'
And cost is hardly a factor when it comes to safety. 'There are a lot of people who don’t want the cheapest marine safety equipment,' asserts David. 'They want to know that if they have to depend on it in a life threatening situation, it’s the best there is.'
So far, response from retailers and consumers has been nothing short of emphatically positive.
'Everyone we have spoken to and who we have started dealing with has been so wrapped to see the brand coming back to Australia. They are impressed with the energy behind it. It is all very exciting!'
InMarine’s approach is to progressively contact marine retailers around Australia. 'We are gradually working through the main ports and we so far, we’ve received a great reception so far. Our focus is on the independent dealers and making contact with them. We also have people on the road, getting the name out there to the retailers and letting everyone know that the brand is back.'
These days, Hutchwilco has two ranges; the main range which is life jackets and then there’s the inflatables and safety equipment.
According to David the key Hutchwilco products in terms of what chandleries can consider stocking are the inflatables, for which the brand is renowned.
'They are a very comfortable fit for one person and also a manageable weight when they are inflated. They have proven very popular and they are absolutely flying out at the moment. They have only been in stores for a week and a half and they are having a great response.'
There is another range of products under the sub-brand Wilco, covering dock lines and other accessories.
InMarine is also proud to be distributing the full ACR range and the new world smallest PLB. InMarine has also just just confirmed an agreement with Gill.
'Our aim is not to be a company with a thousand products,' explains David. 'We want to be a company with 100 products, and every product is given the time it deserves so we are able to provide unparalleled customer service and detailed product knowledge.'
For more information please visit http://www.inmarine.net.au/catalogue.php
or call 03 9587 1958.