The international royalty-based license agreement between Signet Armorlite (SA) and Eastman Kodak has been renewed up until 2014. SA manufactures several progressive lenses under the Kodak brand, such as Kodak Precise lens and the new Kodak Unique lens, and two anti-reflective coatings, Kodak Clear lens coating and the new Kodak Clean ‘n Clear lens coating.

Consumer awareness of Kodak lens products is apparently growing as the network of Kodak Lens Vision Centers continues to expand internationally. Successfully introduced in the UK in 2003, this program was extended to Japan and to India in the last couple of years and is set to be exported also to Russia, South Africa and Colombia.

The program allows independent opticians to carry the well-known Kodak banner on their stores as long as they purchase at least 50 percent of their lenses from SA and contribute to its advertising costs. The partnership allows the opticians to get preferential prices and a place in SA’s website.

The British subsidiary of SA has enlisted over 100 opticians for this scheme and wants their number to 250 by 2009. The company, which services some 3,000 other opticians in the UK, recently expanded its laboratory in Gloucester to respond to the growing demand for its lenses, but it still has a market share of only about 5 percent in the country.

NEW MANAGEMENT AND NEW PLANS AT BUSHNELL EUROPE

Olivier Ciaravino, a French executive who was appointed last December as the new general manager of Bushnell Europe, is working actively to take advantage of new market opportunities for the group’s snow sports and golf products. In the longer term, he is set on improving service levels and on expanding in new emerging markets in Eastern Europe.

The company is actively pushing sales of Bollé snow goggles and snow helmets in reaction to the problems of another well-known French brand, Cébé. While Bollé is the property of Bushnell Outdoor Products, Cébé is owned by Marcolin, which is looking at divesting it. Executives of Bushnell previously indicated that they were not interested in the brand.
In the golf sector, Bushnell is trying to capitalize on new regulations, promulgated by St. Andrews and the PGA, that allow golf clubs to use range-finders for amateur golf competitions, at their individual discretion. Bushnell, which claims a share of over 80 percent for this kind of devices in the USA, saw its sales rise by 25 in the sector last year.

Furthermore, Bushnell Europe is recruiting an area sales manager for Eastern Europe to help promote stronger relations with its distributors in that part of the world. Ciaravino, who is 35 years old, left last July as an executive of Amer Sports, the parent company of Atomic, Wilson and other sports brands, in charge of emerging markets. He previously ran the French operations of Giant, a large bicycle group, and Amer.

Ciaravino has replaced Arnaud Van Robais, who sold all his shares in the Bushnell group last August, in connection with the entry of a new equity fund. Van Robais will remain as a consultant to Joe Messner, Bushnell’s global chief executive in the USA, but he will focus on the development of his own business in the country outdoor sector.

Through his own holding company, Financière AVR, Van Robais has put together a mini-conglomerate with annual sales of over €90 million through various acquisitions, and a couple of others are in the pipeline. He bought Kettner, a German-based chain of hunting and fishing shops that now has 14 stores plus 10 franchises in various European countries, and other operations. A former distributor of Bushnell in France, he took a shareholding in the company in 1999 and became European general manager in 2000.