March 25, 2009

Doubling Down: Phil & Teds Buys Mountain Buggy Out Of Bankruptcy

Rachel at Dainty Baby just emailed with the scoop: The National Business Review reports that Phil & Teds is acquiring the other offroad double stroller company in New Zealand, Mountain Buggy.

Mountain Buggy's parent company Tritec went into receivership in January. Which had been preceded by layoffs of 25 of the company's 100 employees in December. Which had been preceded by a nearly 50% drop in production at the factory in Lower Hutt. Which had been preceded by a sharp one third drop in sales in the second half last few months of last year. Which had been preceded by unfortunately timed price hikes in the company's tank-like strollers, also the tanking of the global economy. And all of which was happening as Tritec's debt ballooned to over $22 million. [$NZ, that is. Around $12.4 million US.]

When Tritec went into receivership, Phil&Teds CEO Campbell Gower issued a somewhat douchey statement, "While it's true that the New Zealand buggy industry has halved overnight, our half is going absolutely gangbusters, just quietly; not to dance on their grave at all." Now that the deal was announced, Gower praised Mountain Buggy, saying his company has gained some really talented people, and that "phil&teds will run the Mountain Buggy factory in New Zealand before making any decisions. The key is to be internationally competitive."

Less dickish, to be sure, but it's still obvious they'll be cutting folks and shifting production to China as soon as they get a handle on things. Aha, here's a timeline mention: six months.

Meanwhile, now that he owns both halves of the local baby gear industry, Gower declared he's in the market for more acquisitions overseas. Stay tuned.

Hmm. Maybe they should start with Mountain Buggy UK, which is not included in the deal. Unless, of course, P&T plan to starve MBUK and distribute to Europe directly. Interesting.

Phil & Teds buys debt-ridden Mountain Buggy [ via dainty baby]
Phil & Teds on lookout for more acquisitions [nbr]
Dutch court? Was MB Europe in the deal? Mountain Buggy UK assets frozen: Dutch court order [nbr]


Can good come of this? Mountain Buggies are "tank like" in their ruggedness, durability and go-anywhere capability but they are no heavier/bigger than other full size strollers and they are a dream to push and steer. As an owner of a Mountain Buggy Urban Single and a Phil & Ted's Sport, I can say that P&T has a lot to learn from the MB team in terms of design and build quality. That said, if P&T can get MB to incorporate the 1+1 seating plan in a MB Urban package, then we'd really have something.

I've felt sorry for MB these past few years as they've tried to justify a move upmarket with different patterns and padding on the seats while offering essentially the same lineup of strollers. It seems that they were trying to add some sizzle to their steak but weren't too comfortable doing it. Maybe P&T can add some marketing chops as well.

Maybe people should rush out and get their "made in new Zealand Mountain Buggies" before they become "made in China phil&ted buggies"

We have the MB double urban, and instead of the tank metaphor, i prefer a hovercraft. This thing glided with two 4 year olds over the snow with no problem, although this spring, after 3.5 years, I need to take apart the wheels and regrease them. things are getting mighty squeaky.

I had "tank" in my head because of this:

NYC Building Collapses on Mountain Buggy, Baby

I'm sure P&T will take MB's but-can-I-drop-a-wall-on-it? safety standards to China with them. Right?

Um, isn't there a third (or now, second) all-terrain stroller company in New Zealand? Adventure Buggy Company? The twist being that it was founded by the Phil and Ted behind Phil & Ted's.

Yes Melanie, you are correct. The actual father/son team of Phil & Ted have a new buggy company, Adventure Buggy Company.

Ah, right. I'll post a correction in the coming corrections post. I'm sure Ted and Phil are inventive geniuses, and I wish them well, but seriously, comparing ABC and P&T shows that a great idea is just the tip of the iceberg, if that much.

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