The best thing about a downturn is the upswing – BG Parts
Knysna-based marine accessories specialists BG Parts has turned trade adversity into opportunity by diversifying into the caravanning and camping market, so far to good effect.
With prevailing economic winds as fickle as Cape rainfall, the company witnessed a slowdown in demand for its broad range of marine accessories – everything from hatch covers to mooring eyes. Rather than waiting for market relief, the company branched out in a new direction. “It started in a small way and then it just kept growing,” said Robbie Bevan of his move into caravanning and camping. “The boating industry has quietened down drastically over the past few years, hence the change,” Bevan said.
He said innovation and versatility applied equally to the camping equipment sector as it did to marine accessories, where it helps to be able to engineer your own solutions: “We make whatever suits us, whatever suits our factory — we make parts that people ask us to make,” Bevan said, adding that necessity is indeed the mother of invention. “I find things that would do well on the market and we have many things that we have made of our own accord, and our own design. It’s the same in the caravan and tent industry — we come up with our own ideas.”
In this regard engineering ability was key in order to translate clients’ specific needs into modified or custom-made products.
Bevan said the growth of the camping and caravanning may itself be symptomatic of economic difficulties, with many people downscaling to DIY holidays, away from hotels and guest houses.
BG Parts is a family affair, founded in Johannesburg by Bevan’s father who relocated to Knysna in 1977. They have since grown into one of the country’s foremost accessories suppliers, involved with many leading boat building yards and now starting to export. “We do a lot of work for the canoe and kayaking industry, and there we have a lot of stuff that goes to Oz and a few places in England and Europe. We are starting to push the export side.”
“It has been a slow build up to get to where we are today,” Bevan said.
The secret to their success? “It’s difficult to say – our quality is good, our prices are competitive, and our service has always been there. And maybe being here for so many years helps – the local boat industry has got to know us; when they need a certain part, they know it is available,” he said.
One of their fans is Cape Town boat builder Pete Adamo from Sentinel Boats who recently revived his two classic sailing boats, the Explorer and Challenger: “BG have helped us a lot when I’ve needed a new part, or a stronger part. They have made it for me and it has worked out very well.”