- Strengths - Weaknesses -
Product Benefits Lack of Brand Equity
Innovation Small Niche Market
Recruitment of Key Personnel Durability of Solar Panels
Opportunities - Threats -
Technology Consumer Price Sensitivity
Health Trends Variable Cost of Inputs
Growth in Market Other Forms of Recreation
Green Trend Related Industry Competition
The primary internal strengths for SunTrek solar outdoor backpacks will come from our
product’s distinct product benefits and inherent innovation. Our product offers a solution
to a real market need, allowing outdoor enthusiasts the opportunity to transport valued
electronics with them during day trips or multi-day backpacking/camping treks.
Furthermore, with higher voltage panels, our pack is the only available in the market that
can charge larger electronics, such as laptops.
Next, our product will benefit from the recruitment of key personnel, including industry-
leading product designers. By recruiting the most proficient and competent product
designers in the industry through incentive packages, we can develop a competitive
advantage through research & development and set the market standard in terms of
product design and features.
Other internal strengths include proprietary knowledge and cost advantages from
business partnerships. Proprietary knowledge in the form of product design and
manufacturing processes will be established upon creation of the first prototypes and
marketing of our brand. Cost advantages will come in the form of special business
relationships with suppliers of our solar panels and the distributors of our products. We
hope to create exclusive contracts with both suppliers and distributors to leverage this
The principal internal weakness for SunTrek is its present lack of brand equity in the
market. Being a new company introducing a new product in an emerging market,
SunTrek lacks an established reputation, awareness among our target consumers, and the
brand strength to muscle retailers into avoiding slotting allowances and other fees that
retailers impose upon manufacturers to acquire shelf space in key distribution and
retailing channels. While this weakness will be alleviated with time as our product gains
a foothold among our core constituents and as we aggressively market SunTrek, a lack of
brand equity will remain a temporary weakness.
Another weakness for SunTrek is the fact that our outdoor solar backpack appeals to a
small niche market, limiting its potential scope and appeal to a wide consumer base. Our
primary target market includes outdoor recreational enthusiasts and eco-conscious green
consumers. While these segments are growing, their size pales in comparison to the
potential market for North Face products, which appeal both to outdoor enthusiasts and a
wide segment of consumers interested in fashioning highly respected merchandise
brands. Thus, the lack of a wide-scale target market could limit our profitability.
Finally, the durability of our photovoltaic solar panels could present a potential weakness.
While these panels are weather-resistant and are more durable than the average consumer
expects, SunTrek simply cannot offer the same level of durability as a standard outdoor
backpack, meaning that certain of our core consumers may feel inhibited about using our
product during intense outdoor excursions.
Technology - According to a leading renewable energy website, photovoltaic prices are
expected to decrease dramatically in the near future. Also, the World Watch Institute in
Washington D.C. declared that the global production of these cells has increased six fold
since the year 2000. Much of the demand has so far come from Germany and Japan.
Prices have yet to decrease dramatically due to capacity constraints, but increases in poly-
silicon production capacity are predicted to decrease costs dramatically as demand for
solar energy increases. Where poly-silicon production used to be directed by computer
chips, it is now mainly made for solar uses. This technological trend is predicted to
reduce solar manufacturing prices by 40%. This is good news for our product and will be
crucial in the future if we are to remain the number one provider of outdoor solar
backpacks. It is likely that our product will be somewhat expensive in its initial stages,
but will begin its acceptance right when material prices are likewise being reduced.
Other Technological Opportunities – The rapid advancement of technological progress
in this era is reflected by the constant development of smaller and more powerful
electronic components. It is a fairly safe bet that as technological advancement marches
ever onward people will begin to use more and more portable lightweight electronics in
their daily lives. Of course, for the makers of solar powered backpacks this is all good
news. So for us as marketers, the true opportunity comes with our realization that we
need to encourage this connection now. If we can shift our positioning from a luxury
product to a practical solution now then we stand a really good chance of becoming the
market standard when these devices actually are practical solutions.
Economic Conditions - IBIS World describes that the sporting goods market is highly
dependent on current economic swings and trends. Luckily for us, we will be introducing
our product when disposable income is relatively high. According to IBIS, disposable
income has shown consistent growth throughout the five-year period from 2002-2007.
Health Trends - An excerpt found through LIBOR stated that; The National Center for
Health Statistics (NCHS) found that adults with incomes at least four times greater than
the poverty level were twice as likely to engage in regular leisure-time physical activity
as adults with incomes below the poverty level. As people's real household disposable
income increases, they tend to spend more money on activities undertaken during their
leisure time. The steady increase in disposable income is therefore reassuring news for
our solar outdoor backpack. It will also be important therefore to focus our efforts on
opportunistic areas of higher income such as large sites like Portland, Oregon and Seattle.
The market for our outdoor solar backpacks faces several threats which could affect the
potential profitability and growth of our venture. The outdoor solar backpack is both a
high tech and a luxury good, and as such, its demand will be expected to fluctuate
considerably based on consumer purchasing power. During economic down-turns,
demand for solar backpacks will plummet as consumers turn to more inexpensive
alternatives (standard outdoor backpacks). Another threat facing the outdoor solar
backpack industry is the variable cost of inputs. A number of materials go into the
construction of an outdoor pack, including those that comprise the cloth material as well
as aluminum stays, delrin rods, polycarbonate and carbon fiber weaves. Additionally, the
cost of photovoltaic solar panels is variable and dependent upon scale economies and
demand. As the price of these inputs rises, we can expect manufacturers and retailers to
pass additional costs off to the consumer, which should have an adverse effect on demand
for our product. The market for outdoor solar backpacks also faces indirect threats from
electronics manufactures, who are constantly seeking improvements in battery life for
their products. As those manufacturers pour capital investment into improving the
longevity of an electronic product’s battery power, the need for a solar product to charge
those electronics decreases. Finally, the outdoor/camping equipment industry as a whole
must guard against the threat of alternative forms of recreational activity. Increased
competition from television, Internet, video games and other electronic media decreases
the amount of time consumers may spend enjoying outdoor recreational activities.
Who are our competitors?
For our industry, there are several key competitors that either make solar messenger/day
packs or standard extended trip bags. Companies that manufacture solar backpacks are:
Competitors that have considerable market share in standard extended trip bags are:
Jansport North Face
Who are the 3 or 4 competitors that have the greatest impact on our business?
From the previous two lists of our competition, the four companies that stand to make the
greatest impact on our business are:
Voltaic ~ www.voltaicsystems.com
North Face ~ www.thenorthface.com
Eclipse ~ www.eclipsesolargear.com
Marmot ~ www.marmot.com
Corporate Goals: Voltaic is not a corporation and does not have its goals plainly written
on its website. They are, however, clearly defined by both the stories written about the
company and interviews with its owner. According to Shane McQuade, the owner of
Voltaic, the company’s primary focus right now is on continued growth from the
development of sustainable products and the pursuit of new opportunities with positive
environmental impacts. According to Voltaic great products today are not only
environmentally responsible but also designed to facilitate and improve our lifestyles.
Positioning: Voltaic backpack provides stylish and fashionable accessories for
commuters and hikers who are environmentally conscious and willing to pay extra for
sustainable products. They are positioned as offering high quality for high cost. They
focus on providing a sustainable, environmentally conscious product that is both
functional and aesthetically pleasing. Their primary market segments are young
environmentally conscious professionals, and young tech savvy professionals who could
be considered the early adopters of innovative technologies.
Potential Threats from This Competitor: For the time being, Voltaic is still a small
company without much in the way of economic power or firm market share. However,
we still consider them to be our biggest competitor for the solar backpack niche. Since
Voltaic was essentially the innovator of the solar powered backpack they
have used their position as first mover to develop a successful line of
products while using clever public relations to get national media coverage
Voltaic Daypack for their products. Voltaic messenger bags come with a Lithium Ion battery
pack and an AC travel charger. In addition, the bags themselves are Voltaic Backpack
made of recycled PET plastics. We knew that we would have a hard time competing with
Voltaic head to head so we decided to focus on a niche group that we feel is largely un-
served by the current market. We are going to focus our product lines on providing
solutions for hikers, bikers, and campers instead of the laptop bags and daypacks that
every other company in the industry emphasizes. Despite this specialization there is
bound to be some overlap between our respective product lines which is why products
like the “Voltaic Backpack,” and the “Voltaic Daypack,” may negatively impact our
company. Both of those backpacks are large enough to compete with some of our
smaller bags which may result in decreased sales in those categories. .
Sales History: Since Voltaic is not a publicly traded company it
does not release its financial information to the public. The only
assumption that we can make regarding Voltaic is that it is doing
well. Voltaic's founder, Shane McQuade, said third quarter sales of
the $239 backpacks have already doubled sales achieved in the first half of 2005, and that
supply cannot always keep up with demand. Whether or not this is true McQuade started
Volteo in 2002 with only $15,000, so the fact that he is still in business says a lot about
the industry’s potential.
Corporate Goals: The North Face is currently a subsidiary of VF Corporation. VF
Corporation’s stated mission is to "grow by building leading lifestyle brands that excite
consumers around the world.” Long term financial objectives are as follows:
Sales growth - 8%
Return on capital - 17%
Operating margin -14%
Debt to capital ratio below - 40%
Dividend payout of - 30%
Positioning: The North Face has developed a superior reputation for quality,
performance and authenticity by providing technically advanced products capable of
withstanding the most extreme conditions. For nearly 30 years, the Company's outdoor
apparel and outdoor equipment have been the brand of choice for
numerous high altitude and polar expeditions. These products are
used extensively by world-class climbers, explorers and extreme
skiers, whose lives depend on the performance of their apparel and
equipment. To maintain and further enhance this unique legacy,
the Company continuously develops and introduces innovative
products that are functional and are designed to be both technically W Spire 33
superior and, in many instances, to set the industry standard in each product category.
The Company cultivates its extreme image through its targeted marketing efforts and its
teams of world-class climbers, explorers and skiers.
Potential Threats from This Competitor: The North Face currently does not have any
new products that would severely impact our business, but they do claim to be “the
world’s premier supplier of authentic, innovative, and technically advanced outdoor
apparel, equipment, and footwear.” The VF Corporation company also owns and operates
a chain of North Face brand stores which leaves us at a huge disadvantage in terms of
distribution channels. We will probably have to compete with North Face in nearly every
brick and mortar location we find. The fact that our products are so different, however,
makes me think that they will not be our primary competitor in this market. If North
Face decides to create a line of solar backpacks then all of us small companies could be
in serious trouble.
Sales History: Since North Face is a subsidiary of VF-Corporation none of the financial
statements will tell me revenues for North Face alone. Instead of giving the individual
sales data for North Face, VF-Corporation decided to lump all the sales
revenues from North Face and 6 other companies together into what they call
the “Outdoor Clothing Line.” To estimate North Face’s individual contribution
to the “outdoor clothing line” total I took the last know financial positions of
the other 6 companies in that category and extrapolated sales data out to the year 2003.
At first I based estimated annual growth percentages on the most recent growth patterns
available but whenever possible I used the annual growth percentages from VF
Corporation reports and financial statements. Once I had the total estimated value of the
other 6 companies I compared it to actual sales of the “outdoor clothing line” to get
estimated total annual revenue for North Face which is included below
Year - Est. Sales Rev.
2004 - $254.55 Million
2005 - $278.16 Million
2006 - $300.41 Million
North Face Estimated Annual Sales Revenue
(Millions of Dollars)
1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
Goals: Eclipse is a privately held company so it doesn’t have a corporate statement of
goals, but the owner does a good job of articulating his goals in one of his interviews.
The owner’s goal is to attract investors to the company so they can expand operations and
increase their market share before a larger company like VF Corporation comes in and
Cooler takes over.
Position: Eclipse is positioned as the reasonably priced mass production model of the
solar backpack. They do not seem to have any lingering preoccupation with energy
conservation or recycled materials, although maybe they should because Voltaic is
dominating them in terms of exposure, targeted segmentation, and profit margins.
Eclipse backpacks are meant to portray quality at an affordable price (bags sell for $100
less than voltaic bags.) Eclipse focuses on serving the "mobile consumer electronics user
and the outdoorsman." Their products are designed more for function than style, fashion,
or environmental responsibility. They have a wide and varied product line that includes
daypacks, messenger bags, bike bags, coolers, camera bags, and tackle boxes for fishing..
Potential Threats from This Competitor: New products from Eclipse have been
receiving a lot of publicity through the countless awards they have won for innovation
and consumer preference. Not only has the Fusion Messenger Bag been hyped in WIRED
Magazine, it has also been the recipient of the 2006 Innovations Design and Engineering
Best of Innovations by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). Other Eclipse
products have been publicized in Computer Shopper Magazine, U.S. News & World
Report, and the Austin Business Journal. The consistent publicity the Eclipse brand has
seen may impact our business by stealing coverage of our new product launch. The fact
that eclipse carries so many different kinds of products means that our product lines will
probably overlap quite often. This suggests that we will also be competing for customers
often and will have to come up with a way to differentiate our products in the mind of the
consumer. If eclipse continues to expand its product lines and we don’t react by matching
their new products or making new products of our own then we may get left behind
if/when the market ever takes off.
Sales History: There is no sales information available because eclipse is a privately held
company. However, in one interview the owner says that demand is so high that he can’t
keep up with it. Also, the fact that he is actively seeking capital to increase his production
capabilities leads us to believe that things look promising from where he is standing.
"The Reactor" series ™
Goals: Marmot grew from 7 dealers in 1974 to 11 in 1977. Marmot has grown since
1977. It is now headquartered in Santa Rosa, California. It has 650 authorized Marmot
dealers in the US. It now has offices in California, Colorado, Canada, Hong Kong, United
Kingdom, Sweden and Germany. Its products are distributed in 27 countries.
However, the company has not changed that much in twenty-nine years. It is still all
about the highest quality performance product.
Position: Although a much smaller company than North Face, their products are
positioned similarly. They offer top of the line, high quality outdoor apparel and
equipment (including different styles of backpacks.) Their products are positioned more
towards cutting edge function and quality, rather than style and fashion. Average
customer is serious outdoor adventurer.
Potential Threats from this Competitor: Marmot products, like the Eclipse line, have
been the recipients of several honors and awards in the last couple years. These honors
include National Geographic’s 2007 “Best of Adventure Gear” and the Editor’s Choice
for Backpacker magazine. Marmot stands to overshadow our products if our products are
not innovative and/or durable enough to catch the attention of publicists.
Sales History: Unknown, marmot is a privately owned company and they don’t give out
any information on their financial status.
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