We sat down with Bismonte, a Lowrance distributor based in South Africa, to hear about their history and thoughts about the market.
Thank you Liz for taking the time to speak with us! In a few sentences, could you tell us a little bit about Bismonte.
Bismonte Trading is the longest standing independent Lowrance distributor. We started importing Lowrance back in 1982. In those days it was directly from Lowrance in Tulsa, USA.
We take Lowrance very seriously, and each member of staff is very dedicated to the brand. We are not the biggest company, but we have a big footprint in the South African boating industry.
Because we love, what we do and all enjoy working together as a Team, we have a positive work environment, which lends itself to our success. When the staff is happy and motivated, then the customers are happy, and the company benefits.
What does success mean for your business?
Success for us is being recognized as a respected player in the industry – not only by the anglers in Southern Africa for supplying a superior brand, but also by our dealers for service and supply. And ultimately, being valued by Navico, our prime supplier. With recognition comes growth, and we take great pride in seeing the company grow from year to year, as all the facets of sports fishing embrace the brand.
Tell us a bit about your market.
South Africans are passionate about their angling. The anglers are very knowledgably and research their options before purchasing. It is therefore important that we know our product and use it ourselves. Product knowledge is a high priority for us, as it enables us to pair the angler with the right product for his requirements. Ultimately, this leads to a happy angler.
South Africa is a massive country with a long coastline from the cold Atlantic Ocean in the South to the warm Indian Ocean on the East Coast. Ocean angling is therefore an important market for us, as we are one of the top suppliers of marine electronics to sports fishing vessels up to 30 ft.
South Africa has no natural lakes, but the country is blessed with many, many artificial dams, boasting bass, carp and many other freshwater species, so inland angling is probably our biggest market. In addition we are blessed with a favourable climate, which allows for fishing all-year-round
We are lucky that Lowrance covers all sports fishing aspects: Bass fishing; Saltwater fishing; Specimen Carp; Artlure and we supply units to anglers using kick-boats or kayaks to fancy bass-boats and 30’ deep-sea fishing boats.
What makes your company different/successful in this market?
We take pride in importing superior products, and we back it up with what we believe is the best service in the industry. (Not many companies have 24-hour telephone back-up service.) Our Mission Statement is “Friendly – Helpful – Professional.”
Our customers trust us, because they know that we “live our brand”. We support and invest in the angling community by sponsoring numerous fishing competitions throughout South Africa.
We make an effort to be present at most of the competitions, so we can provide service and advise to the competitors, who use Lowrance – and of course we take the opportunity to show off the latest models.
Our staff is also active in the market by fishing in local competitions, using the company boat. Anglers would rather listen to other anglers, before listening to a salesperson without personal angling experience, so this exposure and integration in the angling community goes a long way in gaining their trust.
What do you think is the key to a successful supplier / distributor relationship?
No doubt about it: Communication and product training!
As importers, we need to have the answers before the angler reads it on the web, so any and all information (including software upgrades and any known problems) must be communicated to us.
How does Lowrance stack up against the competition?
Lowrance has always been respected as the industry leader. A few years ago, Navico decided to focus their efforts in growing other areas of the market, which didn’t really favour us, as we are solely importers of Lowrance.
While Navico had their focus on the commercial and yachting market, R&D efforts for Lowrance took a back-seat. We did suffer, because competitors were releasing sought-after technologies before us. But we are happy to say, that this is no longer the case!
Happily, Lowrance is now back and charging full steam ahead with great products. The Ghost is a great example and although it took a while, it is good to see that new products, such as the Active Target is not only stacking up against the competition, but is in fact clearly better.
How long have you been working with Navico and what’s the relationship like?
We have worked with Navico from the very beginning, when Lowrance and Simrad amalgamated under Navico (2006). We have been fortunate to work with some excellent Navico staff, with whom we have a great relationship. From technical help to dispatch, sales and marketing.
We are lucky to have had many Navico staff visiting us in South Africa, so they could experience our market and fishing style. This has resulted in great relationships over the years, so we really feel like part of the Navico Team.