You can flick a BIC, write with a BIC, shave with a BIC, and even sail and dial a BIC. Société BIC, the French consumer products company, makes the ubiquitous lighters, pens, and shavers. BIC sells its products in more than 160 countries. Its primary retail outlets include stationery stores, tobacco shops, drugstores, supermarkets, and office supply stores. BIC also offers custom-printed advertising and promotional products, and its brand can be found on surfboards, kayaks, and other water sports products, as well as on prepaid cell phones. Founder Baron Marcel Bich launched the BIC Cristal ballpoint pen in 1949, which has grown to hold the #1 spot in Europe and #2 spot in North America.
Stationery products (such as pens, pencils, highlighters, markers, crayons, and correction items) are BIC's top sellers, generating about 40% of revenues. Lighters (disposable, utility, and special-edition) contribute some 25% of sales, and shavers (men's and women's) bring in more than 15% of sales. Other products (water sports gear, promotional items, cell phones) account for the remaining roughly 15% of revenues. BIC's other products category has grown in recent years as the company diversified its offerings amid the global economic downturn.
Despite the market turmoil, BIC has pursued acquisitions with high-growth potential to strengthen its business. Such has been the case with its advertising and promotional products operations. In mid-2009 the company acquired Norwood Promotional Products, a top US supplier of customized non-apparel promotional items (such as calendars, bags, and mugs). The Norwood deal expanded upon BIC's purchases of promotional products companies Antalis Promotional Products in 2009 and Atchison Products in 2007. (At the start of 2010 BIC began segmenting its advertising and promotional products sales into its own reporting category.) BIC has likewise been fired up by alternative fuels. In early 2011 the company acquired Sologear, which makes ethanol-based fuel for barbecue grills under the FlameDisk brand, as well as Sologear's ethanol-solidifying technology. Wisconsin-based Sologear generated less than €1 million in sales in 2010, however, BIC sees promise in the startup. The company says adding Sologear to its portfolio offers chances to grow in the US's sizzling barbecue and grilling segment and complements its multipurpose lighter offerings.
North and Latin America, along with Oceania, account for about 60% of the company's revenue, with the remainder coming from Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. BIC in 2009 acquired a foothold in India through its purchase of some 40% of Cello Group's writing instrument business for about $161 million. The deal helps both companies to expand their presence in India. Cello is India's largest maker and seller of writing instruments. Outside of its home market, where Cello boasts a more than 35% market share, the company is present in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.
The founding Bich family owns about 45% of BIC's stock and controls more than 50% of its voting power. – less