Chatting with Marcel Fairbairn, founder and president Of Gear-Source, Inc., new US distributor for Coemar
1. Gear-Source, Inc. and LED Source now distribute Italy’s Coemar in the US. What is your plan for the brand?
The immediate plan is quite simple because Inner Circle Distribution did a good job before us. We’re not starting from ground zero but from a decent foundation. We’re a multidimensional company, and we’re handling this over our two companies, Gear-Source and LED Source. Anything with LEDs will be very traditionally represented by LED Source, and we need to increase Coemar sales on the LED side. We’ve split the company into entertainment, architecture, and retrofit on the LED Source side, and we’re going to focus on expanding Coemar for ParLite but also focus on finding other gems in the brand.
2. How does the brand work within that framework, as much of the inventory is used product and sold online?
Coemar already fits into what LED Source is doing. We have all those areas of expertise in rock ‘n’ roll, architainment, etc. so it makes a lot of sense. On the Gear-Source side, it’s more cutting-edge. Time will tell if a real brick-and-mortar distribution company was needed. The top companies out there accept what we do, so I can’t see why anyone else wouldn’t.
I actually had no interest in getting back into the moving light business. I’m not a moving light guy any more. I am perfectly happy being on the business side. That said, Gear-Source will strip off the fat of the product line and focus on five or six core products—basically the Infinity range.
As far as being a broker that has used products, we have people who have moving light experience, but we have this system that allows people to order gear on the Internet. We’re actually offering the product to more people than before.
3. Will sales stay online?
Yes, they‘ll be processed online, but it will be very similar to the way it was in the past, having relationships with designers, etc. I started looking for a frontline guy in my company, but we didn’t have that person, so I recently hired Jerry Mitchell as national performance accounts manager.
Our first goal was service. Jorge Bombino set up RoboLite as a service center in South Florida to exclusively service and provide warranty repair to Coemar products. He has an exclusive on Coemar parts and acts as one of our staff.
I didn’t think you could successfully start another distribution company. Our goal was not to do that. We leave the inventory in Italy. We already do $20 million in used gear, so we have great freight-broker relationships. Since everything is going to go by air, the price is built into the fixture. It’s a fat-free deal.
4. What’s different in the market from when you last worked for Coemar US?
Lighting and DJ turntables were in the same world—Coemar and Tracoman—and it was a complete disaster. It’s more challenging now. The market isn’t dictated by the LD as much as it was. Yes, you have those top designers who can get whatever they want, but often, stuff gets replaced.
There’s also a huge concern about Asian imports. Last time I had Coemar, it was a pretty easy run. Everyone else had sport utility vehicles, and we had a sports car, but then the [Martin Professional] MAC 2000 started to dominate and took over the market. In the end, I think innovation still wins, and Coemar is still one of the most innovative companies out there.
5. What’s your outlook for Coemar over the next year? The next five?
I’ve already done five-year sales projections, but how much more will Chinese products infiltrate the business? I don’t think we’ll ever have another 2007 in this business again. There will be consolidation on the manufacturing side. I happen to represent the one that has the most money in play and owner Mezzanine still has an interest in acquisitions.
Eastern European products will also continue to find their way into the market. I’ve seen it happening in Europe where they’re almost giving away the lights as long as you buy the service. What if that happens here? It’s kind of like giving away French fries if you buy the large Coke. Prices are also going down because there are a lot of efficiencies in the way we bring products to the customer.
Companies that didn’t have a lot to offer the industry are having trouble right now. Some are having trouble meeting payroll. We’re hearing it every day.
It’s definitely going to be a fun ride.