In this industry, few things have seemed as unchanging as the market for gel; the trio of Rosco, Lee, and GAM Products has dominated the action for a very long time. That changed last fall when Fort Wayne, IN-based Apollo Design Technology introduced a new line of gel just before LDI 2000.
Apollo always sold metal patterns and glass filters, so gel is well within the parameters of the existing product line. Still, Joel Nichols, president of Apollo, admits, "If, a year and a half ago, you had asked me about Apollo entering the gel market, I would have told you I didn't anticipate it." So what happened? "We started to find that many of our dealers didn't feel they were being serviced in the gel area. We're not introducing a product that the market can't otherwise get, but we think we can present a product and service it better than anybody else. We have a good dealer base, a good distribution network, and a good group of people to back it up."
Service, in the world of gel, means delivering the exact order on time, he says. "I would guess that somewhere between 20 and 30% of dealers buying gel are not getting the product exactly as they want it. That's a huge market right there. One dealer told me he had 60 line items on back-order." To deal with that situation, he adds, "We've got to buy enough stock, to make sure we can ship it when the customers need it. In the past year, fewer than 1% of our orders ever got into a back-order situation. That's not part of how we do business."
Apollo currently has about 100 stock colors; the gel is coated stock made of a heat-resistant polyester. The company also sparked controversy in the industry by using a name and number system that is very similar to Rosco's. However, Nichols says, "We're distinguishing our numbers by putting the letters AP in front of them. That way, the end user knows he has an Apollo product. We were adamant that we didn't want dealers to do blind substitutions." In any event, Nichols says, the controversy appears to be fading.
As for this year, Nichols says the company plans to add color-correction gels, probably in March. As for other new products, he adds, "We are looking at some new things, but we don't anticipate anything major this year. 2000 was very busy. We moved into new facilities in June. We hired 17 people in three months. 2001 will be about regrouping, settling down, letting our new products shake down a bit. Also, we're going to concentrate on systematizing customer service."
For more information about Apollo products, check out the company's website at www.internetapollo.com.