28.04.2010

Innovations guarantee success:

VIKING increases market share

Despite a turbulent year, VIKING looks back at a successful 2009 season: The gardening power tool manufacturer again increased its market share in Europe during the last year. VIKING machines are particularly popular in Germany, Italy and England – the home of lawn mowing. However, the targets were significantly exceeded in Austria as well. With turnover at 106,1 million euros, market share was increased and the number of employees rose by approx. 14 percent from 219 to 250. The equity ratio grew to an impressive 70 percent. VIKING was thus able to further consolidate its position as a strong domestic company in Austria.

“Despite a reduction in the overall market by 25 percent, we were able to further expand our market share in 2009. With our ongoing innovations, we have succeeded in significantly improving our position. VIKING stands for high quality and a comprehensive product range with ever new and more advanced machines. This premium strategy has proved extremely successful,” says Managing Director Nikolas Stihl, summarising the past fiscal year. This assessment is also confirmed by the market monitoring results: VIKING will emerge even stronger from the turbulent year 2009. No redundancies or short-time work proved necessary. The international market developments also confirm this, as Nikolas Stihl illustrates with the example from the UK: “A particularly rewarding success in 2009 is the strong growth achieved in England. Lawn mowing has a long tradition there. The increased demand shows that we're on the right track.”

VIKING – a member of the STIHL Group
As a family-run business, the new gardening power tool manufacturer is not the plaything of controlling shareholders. VIKING has been a member of the STIHL Group since 1992. “We are not only part of the Group, but also an equal partner and exploit the arising synergies. The VIKING employees are proud to belong to the STIHL Group,” says Nikolas Stihl with pleasure. The two companies' product ranges – VIKING, with its lawn, robotic and ride-on mowers, garden shredders and tillers with petrol and electric drives, and STIHL with its hand-held machines with petrol engines or electric motors – complement each other perfectly. VIKING is a fully-owned subsidiary of STIHL International GmbH and benefits from the sales network of the global market leader for motorised saws. VIKING has brought the production of a variety of STIHL products to Langkampfen in the face of competition from within the Group. A current example is the STIHL battery hedge trimmer.
 

A year of innovations

The new iMow Series robotic mowers

In 2010, VIKING will introduce a new product in virtually all the market segments. One example are the iMow Series robotic mowers. Equipped with sophisticated advanced technology, these operate fully automatically, enabling mowing with cutting widths of 20 or 53 cm.

 The iMow models avoid obstacles and recognise the boundaries of the terrain, as well as negotiating slight inclines. For the customer, this offers a modern form of garden care, prefect results in the garden and enormous time savings.

For VIKING, last year was a year of further product development and innovations. “Our customers demand new products and innovative technologies. In difficult economic times, we have invested in forward-looking products and have thereby gained a competitive advantage with respect to other suppliers,” says Johann Weiglhofer, Product Development Manager, VIKING GmbH, proudly regarding the company's success.

“The innovative, high-quality products, the extensive specialist dealer network and the partnership with the STIHL Group provide an excellent base, so I also remain cautiously optimistic for this year,” says Nikolas Stihl regarding developments in 2010.

Further innovations in 2010
With its power and manoeuvrability, the new MT 5097 Z lawn tractor stands out among the VIKING lawn tractor fleet. All gardening enthusiasts, from amateur gardeners to professional users, can even look forward to four new shredders. “The new 4 Series shredders with petrol and electric drives now top the range. All gardening enthusiasts will find something that suits their particular gardening needs,” says Josef Koller, Production and Market Supply Manager, describing the VIKING machine range.

Furthermore, the two new MB 248 and MB 448 TX lawn mower models are being introduced in 2010. These two products are aimed particularly towards amateur gardeners. They are relatively inexpensive to purchase and perform simple mowing tasks to perfection. VIKING is able to adapt itself to any market and its specific requirements. It consequently produces numerous special mowers for various countries.

Special market successes

England as an increasingly interesting sales market for VIKING machines
Overall, VIKING has succeeded in further expanding its market share in Europe – despite slightly declining turnover. The year has been particularly successful in England. English lawns are renowned for their appearance, their lush, saturated green – no weeds stand a chance here. To have a beautifully-tended lawn such as this is the dream of many gardening enthusiasts. The key, however, is perfect lawn care. The English are well aware of this and are therefore increasingly turning to VIKING gardening power tools. Achieving the growth rates and acceptance levels that VIKING has in the “home of lawn mowing”, represents an outstanding success for a non-UK company.

Above-average success was also achieved in other European countries in 2009. In the German market, VIKING even performed significantly better than in 2008. Germany is one of VIKING’s most important export markets. Marketing campaigns in the Scandinavian countries have also reaped noteworthy successes. “In the past, we have invested a great deal of time and work in our broad, high-quality product range. We are therefore now reaping the fruits of our past efforts and are generally better positioned than our competitors. It is our objective to further expend the market share gained,” says the Sales and Marketing Manager of VIKING GmbH, Wolfgang Simmer, looking into the future with optimism.

Employees in focus
Training measures are writ large at VIKING: Needs-based training and further education measures are a matter of course for the Tyrolean company. Work returners are also actively supported when resuming their careers. For example, home office workplaces have been set up for half of the returners. “We also co-operate with a local private kindergarten. The “VIKING children” are extremely well cared for there,” adds Stihl. 50 percent of the mothers are already using this additional offering. Thanks to the flexible opening hours and the year-round service, work and family commitments can be balanced more effectively.

VIKING is particularly committed to its employees. “Our employees represent our greatest potential. The management crew’s most important task is to empower our employees to achieve that top performance. In this sense, management at VIKING can be regarded as a service,” says Stihl. Since 2008, personnel quality assurance has been supported by so-called “bottom-up feedback”. Here, managers are assessed by their employees using standardised questionnaires. Strengths and weaknesses are analysed and discussed.

“And the winner is…” – international awards for VIKING
In recent months, the VIKING employees in Langkampfen were delighted to receive no less than four awards. Freshly launched on the market, the GE 450 garden shredder has already been honoured: The worldwide coveted mark of quality, the “red dot design award 2010”, was conferred upon the VIKING garden shredder. 1,600 companies from 57 countries took part in the international competition. With its clever detail solutions with regard to functionality and innovative technology, the electric LE 540 scarifier earned the “Good Design Award 2009”. “We are thrilled to have received so many prizes for our products. These awards mean that the VIKING customers have even greater faith in our products,” says Wolfgang Simmer.

The MT 6127 ZL lawn tractor also succeeded in winning the “Good Design Award 2009”. A further huge success is the bestowal by the British Hardware Association of the “Best New Product” award for the MB 545 VR model. “Lawn mowing has a long tradition in England. British lawn mower owners place great value on a well-tended lawn and are highly critical with regard to the products,” says Managing Director Nikolas Stihl, which is why he particularly values this prize.
 

VIKING: Successful member of the STIHL Group
VIKING has been a member of the STIHL Group for 18 years. The VIKING gardening power tool range supplements the product range of the global market leader for motorised saws in an ideal way and the Tyrolean company profits from the support of the internationally-operating Group. VIKING is a fully-owned subsidiary of STIHL International GmbH and increasingly produces parent group products in addition to its core range in Langkampfen. VIKING has consistently asserted itself in the tough internal competition among the STIHL production sites.

Despite the worldwide financial crisis, the turnover of the STIHL Group in 2009 fell by only 4.9 percent to 2,037.5 million euros. Had currency parity remained the same as in the previous year, the fall in turnover would have been only 4.1 percent. The company was able to increase its equity ratio to 65.3 percent and thus further improve the solidity of the financial structure. In response to the crisis, STIHL has implemented a comprehensive cost-reduction programme. In the entire Group, more than ten percent of total costs were saved. At the same time, STIHL has redoubled its development activities with regard to future technologies