Foxconn Ownership Making A Difference At Belkin As Supply Tightens
Belkin has been the top accessories brand for CE retailers for several decades. First it was cables, then bags, then the US business expanded into connect technology and their current range of Apple accessories along with a premium range of wireless charging and Mag Safe accessories.
The number-one brand in the Australian accessory market, the business has gone from selling across multiple categories to today being “more focused and targeted” than in the past, with the Company now selling premium accessories such as docks and hubs, premium charging gear as well as a new range of audio products.
The premium quality of now-Foxconn-owned lkin products is one reason why the brand is heavily supported by Apple, who range the Company’s offering across all of their Apple Stores.
Belkin started in a garage at the home of Chet Pipkin, now Executive Chairman of the Board for Belkin, the current CEO being Steve Malony (CEO Belkin International).
While attending UCLA, Chet Pipkin, who was spending his time in local computer shops, saw the growing need for cables that would connect personal computers to new printers being released for home use.
In the 1980s he founded Belkin in his parents’ home in Hawthorne, California, to manufacture computer cables, which he began to sell to local computer shops.
As Pipkin’s cable connector sales grew he recruited assembly help from his machinist father, brother and a handful of friends.
In 1982, Pipkin left his university studies to focus on expanding the business, which quickly grew to be a key brand for retailers such as JB Hi-Fi in Australia, Best Buy in the USA, and Dixon’s in the UK.
In 2018, technology giant Foxconn, via one of their Hong Kong-based operations, paid Pipkin more than $1.1bn for control of the business and that became the turning point for the Company.
The Apple phone manufacturers also kept Pipkin on to steer the Company.
One person who has been around Belkin for close to 20 years is Australia & New Zealand Country Manager Stephanie Ogden.
She has worked alongside Chet Pipkin, who is a technology opportunist, who over the years has been able to quickly identify an opening and deliver a range of products that have driven sales for retailers.
I have known Pipkin for close on 30 years and he has not always hit hot home runs with the business, at times coming under pressure.
But this did not deter him.
I remember the day he purchased a design studio in LA.
At the time, Belkin products were often shipped in boring maroon packaging. Pipkin had worked out that in-store merchandising and industrial design was important and this was a skill the Company did not have inhouse.
One week after she acquired the business I visited the studio. That night I realised Belkin had identified a real opportunity, stylish packaging and well-designed products sold better and quicker than many of Belkin’s competitors.
Today, Belkin is one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies, competing in a brutally competitive market where products can die overnight, such as recently, when Apple moved to USB-C connectors leaving several accessory suppliers with surplus stock.
In Australia, Belkin is confident their ownership by the world’s largest technology Company will help them steer a path through the chronic shortage of components.
“We are in a better position than a lot of our competitors due to our Foxconn ownership. We can switch products between plants in Vietnam and China if needed,” says Ogden.
“We have an excellent planning team who work daily with our US planning team, and this is helping us to smooth out supply issues.”
Ogden admits the Australian market is cluttered with distributors and brands offering accessory options.
“This is the reason we have focused on key products that consumers want,” she says.
“We want to deliver a good end-user experience, and to do that we need to deliver quality products and a brand that consumers trust.
“We are staying in the laneway we know, with a portfolio of products that attract a premium price.
“We are not selling in bulk or cheap products by the container load. We have well designed and well thought out products that deliver productivity for people who buy Belkin products”.