With three brands celebrating milestone anniversaries, SVP Worldwide is riding the couture wave
Who makes sewing machines?
If you said Singer, that’s a good place to start. Isaac Singer, a serial inventor, didn’t come up with the idea for the sewing machine. But when he innovated and patented improvements to those made by Lerow & Blodgett in Boston in 1851, he took machines that were difficult to produce and use and made them a commercial success. This led to a patent pool agreement with other industry leaders, and the resulting company, IM Singer & Co, made the Singer name synonymous with the sewing machine. Last year the brand, now owned by SVP Worldwide, celebrated 170 years as the premier name in couture.
But SVP Worldwide’s footprint in the couture world doesn’t stop there. They also own the Husqvarna-Viking and Pfaff brands. And Singer’s celebration was just the beginning, as Husqvarna turns 150 and Pfaff turns 160, both in 2022. “With the three anniversaries, we are in the unique position of being in three of oldest brands in our industry,” said Dean Brindle, CMO of SVP Worldwide. “Our employees and consumers are passionate about sewing. Each of our brands has a strong history of innovation, including many world firsts, such as the first electric machine, the first computerized machine and the first wifi-digital machines.”
SVP Worldwide, headquartered outside of Nashville, is owned by Platinum Equity and has 175 retail stores and a number of service centers across the United States, as well as regional headquarters and offices sales offices in Milan, Mexico City and Sydney, manufacturing plants in Brazil and Vietnam. , and in China, and an R&D center in Sweden. They sell over three million machines worldwide every year, covering 180 countries on five continents.
“Our brand portfolio represents more than a third of the sewing machines sold globally,” Brindle said. “Singer, with 80% awareness, is truly a global company. It has high-end machines, with prices ranging from $100 to $3,000, but not as high-end as Husqvarna and Pfaff, which range from $300 to $20,000. Through our brands, we serve the full range of sewing applications – mending and repairs, garment sewing, crafts and home decor, embroidery and much more.
As with manufacturers of almost all machinery these days, the company has a strong focus on technology. “Our investment in technology has accelerated in recent years,” Brindle explained. “We have a proven history of how to move into the digital age. Our latest connected machines are able to perform software updates and track user preferences. We introduced voice control which frees the user’s hands for other things.
The evolution of the customer base represents other new opportunities. “Our long-term committed consumers are buying their second and third machines,” Brindle said. “And sewing is growing at a rapid pace. Millennials are interested in customizing clothes, so our consumers are getting younger. Quilting is a big opportunity – it has grown dramatically during the pandemic. Interior decoration and craftsmanship have also increased in recent years. It’s all about the content, delivering projects to consumers right in their homes. Advanced functions are also an opportunity, especially embroidery using ribbons, beads and threads.
Integrating consumers into all of their businesses also offers growth potential. “High-end embroidery accessories are a good example of that,” Brindle said. “Another great opportunity for us is to get our consumers to use our needles. We produce our own needles in Brazil, and they are competitive. We know that 92% of consumers like to use our branded accessories, but sometimes can’t find them. This could be an opportunity for digital sales.
Consumer education and better use of automation are other considerations. “Our R&D team studies the complete user experience,” Brindle said. “Some of our technologies are over 100 years old. How can we improve this? Sewing can be intimidating, so it’s a matter of convincing people not to assume that sewing machines aren’t technologically advanced. In our industry, the most advanced machines are the easiest to use. In the long term, we are looking at additional use cases that we offer to seamstresses. How can we improve the way you assemble and sew a garment? Unique points? Better models? Beyond seamstresses, we also look at knitters and cross stitchers. For each of them, the output gives a sense of pride. We want to address the entire crafting space.
Having three brands that have combined for over 470 years in business, and also experiencing strong growth, is obviously an interesting place. “Passion drives our culture,” Brindle said. “The cool thing now is, ‘How can we continue to inspire a new generation?’ What I find unique in this industry is first of all that this consumer base is incredible. They practice these activities 10 hours a week on average, 20 if they are really passionate. They own two, three, even five machines is not really normal! We have consumers who have been doing this for over 40 years. Their passion is incredible. They will talk for hours about their machines. Many are not just sewers, they are great We even have some in our management team, people who have been seamstresses for years.
Like everyone in the industry, SVP Worldwide also has its challenges in the current business environment. “One of our big challenges is supply constraints,” Brindle said. “We’ve probably missed half a million units in shipments each of the last three years.” And the current COVID lockdowns in Shanghai may exacerbate that, as that’s where the company’s most advanced manufacturing facility is located. The pandemic has also been negative in other ways. “Every brand has at least one area that needs updating. But we actually put some development on hold thanks to COVID.
But with things opening up elsewhere in the world, Brindle is optimistic. “We have a solid five-year development plan,” he said. “We are going to extend digital to all three brands. We will focus on our brand loyal consumers, maintaining the brand while going digital. We will continue to grow – we have added 500 employees over the past three years. Our consumers are in high demand and want us to improve.
This includes customers of the most high-end machines. “We recently showed off a $19,000 machine with AI at a convention,” Brindle said. “The dealers were really excited. They loved it.”