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New Nautilus CEO looks to expand product lines

New Nautilus CEO Bruce Cazenave, a former executive at both Black & Decker and Timberland, talks about his vision for the company, building strong brands and expanding product lines. Read on for the exclusive one-on-one with SNEWS.

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Bruce Cazenave, the new CEO at Nautilus, admittedly isn’t a fitness guru.

What attracted him to the brand was its stature and its name, said the 56-year-old now at the helm of the Vancouver, Wash.-based fitness equipment manufacturer. Still, he does like to stay in shape.

Cazenave, who joined Nautilus May 30, 2011, replacing Edward Bramson, was previously in executive positions at Black & Decker and Timberland, both strong names among consumers. And he said the Nautilus brand is just as strong, with a potential that could go way beyond workout equipment.

“I was very intrigued by the opportunity here,” he said he recalled thinking before taking the job. “Nautilus on its own, I viewed as a leader in health and fitness, and then I come to discover it includes Bowflex and Schwinn. At a time when both younger and older generations are placing more importance on a healthy lifestyle, that spells a lot of opportunity to me.”

The situation at Nautilus — a public company (NYSE: NLS) trying to recover from pre-recession financial struggles and the economic crisis, all while redefining itself — echoes that at Black & Decker 20 years ago when Cazenave became vice president and general manager while power tools sales were declining. Cazenave said the well-known brand didn’t have to limit itself to power tools – with a strong name it could grow into other related profitable areas, such as home décor.

Nautilus can do much the same in its industry, he said, by expanding into new fitness product lines with a brand name that stands for trusted quality.

“We were out of balance with the fitness industry,” Cazenave said. Already his predecessor had begun to move Nautilus away from being primarily a strength equipment company to one with more cardio products, and Cazenave said he will continue to diversify the company.

“Some of our innovations will be in the new definition of strength, such as functional training,” he said. Technology, which has increasingly become a larger part of fitness equipment, will also play a role, he said, but will focus on being simple and easy to use.

Cazenave also said sees opportunity to build the Nautilus brand abroad, building off his experience as Timberland’s chief operating officer in Europe from 1994-1998.

U.S. brands can be big in Europe, he said. “In the mid-90s, Timberland was a bigger brand in Europe than the U.S. as far as image goes. So what is Nautilus’ brand image there, and in Asia, and can we grow it?”

Cazenave declined to comment whether the future of the company was best situated as it stands now as a public company, or if he’d like to see it go private.

Nautilus faced a non-compliance warning from the New York Stock Exchange in September 2010 — noting it may be delisted if compliance with cap thresholds and share price were not met. The company’s compliance plan was accepted by the NYSE in December 2010, but it is subject to quarterly reviews through early 2012.

Since then, Nautilus was able to post its first quarterly revenue increase in nearly three years, and a profit for the first quarter 2011.

Cazenave is the Nautilus’ fourth CEO in as many years to try and turn around the company after Bramson, Robert Falcone, and Gregg Hammann held the post in the years since 2007.

Reaching consumers

Nautilus’ multiple access points to consumers – both retail and direct-to-consumer – is another aspect that attracted Cazenave to the post.

Bramson put a lot focus on building the direct-to-consumer market at Nautilus, which wasn’t necessarily the wrong strategy, Cazenave said. “The channels are blending – you almost can’t distinguish them, but you have to reach the consumer by how they buy.”

That means being flexible, Cazenave said, allowing consumers to buy and receive service for the products where they want to, not just one channel or the other.

“Our goal is to create demand for the product,” Cazenave said. “Where we sell it is the last 10-15 yards of the sale.”

David Clucas