Lloyd’s ManPans experiment ‘promising’

Journal of Business

By David Cole

Spokane Valley maker of pans taps consumer market, to sell directly

SPOKANE, WA- Lloyd Industries Inc., a Spokane Valley maker of pizza pans and other equipment primarily for the restaurant industry, says its experiment this year to introduce a product aimed at consumers – some rugged cookware called ManPans – is showing “promising” results.

Meanwhile, however, the company has abandoned another initiative it had launched early this year, in which it began selling all of its products through distributors, rather than directly to customers, says Rob Crow, the company’s general manager.

Lloyd Industries’ new line of ManPans includes 10-inch to 12-inch diameter fry, saute, and sauce pans, as well as stir-fry woks that are made of aluminum with a two-layer mineral coating that will not chip, flake, or rub off and that sell at retail for $60 to $89, Crow says.

“They’re not intended to look pretty,” he says. “They’re meant to be used,” and be functional.

The company currently is selling the pans through a Web site it set up, at www.manpans.com, Crow says. He says Lloyd Industries isn’t looking for retail stores that would carry the pans because he believes the mark-up retailers would have to add to the price of the pans would be too high.

Targeting consumers is a departure for Lloyd Industries, which until now mostly has sold to restaurant chains and institutional customers. About 80 percent of its sales currently come from its pizza pans and other equipment for pizza chains, such as Domino’s Pizza. It also makes cake and dessert pans for large commercial bakeries and schools, which bring in the other 20 percent of its sales.

The ManPans venture is “almost an experiment,” in that the company doesn’t have experience selling retail, Crow says. “We have fairly extensive experience selling to restaurants and commercial applications. We are still discovering how to effectively market to end users and consumers.

Sales of ManPans so far have been “promising,” he says.

The company earlier had tried a similar experiment with a line of cake and dessert bakeware aimed at the consumer market, but that failed he says. The demand for the cake and dessert pans was low, and the dollars per item sale were too low, he says. ManPans are expected to be just the opposite, he says.

“ManPans are universally more in demand. Anybody who cooks has a skillet,” Crow says. “We’re tapping into an existing need.”

Eventually, the company would like to sell ManPans to restaurants, he says.

Separately, Crow says Lloyd Industries decided this spring to abandon a new strategy it put into place at the first of the year in which it would sell all of its products through restaurant-equipment distributors. Now, it has returned to its earlier method of selling products directly to customers using its own sales team, he says.

“It was too hard to translate what we do into a distributor,” Crow says. Ultimately, what we concluded was that distributors were better suited to a standard product line.”

He says Lloyd will continue to sell products through distributors that have a customer who requests Lloyd Industries products, but otherwise relationships with distributors don’t make sense for the Spokane Valley company.

“It takes us quite a while to get somebody up to speed when they deal with our products full time,” Crow says. “It takes a lot of specific product-line knowledge” to sell Lloyd’s wide variety of products.

He says a portion of the company’s main Website, at www.lloydpans.com, is being designed to be user-friendly for commercial chains that place orders directly with Lloyd Industries.

“That’s something we are in the midst of as we speak,” he says.

Crow declines to provide sales figures for Lloyd. Sales fell somewhat in 2008, but that was after a great year in 2007, he says. The company cut about five jobs early this year, and returned to profitability in February. August, Crow says, was a “fantastic month,” as pent-up demand began to be released.Restaurants had held off on purchases, but wanted to get ready for the busy season now that summer is over, he says.

“Couple that with August being a normally large month for us,” he says.

Lloyd Industries currently employs 28 people and leases about 40,000 square feet of space at the Spokane Business & Industrial Park.