Bat maker gets to grips with online market

Add a comment
Kayne and Colin Henderson with their new Centurion cricket bats. Photo/supplied
Kayne and Colin Henderson with their new Centurion cricket bats. Photo/supplied

The Bay of Plenty's Centurion - a well-known cricket bat maker in the 1980s and 90s - has been reborn as an internet-based business-to-consumer company to meet a need for more affordable cricketing gear, say the owners.

Centurion was originally founded in 1985 by Colin Henderson, who got his start managing the Newbery cricket bat factory in Tauranga. When Newbery closed down the New Zealand business, Mr Henderson decided to set up in business for himself.

"I went to England and learned more from various people and it just went on from there," said Mr Henderson.

He became a master cricket bat maker, crafting all parts of the bats himself and for the next decade Centurion did well, with the likes of Jeff Wilson endorsing the bats.

"Cricket was really taking off in New Zealand then and there was a good market," said Mr Henderson. "But cricket started to fall away in popularity, the market began to drop off, and it got very hard."

Read more: Domain upgraded vital to revitalise CBD

Eventually, in the mid-1990s, Centurion closed down, although Mr Henderson kept his hand in making and repairing bats.

However, in recent years - as reflected by the capacity turnout for the Sri Lanka-Black Caps games at Tauranga's Bay Oval - cricket's popularity has picked up again.

And when Colin's oldest son Kayne returned from a stint working abroad, his experience provided the spark that saw Centurion get a new lease of life.

Kayne and his younger brother Mathew both attended Tauranga Boys' High.

Kayne captained the college XI and both became keen and accomplished club cricketers.

Mathew eventually became a photographer, while Kayne spent a decade working for sporting goods giant adidas, which included a four-year stint in the company's German head office.

I had exposure in Germany to the way things get made in the sporting goods world," he said. "But when I came back here, I felt the gear wasn't affordable for people to continue playing the game.
Kayne Henderson

He noted the rising popularity of the game. But he was shocked on coming back to New Zealand a couple of years ago, at the high prices of cricket gear.

"I had exposure in Germany to the way things get made in the sporting goods world," he said. "But when I came back here, I felt the gear wasn't affordable for people to continue playing the game."

Mr Henderson also felt the after-sales service of some retailers left something to be desired.

"Affordability and service were the main drivers for starting up the business again. We felt there was a gap in the market.

"We put out a few feelers and found there was a still a lot of brand recognition for Centurion. Dad did a great job in building up the brand back in the 1980s and 90s and to follow on from that was a no-brainer really."

Centurion was relaunched in late 2014, with Colin Henderson and his two sons each taking one-third shares in the company. But the model has been evolved from the days when the founder made everything from scratch.

"We looked at that and decided that approach wasn't efficient anymore," said Kayne Henderson.

Instead, he tapped into sources he had developed while working at adidas and identified a factory in India which can supply bats to Centurion's specs. The bats are imported and then quality-controlled, branded and tweaked as required for the customer by Colin Henderson.

We saw the game had become too expensive. We want to make the game a bit more affordable and encourage people to stay in the game longer.
Kayne Henderson

"Dad uses his expertise. He's able to take weight out and rebalance them if required by the customers."

The service element includes preparing the bats so they go out oiled and ready to play, as well as offering an annual bat WOF, where customers can send their bats back during winter to have them checked for the new season.

Auckland-based Mathew Drake, said he "got a fright" when, wanting to get back into social cricket, he found out how much prices had gone up since his younger playing days.

He found sports shops charging around $1500 for a good English willow bat.

"I couldn't justify that for Thursday evening social cricket," he said. "I bought a bat from Centurion in late November for around $650 that was of comparable quality."

Centurion has begun to diversify and this month took delivery of its first order of Centurion gloves and pads, which are also being made for the company in India. Pakistan may become a source for gear as well.

The family is building the business up slowly - all three members continue to work at their day jobs, Colin as a builder in Tauranga, Kayne as an insurance broker in Auckland, and Mathew as a photographer in New Plymouth.

"We're taking our time," said Kayne Henderson, who noted that New Zealand had been slower than some countries to pick up on e-tailing.

"For us it's more about the why. We saw the game had become too expensive. We want to make the game a bit more affordable and encourage people to stay in the game longer."

The growing popularity of the Black Caps had definitely been a factor in starting up Centurion again, he added.

"You go down to the clubs now and see the young kids playing the game. We want to keep as many of these kids in the game as possible, rather than them getting to their teenage years and finding their parents can't afford to keep them in gear.

"We're trying to harness that enthusiasm and keep them in the game longer so potentially the depth of cricket in this country is maintained."

- Bay of Plenty Times

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

Have your say

1200 characters left

By and large our readers' comments are respectful and courteous. We're sure you'll fit in well.
View commenting guidelines.

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 02 Oct 2016 11:34:55 Processing Time: 977ms