Marine, Outdoor, Fitness, Automotive, and Aviation – the five fields Garmin enjoy great success in. Fitness has taken time to build because of the strength of competition, but in most areas, Garmin have been among the first (if not the first) to establish sat-nav technology. They’re a creative company, always innovating and pushing the boundaries of what they do, and runners, hikers, seafarers, pilots and drivers love them.

Their outdoor products are looking good, and we’ll feature some in a future issue in more detail. For now, Lori Rosset talks to SGB about some interesting product and the company’s profile…

SGB: The company’s profile has been raised significantly at consumer level – how has that come about?

Lori Rosset: The reason that our profile’s been raised is that we do it all ourselves, for ourselves. So instead of having an agency that will perhaps go out there and place a product here, there and everywhere, everything is done within Garmin to have a specific strategy. So for example, our product manager for fitness, the same guy for outdoor, used to run in triathlons; he absolutely loved them. So from that we now sponsor Hollie Avil, Alistair Brownlee and Tim Don. And the reason we do that is not only because they’re great for our brand, but because there’s a real empathy with what they do, because our product managers understand what they need.

It takes a little bit of time when you’re bringing companies to your audience to get it out there and to be completely honest, the way we’ve done that is by letting people try our products. So a lot of the media coverage has been through us sending products to journalists and letting them try them out, and get the word out.

SGB: If you’ve got faith in your product, that’s the way to do it.

LR: Absolutely. The other unique thing about Garmin is we are the only company in the world who operates across such large markets. So instead of like say just being a running company, we are across many markets, which means that we can take bits of engineering from different parts. So for example, everybody knows in-car sat-nav touch screen, we’ve taken that technology over and now our marine products are touch screen as well.

SGB: Could working across five markets also be seen as a weakness? Some of your competitors specialise in their markets.

LR: It could be seen as a weakness, apart from the fact that our R&D costs, our research and development costs, because we take from the whole of the company, mean that we can invest a lot more into research and development into a specific markets than a lot of other companies who only have one speciality to draw from.

SGB: If you’re keen on doing things in-house, including designing some great POS materials, why not distribute product yourselves?

LR: Our distributors, like SMG and Madison, have their own specialities that they’ve been working on for years, and their own relationships. And they’re bloody good at what they do. So why try and re-invent the wheel?

We find that having distributors to help us in that way helps us learn, because they’re on the front line with the retailers. They see a lot of them and it means the can feed back to us which is always useful.

SGB: What’s exciting for Garmin now, product-wise? There’s a lot of crossover interests in your product, isn’t there – from sports to outdoor, for example.

LR: There’s the Forerunner 310XT. This is Garmin’s first ever triathlete watch, and we’re very excited about it. The whole point of this is that it’s waterproof. You can use it to time your laps while you’re swimming, as Hollie’s doing. It’s shockproof, so you can use it on your bike and through running. It’s also got what’s called a virtual partner which I think you may have on your 205 that helps you to keep your current pace and time. It’s compatible with our cadence and speed sensor, and it’s also got transition periods. So if you’re training for a triathlon, you need to make sure that your transition periods don’t go over a certain time, so you can set up your whole workout for the triathlon. The RRP on that is £299.99.

There’s also the Forerunner 405CX, which is basically the same as our Forerunner 405 model in terms of the fact that it’s controlled by a touch bezel around the edge of the watch. It’s also got a virtual partner, you can great your own courses, your own workouts, set your own distances and paces etc to do all that kind of thing. But the main thing with this one is that its calorie algorithm is devised by your heart rate, so it is incredibly accurate.