With Three Brands Celebrating Milestone Anniversaries, SVP Worldwide Is Riding the Sewing Wave

Updated: May 18

By Forbes

This article was published in Forbes April 28, 2022.

Who makes sewing machines?

If you said Singer, that’s a great place to start. Isaac Singer, a serial inventor, didn’t come up with the idea of the sewing machine. But when he innovated and patented improvements to the ones made by Lerow & Blodgett in Boston in 1851, he took machines that were difficult both to produce and use, and made them a commercial success. That led to a patent-pooling arrangement with other industry leaders, and the resulting company, I. M. 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 top name in sewing.

But the SVP Worldwide footprint in the sewing world doesn’t stop there. They own the Husqvarna-Viking and Pfaff brands as well. And the Singer celebration was just a start, since Husqvarna celebrates 150 years and Pfaff turns 160, both in 2022. “With the three anniversaries, we’re in the unique position to be in three of the oldest brands in our industry,” said Dean Brindle, CMO of SVP Worldwide. “Our people and consumers are passionate about sewing. Each of our brands has a strong history of innovation including many world's firsts, like the first electric machine, the first computerized machine, and the first wifi-digital machines."

SVP Worldwide, headquartered outside Nashville, is owned by Platinum Equity and has 175 retail stores and a number of service centers across the U.S., as well as regional headquarters and commercial offices in Milan, Mexico City, and Sydney, manufacturing plants in Brazil, Vietnam, and China, and an R&D center in Sweden. They sell over three million machines globally each year, covering 180 countries on five continents.

“Our portfolio of brands represents over one-third of sewing machines sold worldwide,” Brindle said. “Singer, with 80% brand recognition, is truly a global company. It has premium machines, with prices ranging from $100 to $3,000, but not as premium as Husqvarna and Pfaff, which range from $300 to $20,000. Across 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 the producers of just about any machine nowadays, the company is focused heavily on technology. “Our investment in technology has accelerated the past few years,” explained Brindle. “We have a proven history of how to shift into the digital age. Our newest connected machines are able to do software updates and track user preferences. We’ve introduced voice control that frees up the user’s hands for other things.”

Changes in the consumer base represent other new opportunities. “Our long-term engaged consumers are buying their second and third machines,” said Brindle. “And sewing is growing at a rapid rate. Millennials are interested in personalizing garments, so our consumers are getting younger. Quilting is a big opportunity–it’s been growing significantly during the pandemic. Home décor and crafting have both been increasing over the past few years as well. It’s all about content, giving consumers projects direct to their homes. Advanced functions are an opportunity as well, especially embroidery using things like ribbon, beads, and yarn.”

Bringing consumers into the fold across the scope of their businesses offers growth potential too. “Accessories for premium embroidery are a good example there,” Brindle said. “Another big opportunity is for us to get our consumers to use our needles. We produce our own needles in Brazil, and they’re cost-competitive. We know 92% of consumers like to use our branded accessories but sometimes can’t find them. It could be an opportunity for digital sales.”

Consumer education and better use of automation are other considerations. “Our R&D team is looking at the full user experience,” said Brindle. “Some of our technology is over 100 years old. How do we improve that? Sewing can be intimidating, so it’s convincing people not to assume that sewing machines aren’t technologically advanced. In our industry, the most advanced machines are the easiest to use. Long-term, we’re looking at what additional use cases we’re making for sewists. How do we improve how you put together and sew a garment? Unique stitches? Better patterns? We’re looking beyond sewists to knitters and cross-stitchers too. For all of them, the output gives a sense of pride. We want to address the whole crafting space.”

Having three brands that combine for over 470 years of business, and experiencing strong growth as well, is obviously an interesting place to be. “Passion is what drives our culture,” Brindle offered. “The cool thing now is, ‘How do we continue to inspire a new generation?’ What I find unique about this industry is, first, this consumer base is incredible. They engage in these activities for 10 hours a week on average, 20 if they’re real enthusiasts. They own two, three, even five machines–that’s not really normal! We have consumers who’ve been doing this for over 40 years. Their passion is amazing. They’ll talk for hours about their machines. A lot aren’t just sewists–they’re super-users. We even have them on our executive team, people who’ve been sewists for years.”

As with everyone in the industry, SVP Worldwide has its challenges in the current business environment too. “One of our big challenges is supply constraints,” Brindle said. “We probably missed a half-million units in shipments each of the past three years.” And the current COVID lockdowns in Shanghai may exacerbate that since that’s the location of the company’s most advanced manufacturing facility. The pandemic has been a negative in other ways as well. “Each brand has at least one area that needs to be updated. But we actually put some development on hold through COVID.”

But with things opening up elsewhere in the world, Brindle is optimistic. “We have a strong five-year development plan,” he said. “We’ll be expanding digital across all three brands. We’ll be focused on our brand-loyal consumers, on maintaining the brand while going digital. We’ll continue to grow–we’ve added 500 employees over the past three years. Our consumers are high-demand and want us to get better.”

That includes customers for the highest-end machines. “We showed a $19,000 machine with AI at a convention recently,” Brindle said. “The dealers were really excited. They loved it.”

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