THE GRABNER COMPANY HISTORY

HOW IT ALL BEGUN -

Family history

Wolfgang Grabner grew up at the town of Haag in 1947, shortly after World war 2, where he went to school e and spent most of his boyhood years. His Grandfather was a respected merchant, who established two businesses. Wolfgang Grabner was chosen to became the successor in 3rd generation.

His father was a passionate sporting activist and pioneer of many things. On one occasion in the 1930s he laboriously built himself a model air plane, with which he toured around.

He was specially keen on water sport. When a young child, everything focused around his own boat, and with it go a number of interesting “adventures afloat”. Particular vivid memory recalls the boat trip of almost 1000 Km down the river Danube. Like his father, Wolfgang became an enthusiastic hobby pilot, flying instructor, and most of all a keen boating fan, at home on all aspects of water sport. 

Training

Marked by the love for water sports, Wolfgang Grabner served his apprenticeship at a sports retail store at Linz. He remained and worked there for 15 years, initially as salesman, later promoted to assume procurement and management responsibilities. The years alongside his successful bosses Ludwig and Dietmar EYBL had shaped him, to develop the right instinct for business, perseverance and to preserve the right attitude to life even when things get tough.

Now, 40 years later – he still remains guided by their exemplary principles.

Company establishment and development

In 1975 Wolfgang Grabner established a manufacturing company at Stadt Haag producing sport accessories and life jackets. The initial 10 years generated rapid growth. The company expanded almost every year, and as time went on,  product lines became more ambitious and demanding .

By way of cooperation with the European Standards Committee GRABNERs were the first producer in the German speaking regions  under Euro norm -CE + GS product approval. Friendship with world class water-sport  activists raised the life jacket brand  to being  the sportive most  successful one worldwide, thus securing a competitive edge. 

Apart from live jackets the pallet of products comprised ski – surf- and  water-.sport accessories, which were sold worldwide into 40 countries and all continents. Between 1980 and 1985 manufacturing emphasis focused on the zenith of wind-surf boom.

There was a major setback in the mid80s. Within one year the hitherto growing surf market collapsed. At the same time climate change provided warmer winters with subsequent drop in the demand for ski accessories.  Those hard days  caused high cash flow problems and staff lay-offs.

The boat factory

A new chapter in company history commenced with the acquisition of the SEMPERIT inflatable boat factory. It was lucky coincidence that at the same time the German inflatable boat manufacturer METZELER ceased production and offered their production line for sale. Now GRABNERs were in a position to concentrate a most innovative line of boat manufacture from ecologically friendly caoutchouc, and to highest quality standards, at their highly modernized Kirchberg factory in Upper Austria. In 1998 the take over of another competitor, the BIG PACK boat programme completed specialisation on range of top quality inflatable boats.

There followed a phase of intensive research and development for a new generation of inflatable boats; the introduction of the revolutionary Canadian canoe “OUTSIDE” plus a new generation of rafting boats. They were a distinct break though. Further spectacular and unique developments had striking world market response, i.e.  ADVENTURE, EXPLORER, RANGER and RIVERSTAR. The travel-luggage-pack range of HAPPY CAT sailing catamarans reached astounding high sales figures.

During the last few years a lot happened. New boat models were developed and introduced. There have been a number of trend-setting innovations amongst small pack kayaks, Canadian canoes and travel-pack sailing catamarans. With regard to safety afloat a number of new products, i.e. the SWIMY learning to swim system for children has successfully been created.

Customer information, assistance, test events, worldwide marketing, owner-community

Significant importance is dedicated to customer information, advice and testing, i.e. trial before purchase. By way of 4000 informative internet pages, the GRABNER book, exhibitions , and a constant display at the GRABNER Boat-world information centre at the company´s location at Stadt Haag.

Product distribution is effected though experienced retail trade and service points . Their sales personnel is offered specific product training. In addition there is the factory outlet at the company location of Haag, and the world wide online-shop.

The company organises specific events for GRABNER boat owners, i.e. the international HAPPY CAT meeting, a sailing rally with regatta programmes for owners of earlier and latest models. That has over the years created an enthusiastic GRABNER boat owner community.

Worldwide market leader premium-quality and sustainability

Focus and concentration on quality- as well as product security standards, has raised GRABNER to be the worlds number one within the premium sector of travel-pack inflatable kayaks, Canadian canoes and sailing catamarans, supported by export figures to 63 countries. In order to leave an environment worth living, to future generations, sustainability will continue to remain high on the agenda.

That begins with the use of renewable resources, methods of production not harmful to humans and the environment, energy saving transport, unproblematic repair and 100 % recyclability even after decades. Several awards recognise those efforts.

Future care

By a intensive capital investment steps have been taken to secure the Austrian product location long-term. A recently installed modern vulcanisation-autoclave reduces energy demands and processing expenditure.

A new aluminium welder contributes towards reduction of production costs. Constant solution analysis and other measures to support, render the GRABNER company well equipped for the future,..always one length ahead. - The next generation is ready and forward looking to continue.

2015 will see the introduction of 2 new products. The MEGA being a 1-2 seater comfort travel-pack kayak, and the HAPPY CAT EVOLUTION a sensational sailing catamaran of astounding sailing performance.