BIC is a French group founded on October 25, 1945, by Marc Bich. Known for its pens, it also sells stationery, razors, lighters, as well as sports equipment. BIC is controlled by its largest shareholder, the Bich family (44.8%). The company’s head office is located in Clichy.
|CEO name||Gonzalve Bich|
|Legal status||Anonymous society|
|Stock||Euronext: BB, Next 150 index|
|Slogan||“Bic fait, bien fait” (“Bic done, well done”)|
|Headquarters location||Clichy (Hauts-de-Seine)
|Turnover||€2.23 billion (2022)|
|Net profit||€209 million (2022)|
History of BIC
1950s: Genesis of the brand
On October 25, 1945, the company PPA (Penholder, Mine Holder and Accessories) began in France; Marcel Bich, former production manager of an ink factory, is the CEO and Édouard Buffard the production manager. The company settles in a factory in Clichy and manufactures spare parts for fountain pens and pencils.
The company bought the patent for the ballpoint pen invented by the Hungarian László Biró in 1938, and launched in 1950, the Bic Cristal ballpoint pen, developed in particular by Marcel Bich, hence its name, a pen that has sold more than one hundred billion copies since. In 2021 again, it is the best-selling pen in the world.
In 1953, Marcel Bich and Édouard Buffard created a company that took the name BIC, easier to identify and pronounceable in all languages. A year later, BIC expands in Italy. It was in 1956 that the company launched the “M10 retractable tip pen”, and established itself in Brazil.
In 1957, the company established itself in the United Kingdom, as well as in the Sterling area, Australia, New Zealand and Scandinavia. In 1958, the acquisition of the American company “Waterman Pen Company” allows BIC to establish itself in the United States while continuing its development in Africa and the Middle East. In 1959, BIC acquired the Swedish company Ballograf.
The 1960s: the beginning of brand diversification
In 1961 new tungsten carbide beads are marketed, they improve writing and reduce ink dripping. The company launches a range of fine-tipped pens, recognizable by its so-called “Orange” color, a color that has been protected by a patent filed by BIC.
On November 20, 1962, BIC launched a range of three luxury ballpoint pens. Chromed, Luxury and Grand Luxury (half of the body executed in double gold laminate). This range will be almost ignored by the public.
In 1965, the Ministry of National Education authorized the use of ballpoint pens in schools.
In 1969, the advertising branding business in the United States was launched. A year later, the Bic 4 colors is launched.
BIC was listed on the Paris Stock Exchange on November 15, 1972.
7 years later, in 1979, the Conté company joined the group. In 1981, the group diversified into the leisure industry with its subsidiary “BIC Sport”, specialized in windsurfing. In 1985, the “BIC Mini lighter” was launched and in 1991 the company launched the “BIC Electronic” lighter.
In 1992, BIC took over the American brand of correction products Wite-Out.
In 1993, she launched the woodless pencil “Conté Evolution”, and in 1994, she launched her 2-blade razor and razor for women.
The group began its expansion into Eastern Europe in 1995, and in 1996, BIC Graphic Europe was founded. In 1997, BIC acquired the Tipp-Ex brand, the European leader in correction products, and Sheaffer, a brand of high-end writing instruments. The company arrives in Asia.
In 1998, BIC launched the “Mini Tronic” lighter, and in 1999, launched the “Softwin” razor, with a pivoting head and lubricating strips.
In 2000, a writing instrument factory opened in Marne-la-Vallée. In addition, BIC launches the “Megalighter” multi-purpose lighter and launches the gel and liquid ink rollerballs. Two years later, the group launched BIC Sport lighter cases and kayaks, and in 2003, its 3-blade razor “BIC Comfort 3” for men and, in 2004, the women’s razor “BIC Soleil”. The same year, she launched the “BIC Disney Magic Artist” coloring range. The group acquires Stypen SA and BIC Kosaido Shoji which will take the name BIC Kosaido kK. The band broke away from Ballograf.
In 2005, the management announced the launch of “BIC Comfort 3 Advance”.
In 2006, BIC acquired the Brazilian company Pimaco, specialized in the manufacture and distribution of adhesive labels. A year later, it bought the American company Atchison Products Inc., a manufacturer of promotional bags personalized by advertising marking.
In 2008, BIC, in partnership with Orange, launched the “BIC Phone”. That same year, the group opened a packaging platform for razors in Mexico and acquired Antalis from the Sequana group. In 2008, the BIC group acquired 40% of six entities of the Indian group Cello (out of seven entities) and the American Norwood Promotional Products.
In 2010, the group sold the funeral products activities of “BIC Graphic”. And in 2011, the group separated from Pimaco’s B-to-B business in Brazil and Reva’s clothespin business in Australia. He acquired Sologear LLC, manufacturer of FlameDisk, and Angstrom Power Incorporated, a company specializing in the development of portable fuel cell technology.
In 2012, the razor packaging plant in Mexico is expanded. In September, BIC Group and Intel launched “BIC Education”, an educational solution for primary school, combining handwriting and digital.
In 2013, BIC Group finalized the acquisition of the last (seventh) entity of the Stationery business of the Indian Cello Group and acquired land for the construction of a lighter factory located in Nanton, China, but sold Sologear LLC, manufacturer of FlameDisk purchased in 2011.
In August 2014, Sheaffer was sold to A. T. Cross Company for fifteen million dollars, while in 2015, the portable fuel cell technology was sold to Intelligent Energy. The Cello Group sells the remainder of its stake in Cello Pens to the BIC Group.
In 2016, BIC launched the “3 colors + 1 yellow highlighter”. In addition, the Shanghai stationery factory in China is closing.
In 2017, the group launched the “3 colors + 1 graphite mine” and inaugurated a new BIC plant in Samer (Pas-de-Calais). BIC Graphic’s North American and Asian sourcing operations are sold to H.I.G. Capital. The Indian subsidiary “BIC Cello” acquires land for the construction of a new factory in Vapi in the state of Gujarat.
In November 2018, the BIC group received an offer from Estonian Tahe Outdoors to buy its subsidiary “BIC Sport” specialized in water sports (paddle, windsurf, kayak …).
On January 4, 2019, employees at the Vannes production site went on strike to protest against the implementation of a job protection plan. With the planned sale of BIC Sport to the Estonian group Tahe Outdoors, BIC will close its Vannes site and offers six job transfers to Marne-la-Vallée as well as thirty-three redundancies. The rest of the production will indeed be relocated to Tunisia. The main reason given for the physical transfer of production is the lack of premises: according to a CFDT delegate, “it would be enough to find a building in the region to install the machines and everyone would keep his job”.
On January 16, 2019, the Vapi plant in the state of Gujarat is inaugurated. In July 2019, Bic Group announced the acquisition of Lucky Stationery Nigeria Ltd (LSNL), Nigeria’s leading manufacturer of writing instruments, which is the largest market in the region. Through this acquisition, Bic intends to develop its positions in Africa where it has been present for nearly forty years.
In October 2019, Bic’s management announced that it had lowered its revenue forecast for the current year due to a decline in the lighter market in the United States and a drop in stationery sales in the third quarter.
In the first half of 2020, Bic’s revenue fell by 19.2% to €775.8 million. Its net profit also fell by 75.3% to 22.1 million euros. The catastrophic figures are directly linked to the closure of schools and businesses in the midst of the crisis linked to the global Covid-19 pandemic. However, at the beginning of 2021, after five years of decline in its shares, the latter rose to 60 euros following the publication of good figures for the first quarter thanks to an increase in lighter sales in the United States.
Among its recent innovations, the brand presents a pen with 4 colors composed, in ballpoint pen, of black, blue and red colors, with the addition of a pencil lead, also retractable and rechargeable, with a push button at the top of the pen, also serving as an eraser for the pencil.
In 2021, the BIC pen celebrates its 70th anniversary. Management announces that 4,000 BIC pens are sold every minute worldwide.
On January 18, 2022, BIC announced the acquisition of Inkbox, a Canadian semi-permanent tattoo brand, for $65 million.
In September 2022, BIC formalized the acquisition of the Grenoble-based company Advanced Magnetic Interaction, AMI, a specialist in augmented interaction.
Over the whole of 2022, BIC sees its revenues increase by 22% in 2022 to 2.234 billion euros. Net profit amounted to €209 million, down from 2021, which was marked by exceptional income from the sale of the Clichy headquarters.
Visual identity (logo) and intellectual identity of BIC
The first logo of the BIC company dates from 1953. The letters BIC are inserted into an orange parallelogram with rounded corners.
In 1952, poster artist Raymond Savignac began his collaboration with BIC and created the advertising campaign “Elle court, elle court, la Pointe BIC” (“It runs, it runs, the BIC tip”).
In 1961, he was at the origin of the creation of the small “BIC boy”, which has become emblematic, as part of a new advertising campaign (the new tungsten carbide ball). This character representing a small schoolboy (short breeches and tie) with the head of the new tungsten ball of the BIC pen, carrying a BIC ballpoint pen on his back, was intended to attract the attention of both parents and children. It was also — and perhaps above all — a subliminal campaign for the use of ballpoint pens in schools which, in fact, remained prohibited by the Ministry of National Education until the circular of 3 September 1965 for the learning of writing. The immediate popular success of the BIC boy prompted BIC to create a new logo including the BIC boy (second logo) the following year, in 1962.
The BIC boy is placed on the left side of the BIC logo, the three letters BIC, always inserted in a parallelogram with rounded corners, become black on a yellow background — Pantone 1235C color chart — emblematic colors of the logo duly registered. The color orange was also registered as a trademark.
BIC develops a complete line of writing items (ballpoint pens, rollerblades, felt-tip pens, pencils, highlighters, markers, graphite pencils, glue). In 1979, it acquired the company Conté, a brand of drawing and coloring products. In 1992 it took over the Wite-Out brand in the United States and in Europe the Tipp-Ex brand in 1997, in order to develop a range of correction and erasure articles. In 1997, the group bought the Sheaffer brand, a manufacturer of high-end writing articles (fountain pens, ballpoint pens, pencils) and in 2004, Stypen, a French manufacturer of fountain pens.
In 1973, BIC diversified its activity and marketed its first adjustable flame lighter. The range expands with the marketing of different lighter models (mini and slim size), decorated lighters as well as electronically ignited lighters.
In 1975, a factory was set up in Redon where more than three million disposable lighters were manufactured every day.
In 2000, BIC launched a range of utility lighters for lighting candles, barbecues, fireplaces, etc., and lighter cases in 2002.
Around 1988, BIC tried to enter the perfumery market, selling small bottles of perfume with the effigy of their ballpoint pens, in tobacco shops. It was a failure mainly due to the fact that the image of luxury and seduction related to perfumes does not go hand in hand with disposable products.
The perfumes were withdrawn in 1991. The unflattering packaging and the fact that the perfumes are sold only in tobacconists seem to be the main reasons for the commercial failure of the product, which will cost the brand four hundred million francs.
Boats (BIC Sport) kayaking, surfing, windsurfing
In 1980, BIC bought the factory founded by Marcel Tabur in Vannes which produced small polyethylene tender boats under the Sportyak brand (after a hiatus of more than 25 years, these boats are again produced identically) and begins to produce windsurfing boards. In 1983, Baron Bich also bought the German brand Windglider created by the industrialist Fred Ostermann: Indeed, following the boycott of the Moscow Games by the United States, the Soviet Union lobbied intensely to dismiss the American brand Windsurfer (led by Hoyle Schweitzer) which was at that time market leader, and offered a versatile one-design machine distributed worldwide.
Marcel Bich, who succeeded, during a trial that has remained in the annals of patent law, to have the patents protecting the Windsurfer brand overturned, takes the opportunity to assert his superiority in this activity then in the expansion phase. Nevertheless, the Windglider will be removed from the program of the Olympic Games in 1988, replaced by a more powerful model, the Lechner M3 manufactured by an Austrian craftsman. The newspaper Actuel will publish a long article on these adventures, entitled: “The old shark has eaten all the boards”.
The windsurfing activity is managed by a tandem of young managers, Hervé Prieux and Patrick Dussossoy who multiply experiments (in the early 1980s, windsurfing is constantly evolving). The flagship products of the time are the Dufour Wing (Marcel Bich also bought the boat builder Michel Dufour from La Rochelle and was infatuated with the America’s Cup, where its results incommensurate with the sums swallowed make him the laughing stock of the nautical press), the BIC Show (the first production board type Funboard, which resists rather poorly to the brutal use of this kind of machine), then a whole range of more accomplished windsurfing boards whose names are the musical theme (Electric Rock, Hard Rock, Metal Rock, Jazz, Tempo, Saxo, etc., until the current Techno), which are, during the 1980s and 1990s, decorated with psychedelic decorations by the Austrian artist and windsurfer Michaël Ribolitz (known as Mike Eskimo).
In conflict with the rather directive management style of Baron Bich, the Prieux/Dussossoy tandem resigned with a bang and founded a rival brand, Tiga, benefiting from the funds for the conversion of the damaged industrial areas of Nord-Pas-de-Calais. This brand will have an ephemeral success before being reabsorbed by BIC Sport.
A joint venture with the company Plastic Omnium to produce a hollow and very light board at a very low price (La Dufour Sun) in polypropylene will fail in the mid-1980s because the use will prove beyond the limits of the material.
In the early 1990s, the market was in full decline, and the company diversified by manufacturing surfboards in 1993. Production will be supplemented by kayaks in the 2000s. Indeed, the appearance of self-draining double-bottom kayaks called “Sit on Top”, accessible to non-specialists because they do not require to practice the Eskimo maneuver in case of capsizing, has opened the sport to the general public.
Since then, the brand has also embarked on the construction of paddleboards or stand-up paddles (paddled surfboards) as well as in the manufacture of a small lightweight dinghy for children more efficient and more modern than the Optimist, called “O’pen BIC” ». Too fragile for the intensive and harsh use of sailing schools, this boat has nevertheless found its audience and its market in sports school (introduction to regatta) as a missing link between the very traditional and inefficient Optimist and the Laser, a popular sailboat broadcast worldwide which is also on the program of the Olympic Games.
In January 2019, BIC announced the sale of its Sport business to the Estonian company Tahé Outdoors for an amount valued at between six and nine million euros.
In 1975, BIC launched its first single-blade disposable razor. The latter met with great success, and the company developed its range of single-blade razors, as well as a range of double blades (with or without lubricating strips / with swivel or fixed head). In addition, the latter are available in men’s and women’s versions.
In 2003, BIC launched a 3-blade razor for men, then for women in 2004. In 2009, the firm released a range of 4-blade razors. A product that does not know the success of previous ranges.
In 2017, BIC launched in France the BIC Shave Club: a subscription razor sales activity on the Net. In November 2017, it was also launched in Great Britain.
Today, the main ranges are “BIC classic”, “BIC sensitive” and “BIC Confortwin”.
In the summer of 2008, BIC launched the BIC Phone: a ready-to-use phone with one hour of communication (integrated SIM card and charged battery), simple and accessible to all. For 49 euros, the user can benefit from 60 minutes of communication within two months of purchase. Then, he will have to return a photocopy of his identity papers to use the full hour of communication. The charger, as well as a pedestrian kit for listening to the radio, are provided. Available in two colors, orange and green, it is distributed in tobacco/press, train stations, airports, supermarkets (large and medium-sized supermarkets)…
In 2011, it is available at 29 euros with camera and in 4 colors, with 30 minutes of communication and 100 SMS / MMS offered. This laptop, against the current market, stems from a partnership between BIC and Orange, but the manufacture is carried out by Alcatel-Lucent. This laptop is non-disposable unlike the Hop-on that exists in the United States. The user will then be able to recharge his BIC Phone with the refills on the market.
Organization and production
BIC mainly manufactures and markets stationery, lighters, razors and sports equipment with its subsidiary BIC Sport (kayaking, surfing, windsurfing).
The company is also diversified in promotional items marked with its subsidiary APP.
BIC has sold one hundred billion pens in 2005 since 1950. An approximation spread by the brand was to say that these sales represent a quantity of ink sufficient to draw a line to Pluto, and return, more than twenty times.
BIC, Tipp-Ex, Conté, Criterium, Sergeant Major, Sheaffer, Stypen, Velleda (erasable felts).
A test carried out by UFC-Que Choisir highlighted particularly high levels of allergens in the ink of black “Original Crystal” BICs.
Production sites of BIC
- France: Hortes-sur-Amance, Redon: manufacture of lighters, Boulogne-sur-Mer, Cernay, Montévrain, Samer, Vannes (site sold in 2018), Longueil-Sainte-Marie: manufacture of razors.
- Spain: Tarragona.
- Greece: Anixi: manufacture of razors.
- United States: Gaffney, Milford.
- Mexico: Cuautitlan Izcalli, Saltillo.
- Tunisia: Bizerte.
- South Africa: Johannesburg.
- Kenya: Kasarani, Nairobi.
- China: Nantong.
- India: Daman, Haridwar.
- Brazil: Rio de Janeiro, Manaus.
- Ecuador: Guayaquil.
List of BIC subsidiaries
- Bic Kids
- Rocket Book
- Bic US.
- Djeep Paris
- Made For You
- Flick it Safely
Here is the list of BIC shareholders on April 27, 2019.
|Alecta Pension Insurance Mutual||4,60|
|Mawer Investment Management||2,50|
|Norges Bank Investment Management||2,08|
|BIC self-owned company||1,70|
|The Vanguard Group||1,53|
|Allianz Global Investors||1,12|
|BlackRock Fund Advisors||1,10|
|State Street Global Advisors||0,82|
Stock market data
BIC is part of the stock market indices: SBF 120, CAC Mid 60, Leadership Level of CDP (A-) and Leadership Level of the Supplier add-on, Euronext Vigeo – Eurozone 120, Euronext Vigeo – Europe 120, FTSE4Good indexes, Ethibel Pioneer and Ethibel Excellence Investment Registers.
- Le BIC Cristal, television documentary of the series Design, Danielle Schirman, France, 2004; 1 French broadcast, Arte, October 2005
Bic uses gendered marketing, which consists of offering products that correspond to female stereotypes, a profitable concept but not based on any scientific basis.
In 2012, Bic launched a pen “specially designed for women” that created controversy, the brand being accused of sexism. The marketing director of Bic Europe then explains that an internal study of the brand has identified the interest of creating a thinner and more colorful pen. A new controversy erupted in 2015, with an advertisement aired during International Women’s Day, and deemed sexist.