The Year in Review: Hotlines

2020 was undoubtedly an unorthodox year, with independents, brands and distributors alike feeling the inevitable effects of a turbulent period for businesses the world over. BikeBiz caught up with seven UK distributors to reflect on a bizarre yet successful period for the cycling industry

Today, we hear from Ewan Pinder, managing director of Hotlines

Overview
Hotlines has had a phenomenal year: a large part of this was expected with significant investment in the business, but COVID-19 undoubtedly supercharged particular brands and categories. We have seen huge growth across the board with fantastic success across the group house brands: Nukeproof, Ragley, Brand-X, LifeLine and Blank BMX.

Behind the scenes
We started the year with a newly bolstered team, doubling the number of sales staff on the road and support roles in the office. As lockdown loomed, work halted on our new HQ and the team was quickly set up to work from home. Fast forward a few months and we opened our new office.

Fortunate to have strong brands and being well-positioned with stock, we were able to capitalise on the opportunity the pandemic presented. The product management team also did a fantastic job to quickly secure additional product to support our dealers.

While stock remains a challenge and supply is under constant review, we are receiving and dispatching a steady stream of MY21 bikes and exciting new products from our parts, accessories and clothing brands.

As the dust settles, we are also continuing to develop the team, with more roles now advertised as we look forward to the launch of our new B2B and P&A sales programmes. We are not naïve to the challenges ahead, we are grateful to all our dealers for working so closely with us this year and remain hugely optimistic for the season ahead.

Brand changes
To develop the business, we had to consolidate our offering and reduce overlap in each category. This means more time, resource and stock on the key brands, improving service levels for our customers, consumers and the brands themselves. We’ve created some space to find new brands that complement our current offering; expect two new announcements early in the New Year.

IBD focus
We were in a fortunate position at the start of lockdown with good stock across key brands like Ghost, Fuji, NS, Crème and Rondo: all offering bikes at relevant price points for the snowballing demand. Being responsive to the situation, securing additional stock and working tirelessly to help existing and new dealers put us in good favour. Hotlines has always been dealer focused so while there has been no significant evolution in our market strategy, we are working harder than ever to secure stock and provide the aftersales service crucial for a distributor.

2021 and beyond
Hotlines has masses of stock inbound with thousands of orders to fulfil; our absolute priority is making sure we are receiving and distributing those goods as efficiently as possible, making good on deals already made and providing the service levels expected. With so many moving pieces, this is no tall order and we will be increasing our product management team to assist with the task.

Concurrently, we will be talking to dealers about opportunities with new ranges already in stock, or due to be launched from brands like Leatt, WTB, 661, iXS, Spank, Gaerne, Chromag and Manitou. BMX will also take a focus with Stolen, Blank and SE Bikes covering entry-level, enthusiast and BikeLife categories.

All the above will be supported by our growing marketing team to support dealers with information, assets, POS and communications to support sell-through instore and online. We are forecasting significant growth once again…

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