The Year in Review: Upgrade

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 Matt Ryley, managing director at Upgrade

Overview
No surprise we have had a busy year. The brands that have done well are those that have increased short-term supply. We’ve had insane demand on DMR grips, pedals and 26in tyres!

High-end has done really well too; more Pivot sales than ever before. Riding local and not travelling to events has saved budget for many dedicated cyclists. Upgrade’s brands have, on the whole, been quick to respond. In particular, our key accessory brand Lezyne has experienced large grown since the new wave of cycling created an instant demand for pumps, tools and lights.

Brand changes
We decided to drop Ritchey due to the scale of its range in favour of taking on Thomson for cockpit parts. Repente saddles was another new brand and one that fits really well alongside Thomson.

Back at COREbike, we launched Nutcase but it had supply issues this year so we held off. However, we are very pleased to be relaunching in early spring 2021 with a new product range and increased opportunity for helmets due to the year we have been having.

Behind the scenes
It’s not been a year to develop the business in any major new way but put all the effort into making it work as hard as possible under the current changes.

Our long term relationship with our vendors and brands has come to the fore and helped us keep supply flowing. This, coupled with Upgrade’s solid financial base, has allowed us to leverage large ordering increases for dealers.

We have maintained operations at full capacity and only at the start of the first lockdown did we have a short and limited furlough period for a handful of staff.

IBD focus
We have continued to support our IBD 100 product lines which are exclusive to IBDs, notably, we added more Lezyne LED models to this offering. We have also worked hard throughout the year to ensure a spread of stock across our dealer network, ensuring we are supporting the broadest spread of dealers we possibly can.

It’s always our goal to support a wide and diverse dealer network in the UK. Notably, we have more new account applications than ever with many new service-related dealerships being born due to this year’s bike boom.

2021 and beyond
Keeping on top of suppliers for as much supply for our dealers, backed up with clear delivery information and ETD dates and good alternative products if we don’t have key lines. The e-bike sector will be our key growth for Kinesis, with two new models arriving in the spring that target a wider audience and lower price point.

We just launched the DMR V11 pedal and already have had very strong pre-orders globally. We will be significantly growing the DMR business for our dealers with this price pointed performance pedal. Our minds and eyes are more open to broader audience products and brands to enhance our portfolio and fuel the healthy desire for UK cycling.

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