Dominic Langan, CEO of Madison, which won P&A Distributor of the Year at 2020’s BikeBiz Awards, tells us what it means to win, how the business adapted to 2020’s challenges and what’s in store for this year
2020 presented challenges for the cycling industry – how did Madison adapt, and how were dealers supported in this time?
2020 was an incredibly challenging year and some of those challenges still continue. We had to adapt the business to working from home when we had no previous culture of doing this.
In February, I could see the writing on the wall and we prepared the business for remote working – we brought in more laptops, trialled teams working from home to ensure everything worked well and by 23rd March we were ready.
Our primary concern was and continues to be ensuring the warehouse operations are protected and all the staff kept safe. We implemented numerous protocols to ensure the maximum safety for personnel possible along with team bubbles.
The warehouse team have been our heroes during what has not only been a challenging time but also bonkers busy. There were some times when we fell a little behind but on the whole, we have maintained a high level of service throughout and we are all really proud of that.
When the first lockdown happened, we did not know what impact it would have on the business or the industry, but we communicated with all customers assuring them that we would stay open as long as they were open and if they needed support with terms or whatever it may be, we would support them 100%.
We also managed to source PPE through our suppliers in the Far East and we continue to offer this small range of masks, visors, digital thermometers, protective and nitrile gloves for store staff and customers to use. For those retailers offering free bike services to key workers and NHS staff, we supported them with a free care package of a Hump hi-viz waterproof jacket, helmet and light set.
We gave several hundred of these Key Worker Care Packages away and they were very well received by the recipients and the stores. Everyone at that time wanted to play a part in supporting the frontline workers.
Freewheel also played a key role during the lockdown. We promoted the message of supporting the local community bike shop and instantly had 400 retailers earning commission on sales via the site when at the time many consumers were reluctant to even leave home.
Our sales team were on hand throughout and were in regular communication with all our customers and as soon as visits were possible once more, we were meeting with all customers who wanted to and our demonstrator team was in-store helping remerchandise stores and train staff.
Indeed, we even managed a very successful launch of Vittoria tyres during this period! Ultimately, we tried our best to look after our staff and our customers whilst we went through something none of us had ever experienced before and it is still not over but as a company, I believe we can hold our heads up high with how we behaved in 2020.
Are there any brands in your portfolio that have performed better than others in recent months, and if so, what do you attribute this to?
Pleasingly, we had several brands perform well for us in 2020.
We saw a 209% increase in sales of Elite trainers as more and more people started indoor training in the early part of the pandemic but unlike other years, the demand continued through the summer, autumn and still hasn’t eased up. We have the equivalent of another great year already on forward order for Elite with deliveries arriving regularly.
With so many new people cycling in 2020, we saw huge growth in the leisure and commute sectors with Ridgeback bikes growing +74% in 2020 and wiping us out of all our stock, Lazer helmets grew by 170% and total helmet sales with Lazer in 2020 were bigger than any previous year for helmets in Madison’s entire history with any other brand.
Madison clothing also enjoyed huge sales growth in the year thanks to a great leisure, commute and kids ranges and was boosted further by significant sales of our cloth protective facemasks.
Obviously, workshops were flat out in 2020 and this drove growth of +38% for Shimano. Demand for tools saw Park grow by 68% in the year as well as huge growth within our tyre and tubes offering.
Madison won P&A Distributor of the Year at the BikeBiz Awards for the second year in a row in 2020 – what is the secret to this continued success?
Not to take anything for granted. We have to continue to be relevant to our customers.
We have to keep adapting our model to ensure we meet and exceed the demands of the market, our retail customers and the consumer as well as listening to them and taking the input on board.
It is also important during a period like we are in now to be visible, supportive, approachable and compassionate and that is what I ask of my team.
We will of course continue to seek the best brand offering we can, to be as competitive as possible and to be innovative with our initiatives such as Freewheel and digiBike*. Hopefully, we may win it again!
What are your expectations for the year ahead, both for the business and the industry?
Cautious optimism! COVID, Brexit and stock will be primary challenges for at least the first half of 2021, if not longer.
Our industry is in good shape though and I am sure supply chain challenges will ease as time progresses, and with Brexit, I am sure we will find ways of making it work for business because we have to. Hopefully, the vaccine rollout will eventually put COVID behind us too.
The economy, in the meantime, will be massively damaged but cycling is now in a great place and I think we can look forward to some very positive years ahead.