Raleigh UK managing director Lee Kidger talks 2020’s challenges, the evolution of electrification and what it means to win Bike Distributor of the Year
2020 presented some challenges for the cycling industry – how did Raleigh adapt, and how were dealers supported in this time?
I think it goes without saying that 2020 was probably one of the most challenging for the cycling industry, and probably in general. Raleigh took decisive action very quickly, protecting our employees by moving to a working from home situation before the Government introduced lockdown measures.
It was challenging for retailers also; some closed and some moved to an appointment-only basis. Raleigh enhanced its online capabilities quicker and supported our retail partners by offering enhanced commissions for home delivery, even if our retail partners had chosen to close during the first lockdown. More customers were researching online, and we felt this was important.
We also moved quickly, once it was clear that cycling was going to benefit, to procure as many bicycles as possible. Being part of Accell Group was great as it meant we could move stock around Europe to support areas that were able to sell bikes to consumers, which the UK and Ireland benefited from.
Are there any brands/products in your portfolio that have performed better than others in recent months, and if so, what do you attribute this to?
Recently, and it’s no secret, the evolution of the electrification of the bicycle has been phenomenal. Market data has the e-bike sector at close to 100% growth (in value) and the Raleigh business (with Raleigh, Haibike and Lapierre within the portfolio) has been successful.
It is across all categories too; the e-leisure sector continues to grow for Raleigh as well as the e-MTB sector for both Haibike and Lapierre. In particular, the All MTN 6, 7 and SE models from Haibike have been incredibly popular.
Cargo bikes, although in its infancy, is a very exciting sector both from a commercial last-mile delivery solution and the family cargo sector. I firmly believe that the Government’s investment in infrastructure and education will further develop this market in years to come. Raleigh has some exciting e-cargo additions launching to market very soon.
It hasn’t gone unnoticed that the conventional bicycle has had a bit of a resurgence. Whether it’s the brand awareness of Raleigh to the ‘non-cyclist’ or campaigns such as #BikeIsBest really engaging with consumers on the benefits of cycling. Whilst we may see a slight relaxation of lockdown rules and the reopening of gyms etc., I still firmly believe that cycling will continue an upwards trend.
Raleigh won Bike Distributor of the Year at the 2020 BikeBiz Awards – what did it mean to win?
It’s an honour to win such an award and showcases the years of change the Raleigh UK business has been through. Credit must go to every employee at Raleigh UK, plus our loyal partners who have put their trust in the brands and the direction we have taken.
Of course, to have amazing bikes really helps and the depth of portfolio across Raleigh, Haibike and Lapierre takes some beating.
What are your expectations for the year ahead, both for the business and the industry?
The market has phenomenal consumer demand and although we cannot fully understand the true demand, it is going to be challenging for supply to take advantage of all this demand. I believe the bicycle industry is at a crossroads, with Government investments this really is a once in a lifetime opportunity, however, we must seize on this fast. Temporary measures are great, but they must be made permanent.
The electric bike market is a big enabler for people to cycle, the market data shows the growth in this sector. However, it is not the only sector of the bicycle industry that has the potential to grow. Look at our European counterparts such as the Netherlands or Germany – cycling is a way of life, used for both leisure and transport. For us to capitalise on this we must engage with not just cyclists, but everybody to further explain the physical, economical and mental benefits of cycling.