BRAND SPOTLIGHT: Walkers

As one of the UK’s longest serving distributors, Walkers has had plenty of time to mature a wholly unique business. Mark Sutton talks to Andie Walker about the lesser-known services available to customers...
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Give us a brief history lesson in all things Walkers:
Walkers has been supplying the cycle industry in the UK for over 100 years now, and we are probably one of the first, if not the first to do so in the country.

My brother Nick and I have owned and run the company for the last seven years, and we are the third generation in the Walker family to do so. Nick’s wife Abi is in charge of our accounts dept, and my darling wife is in charge of credit control. We have staff members in-house answering the phones, and processing orders, and well established sales reps calling on accounts on a regular basis.

What brands do you carry?
We carry what we feel are all the key, sellable high-margin brands with a few of them being exclusive to Walkers. These are Serfas, Clarks disc brakes, Reflex
Cycle Products (our own brand) and Michelin Helmets. We were the first company in the trade to distribute the Schwalbe range of tyres and tubes, we also offer Axa-Basta, Crud, Fat Spanner, Mavic, Oxford, Reflexite, Shimano, Slime, Smart, Stronglight, VP, Velo, Zefal, Weldtite and Zoom.

You recently bagged the Serfas brand. Why this deal important to Walkers?
I’m personally familiar with this brand from years ago when Caratti Sport used to distribute it. It’s great quality, mid-ranged product with a lifetime guarantee. What’s more, it’s a highly sellable tight product range. We have our first container due in April and are very much looking forward to offering it back into the UK.

How can a dealer declare interest in a Walkers account?
If any dealers out there want a really personal trading experience, then they can go about it in a number of different ways. Firstly, they can either register for a new account on our new website, www.walkerscycles.co.uk which will be active any day now, or they can call our office, or even send us an email requesting a credit application form to be emailed out to them. Once we have a fully completed credit application and we have trade references back, then job done.

How’s business?
We continue to yield good year-on-year growth and we are happy with the way it’s all going. On the whole, we have to be pretty happy with last year’s growth and all our staff definitely need to be acknowledged for making those achievements possible, because without them we have no business.

For 2009 and into the future we’d definitely love to see more dealers give us the opportunity to prove ourselves by opening up an account. We know we have the products and just as importantly we have the stock levels to cope with all increases we may encounter.

Any plans for expansion?
We are always interested in speaking to sales people about expanding our current customer base, and if anyone is fed up in their role, then they can send us a CV and covering letter.

Tell us something we don’t already know about Walkers:
We have been building wheels in-house since we virtually began. We build any combination of wheel our customers require; we also carry the full 2009 range of Mavic rims with good stocks of Shimano hubs for most combinations. This side of our business has always been busy.

We are also agents for Dawes Bikes and can supply our customers with the new and exciting 2009 range, subject to locations. We also offer all of our customers a ‘special order option – meaning if we have an account with a particular supplier, but don’t range one of its products for whatever reason, and one of our customer wants something, then we will order them one by adding their requirements to our orders.

What support can you offer dedicated dealers?
I know I bang on about our personal service, but that in itself is a highly prized asset we do offer, as it’s not always all about price only.

We have a variety of POS available and always generally pass this on FOC when we get it from our suppliers. We offer all our customers a very attractive profit margin with the product range we stock generally having no RRP pressures to adhere to.

How have currency changes affected your business?
We made the brave decision mid-to-late last year to be satisfied with a reduction in our profit margins for the short-to-mid-term by not passing on many of the huge increases that we were incurring due to the weakening of the pound against the euro and the US dollar.

Walkers is big on ‘single unit spares’ – why should dealers take this into account when choosing a supplier?

Our ethos has always been that the wholesaler’s role should predominately be to sit on the stock for the dealers so they don’t have to. For example, when we have to buy a certain product in, and it’s in a large outer quantity and we know the customer would never sell that volume in a hurry, we split it, and sell that item in single units instead of boxed quantities.

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