With the buying power of Cycling Sports Group behind the brand and the absorbtion of Summer Bicycles, plenty has changed ahead of the 2012 season at Charge. Mark Sutton discusses the changes with Nick Larsen and his team…
It isn't a figment of your imagination. Never one to do what everyone else is doing, Charge really has held a bike launch in the middle of a London department store. Propping its entire 2012 line on eye-wateringly priced furniture and designer shagpile rugs, the Conran Store on Fulham Road played host and will continue to do so with two models from the 2012 line.
Brand owner Nick Larsen told BikeBiz why the department store made an interesting launch location: "We'd been in discussions with the Conran Store about having two of our models sold via the store's gift guide and also in store. We mentioned in passing product launches and various shows that our brand attends and that's when the store asked if we'd like to use their Fulham Road location as a backdrop for one such launch."
With the Conran shop's main clientele being made up of affluent females, what better location could there be to unveil an expanded line of bikes tailored to the feminine form. Some models may look vaguely familiar to those in the trade who formerly stocked Cycling Sports Group's Summer Bicycles line and that's because Larsen's team has taken the reigns having absorbed the line recently.
"There's four new women's bikes joining the catalogue for 2012," explains Larsen. "We've added our own Charge touches throughout, most notably on the frames, such as a new twin top tube on the Hob. There's been some carefully considered work on the colour palette too, with more contemporary shades in use across the board."
And if a measure of success was needed, several customers who entered with furniture on the mind took away catalogues for bikes.
In further welcome news for retailers, for the most part the 2012 line has either got cheaper at retail, or held prices at last year's levels. This is in part down to the backing of goliath Cycling Sports Group, though also down to the popularity of last year's line bringing home the bacon for Larsen's brand.
"We've been able to buy in larger numbers this year which has benefited the brand in many ways," explains Larsen. "We've had great sales results with some of our larger accounts and our increased buying power has done us a big favour on holding prices down. There's around 30 bikes in the 2012 catalogue and of those that were around last year, very few have encountered price rises."
Charge will also this year join the 29er bandwagon, introducing the 'Cooker' specced for three different price points, handily all within the cycle to work scheme bracket. Beginning at £699,99, the 'Cooker Rigid' lays the foundations for anyone curious of the larger wheel size, providing a sturdy steed on which to build, should the 29er bug bite. A Tange Infinity tubed frame features on all, with the highest priced Cooker costing £999.99 and coming specced with a 29er specific version of the RockShox Dart fork and Sram x5 components.
Joining the scores of names touting the 29er's potential to open a new era of mountain biking growth, Larsen himself is a huge fan of his own Cooker, telling BikeBiz: "I love the way these bikes ride, I'd choose to ride my 29er over most now."
The majority of Charge's 2012 catalogue, including new component goods, is projected to be available by September this year, though models specced with hub gears are likely to be delayed.
Cycling Sports Group: 01202 732288