Dahon has had what you could conservatively call an interesting year or so. From an acrimonious company split that is ongoing and has resulted in the launch of a rival brand, to a new distributor deal or two in the UK, Dahon has never been less than boring in the last 24 months.
But the folding brand has been around for a while – 30 years in fact – and Dahon is getting on with re-establishing itself. Now more than a year into its successful distribution deal with Raleigh in the UK and with a brand new factory facility in Europe, Dahon is getting on with the business of building bicycles.
And that’s not all. At Eurobike, where BikeBiz caught up with global sales and marketing director Eddie Eccleston, Dahon launched a ‘Green Award’ – a prize fund of €10,000 Euros for an individual, group, company or organisation (or even city) that has ‘demonstrated significant efforts towards green mobility’. Dahon is looking for more companies to join in and add to the pot. Post-press conference, BikeBiz caught up with Eccleston and asked him about that new Green Award.
“It is close to our heart,” he explains. “We are a company that started with green values, well ahead of most people,” Eccleston tells BikeBiz. “We’re trying to influence and encourage green practices. In our offices we’re trying to go paperless and adopt green methods and it is costing us around 67p or so per bicycle, so it’s not for our monetary benefit.
“But it’s not about Dahon,” Eccleston stresses. “We’re just the catalyst.”
Talking of catalysts, something appears to have lit the blue touchpaper for Dahon, as Eccleston explains: “We’ve had explosive growth in China – it’s been phenomenal. There are 1,100 dedicated Dahon shops and the business is growing there too.”
The brand is forging into new markets too, with deals in place that take it into Greece, Italy, Australia, India and Eastern Europe territories.
For 2013, Dahon has 33 bikes in its range, including six new models and nine updates. There is a range of accessories too, notably under the brand name Dr Hon, targeted at folding bicycles in general.
And then there’s the no small deal of the 30th anniversary – celebrated with limited edition bicycles, the Dr Hon accessory launch and a number of other initiatives like the ‘Me and My Dahon’ competition, where Dahon fans send in their snaps from yester-year.
On a corporate level, Dahon is boosting its management team at HQ and Eccleston himself has joined the board of directors. The European team has been strengthened too, which brings us to another huge change at Dahon in the preceeding months – the setting up of a new service centre and manufacturing plant in Europe.
While Raleigh will deal with afterservice locally for UK bike dealers, the new Holland-set service centre will back up the distributor and others on the continent. Perhaps even more significant has been the new production plant at Bulgaria. Eccleston reveals: “If you ask Raleigh about the quality of the bikes they’ve been receiving from Bulgaria they’d be very positive indeed. There’s been a lot of change and progression, but Bulgaria is an inexpensive location based near to a lot of our key markets. It’s only seven days from Bulgaria to the UK. And we’re stacking bikes up there so we’re holding stock for distributors, all ready to go.”
So, undeniably a busy two years for Dahon, but where does it see itself in five years? There will continue to be a drive towards greener practice and for sure there will be new technology and innovation, but there will also be a back to basic approach.
“We’ll be trying to get back to our core values,” Eccleston concludes.
And with those core values of encouraging the use of environmentally sustainable forms of transport, that seems like a healthy target.
www.dahonbikes.com; Raleigh: 01773 532600
PICTURED: Dahon founder Dr David Hon with Eddie Eccleston
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