As BikeBiz's latest issue hit doormats up and down the country last week, stock of Fisher Outdoor Leisure’s new house brand Union 34 landed in the UK. Visitors to the distributor’s February Expo trade show will have seen the range in the flesh – albeit in prototype form – with the line-up including luggage and then clothing later in the year.
But how will this luggage and clothing brand differentiate itself from the competition at UK cycle retail? Is there a section of the market that is being neglected or untapped?
Union 34 (the number coming from the year Fisher was established, fact fans) was created for leisure and cycle commuters – or more specifically urban office executives aged 28-to-35. Fisher brand manager Jonathan Sangan tells BikeBiz that the firm has done its homework in pinpointing that market.
“Our extensive research of trends affecting the cycling market found that there’s core growth in the leisure and commuter cycling sector,” Sangan explains. “Bags and clothing were identified as the categories that represent both the best commercial opportunity and fit for our business.
“We studied the needs of the consumer and found they are not generally being met by offerings within the market. So for example the cyclist who wants the convenience of cycling-specific clothing and luggage whilst on the bike, but doesn’t necessarily want to scream ‘I’m a cyclist’ – Union 34 solves this problem.”
Sangan adds: “We concluded that there’s an opportunity for a brand to exist within the market that offers very technical cycling clothing and bags that are also highly desirable and tailored to meet specific lifestyle needs.”
From the research stage all the way through to developing working bags and fixings, the creation of Union 34 took 18 months. Not bad for a project developed from scratch.
“It was a challenge to design fixing systems from a blank sheet of paper, which don’t compromise on the function of incumbent systems while offering innovative solutions to existing user problems,” says Sangan. Creating bags for use on as well as off the bike was a key test too. Other challenges included picking the right manufacturing partner to deliver the range and “creating the brand identity with a set of clear messages that are totally relevant to the target consumer”.
That ability to use the bag ‘during and beyond the journey’ on a bike is one of the fundamentals of the Union 34 luggage line-up. Featuring bags with dedicated storage (for laptops, clothes, tools and assorted office gear), Union 34’s range is expandable for increased capacity. There are also solutions for different bike configurations, for both with or without a pannier rack. Year one range comprises four models, with three colourways for each of those. Will there be a new range each year? Watch this space, says Sangan.
So, down to nuts and bolts. What does Union 34 offer that others currently don’t?
Sangan answers: “Union 34 offers bags you’ll want to use when not cycling, which you can put onto your bike when you are cycling.
“There’s dedicated storage options for bike kit, laptops as well as documents and there’s a quick release seat post fixing, which means the system can be used on a variety of bikes.
”It’s a clear opportunity for cycle retailers to capitalise on the extensive rucksack market and offer consumers a well thought out product that answers their business, leisure and cycling needs.”
So, target market identified, product researched and developed, challenges overcome...that leaves just the essential retailing part of the equation.
As mentioned above, the Union 34 range will be available for retailers to stock in late July and start of August.
“So far the response has been excellent,” Sangan enthuses. “The range has really struck home with new stockist sign ups every day.
“We have a dedicated team on the Union 34 project and Fisher is committed to lead the way on progressive commuter solutions.”
There are discounted prices and programmed pricing for the launch period (to February 2013). Retailers will also receive one sleek pannier bag free (worth £89.99) plus the all-important Union 34 tea mug.
The initial investment is just ten bags and there’s a complete modular POS system including pannier and seat post brackets, as well as a battery powered screen with instructive video, available. Sangan explains: “Designed to be the retailer’s silent salesman, the POS system makes Union 34 a real centre point of any store.”
And of course there are schemes to get Union 34 into cycling magazines and online, all backed by a dedicated site and Facebook page.
Dealers should contact their local Fisher territory account manager to find out more, or phone 01727 798345.