INTERVIEW: Moore Large - BikeBiz

INTERVIEW: Moore Large

Riding high: Cementing IBD appeal, improved product ranges, innovative marketing and swelling the number of specialist brand managers are some of the key drivers behind Moore Large’s recent – and likely future – successes. The distributor’s managing director Nigel Moore speaks to Jonathon Harker...
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How’s business? And how has that compared to Moore Large’s expectations at the start of the year?
At the turn of the year there was a lot of uncertainty about how the cycle industry would perform in 2009. As a company, we had just come off the back of a very good year in 2008, but with the weakening pound and economic downturn all the signs were pointing towards a very challenging period.

Given those circumstances, it would’ve been very easy to approach the year with some caution, but we remained very optimistic. The success brought about by our investment in key personnel, better product ranges and in the increased marketing activities of our branded portfolio through 2008, gave us a lot of confidence. We knew that continuing to focus on providing our most competitive package of products, service and prices would as a minimum ensure we retained the level of business we enjoyed last year – and so it has proved. In fact, we have consistently exceeded our own monthly figures from last year on both the cycle and accessory sides of our business, so we feel encouraged that our hard work is paying off.

What has been the biggest challenge of the year so far?
Our biggest challenge continues to be at the supply end. Despite a slump in the global price of commodities – steel, aluminium and oil –it has been very difficult to maintain the cost price of our goods. The weakening pound and now increasing freight rates compound the problem.

Astute purchasing of currency and aggressive negotiation with suppliers mitigated the problem and enabled us to restrict price increases to a manageable level.

What have been the star bike brands in 2009 to date?
I am delighted with the growth of our branded bike business this year, with all brands performing above the expectations set at the beginning of 2009. Haro is the one that stands out because we have substantially increased our market share in quality BMX as well as seeing increased coverage in the MTB and recreational bike sector.

The appointment of Adam Garner as brand manager is key to this success, coupled with the great product in terms of design and quality and an increased marketing and promotional presence at cycling events and initiatives. We have targeted the National BMX race series and been present with product at each of the events together with offering support for local BMX race teams that compete on a national level. This has served to increase our profile as a leading brand in the race market, which we see as an area for real growth in the next few years during the run up to the 2012 Olympics.

The volume sector of the Haro BMX brand has also increased for us and this has been endorsed by the initial demand from dealers visiting our in-house product launch last month. We have ordered in anticipation that once again BMX will be a major contributor to the Christmas bike business.

The MTB and recreational side of the brand has also shown promising growth this year and we are currently working on exciting new developments for the 2010 range.

And what have been the star accessory brands in 2009?
It’s very difficult to pick out individual accessory brands given that so many have exceeded expectations. Of course, each brand is at a different stage in its development here in the UK market with brands such as LAKE Shoes, Tifosi Eyewear and Limar Helmets all having only been introduced in recent years but all performing very well.

Other brands that we’ve had for many years like Kenda, Jagwire and Magnum just keep getting stronger. I guess the one accessory brand that really has hit the market by storm has been Knog. Its products offer something very different to the norm and you just know that whatever it comes out with next, there’s going to be something about it that’s unique enough to give every shop out there a reason to stock it.

Lights continue to dominate their range to date with the ever popular Frog single LED lights still leading the way but with Beetle –two LED, Gekko – three LED, Skink –four LEDS and the imminent launch of the Boomer 0.5 watt front and rear lights, there’s still plenty to choose from.

The interest in its luggage is also increasing; the stylish Dog range of bags boasts a single bag that converts from a pannier bag to a sling bag to a rucksack, all with the clever use of a unique piece of hardware. The bags are very well made, using top quality fabrics, come with padded and lined laptop pockets and are available in a host of colours. Also on the horizon from Knog are seven, 12 and 18-function mini tools, folding adjustable spanner and pliers and for 2010 a range of security products. It’s undoubtedly a brand to keep an eye on.

Have any sectors performed particularly well this year? Such as commuter bikes? Or children’s cycles?
It is difficult to pinpoint a particular sector, more a general move towards quality. Clearly cycle usage has gone up considerably in the last couple of years and this has produced a more discerning, better informed consumer. If we analyse our sales both of parts and accessories and complete bikes we see an improvement in sales across all sectors and brands, but it is at the higher level where the increase is greater.

A typical example would be the tremendous reception we received upon the introduction of Limar helmets. We have always done good business on entry level helmets under our own brand of Apex, but knew that to make a mark in mid-to-high-end helmets would be a challenge. We need not have worried. From day one our customers embraced the opportunity to invest in the brand and add to the success we are already enjoying with Apex.

How are the newer brands settling in, like Basso and Fenix Lights?
Basso is a very exciting development in our business and underlines our desire to expand our portfolio to the extremes. The appointment of Adam Biggs as brand manager has clearly been the driving force in the success of Basso. His knowledge and enthusiasm of the sector has opened many new doors for us and considerably increased our base of road specialist outlets.

Basso competes comfortably with all other classic Italian brands offering hand-built quality and design that our competitors find very difficult to live up to. We have big plans for this sector and are currently in talks with an Elite Road team or 2010, together with providing a consistent level of quality support from head office and working very closely with the Italian owners who are delighted with our progress to date. It is early days for Fenix lights but initial sales look extremely
promising and as consumer sales kick in and reports come back I’m sure we have have another great prospect.

How does Moore Large keep ahead of the competition?
To be honest we rarely discuss the competition. This is not meant to sound arrogant but we have always felt that if we are doing our job correctly the rewards will come. Of course we get a bit fed up when some companies grey import our exclusive brands such as Trailgator, but on balance I would say fly or fall – we are responsible for our own destiny.

We continue to concentrate on improving our appeal to the IBDs, be that through an improved product range, better availability or more efficient service levels. We have an experienced team of buyers on both sides of the business ensuring the right products are being brought to the market at the right time, at the right price and in the right packaging. Our marketing activities and the way we communicate them has seen significant investment in recent years, ensuring a diverse spread of coverage across both trade and consumer levels.

We already have a very broad spread of area managers covering the country with ten working exclusively with parts and accessories and five working with cycles. And we’ve continued to add to the team on the branded side of our business with the appointment of a premium products manager for accessories and brand managers for Haro, Basso, Izip and Onza. All of which will provide us with a complete focus on the ongoing development and placement of key, premium level products and brands across principle retailers in mainland UK. We have also appointed an area manager covering the same principal brands in Northern and Southern Ireland. We are all very excited about these new appointments and feel it shows real intent in our ambition to establish each of our brands as market leaders.

How have dealers reacted to the B2B site?
Very well. More and more orders are now coming direct into the business and the launch of the B2B last year offers all of our customers a live order system that is operational 24 hours a day.

We have received many compliments from customers on the clean and simple appearance of the site and, importantly, how easy it is to navigate and build your order. Exclusive online offers, good product images, stock availability, plus downloads of magazine reviews and the latest news, all add to what is a very functional order system. A continuing investment in front-end sales is also a factor.

This year Moore Large has been involved with more quirky marketing, joining Knog at the Bike Polo Championships and Velorbis at Derby University – can we expect more of the same over the next six months?
Absolutely! There are a group of people at Moore Large who become unrecognisable to their loved ones during the summer. There are events of one kind or another throughout the year and it is unbelievable how many of these we attend, not only to exhibit but also take part. Adam Garner holds the record with ten weekends on the bounce away from home. In this day and age marketing is so much more than placing a few adverts. It is about keeping close to our end users at grass roots or on occasion mud puddles. Not only do we promote our products, but we also get direct feedback to help us understand our customers and develop new ideas.

What are the key factors to Moore Large’s success?
It’s difficult to answer this question without resorting to clichéd corporate speak. Of course our diverse product portfolio, the significant investment in stock and marketing, an absolute commitment to treating our customers with respect and crucially an enviable reputation with our suppliers all play a major part, but at the end of the day we value most our extraordinary staff. The team is getting stronger every year and the office bubbles with enthusiasm and dedication. In my opinion the appointment of staff is the most important factor in the success of a business – before brand selection, location, which bank to use or even which products to sell. Get the staff right and you’re more than halfway there.

What will be the biggest story for ML in the next six months?
The big news is the launch of a new brand of bikes targeting the mid-sector of the market with price points between £400 and £1,000. Initially we will be concentrating on the road sector and will have some very competitive bikes available in February 2010.

We also have plans to increase our offering in the Electric bike market and will be looking to launch a very competitively priced lithium ion powered bike early in the New Year.

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