INTERVIEW: Richard Allmark, Fisher Outdoor Leisure

Show business: Fisher Outdoor Leisure CEO Richard Allmark tells Jonathon Harker what the distributor has in store for bike dealers in 2010, and at this week's Expo event...
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It’s been another busy year for Fisher Outdoor Leisure, from signing new brands like Kaaboom, to bringing out new ranges from established brands like SRAM XX. What have been the highlights?
It’s very difficult to single out highlights, because so much of the brand portfolio performed incredibly well in 2009. Norco has had its biggest ever year in the UK and sales of Tacx, LOOK and Smart have gone through the roof, but if I had to name one brand that’s really exploded I’d say SRAM.

With the ongoing road market share growth, the launch of SRAM wheels and latterly the amazing response to XO colour and XX groupsets, it’s been a fantastic year. Of course we’re delighted with the initial success of the Kaaboom cleaning range and 2010 will see the brand take an even greater market share.

With bspoke, Kansi and new brand Vavert, it seems that Fisher is continuing to get behind the commuting sector. Is that a fair assessment?
I think that’s a very fair assessment and wouldn’t it be more bizarre if we weren’t? We want to work even more closely with our retail customers and end users to ensure that our brands are providing the right commercial benefits as well as always being in tune with commuters’ needs. Kansi, bspoke and VaVert are three brands very capable of doing this.

Despite parting company with Dahon, Fisher has kept within the folding bicycle market with Kansi. Is that a sign of how important Fisher sees the folding bike sector?
Not only do we see the folding bike category as important, we think that it can be managed better. The brand values inherent in Kansi mean the retailers’ and end users’ experience of Kansi will set it aside as a brand for riders – and we’ll make sure we keep them on their bikes. The ‘collect in store’ policy for Kansi also demonstrates that Kansi is an IBD service-driven brand, which is great news for the specialist sector.

Regarding Expo, the event has moved to St Albans this year. Was the decision largely down to practicalities – because it was nearer to Fisher HQ?
We had a couple of good years at Edgbaston, but the time to bring Expo home was upon us.

Expo will now take place at the Sopwell House hotel which is a beautiful hotel only five minutes from Fisher HQ. During Expo we will be running trips to our offices and warehouse, where I’ll personally be showing people around and demonstrating the benefits of the significant investments we’ve made in the past 24 months.

I really urge all of our customers to come and spend some time with us at Expo to understand how we plan to move our businesses forward and how we can support each other within real partnerships. This is a great opportunity to plan ahead together.

What are some of the other key reasons and attractions for dealers to attend?
It’s always easy to talk product, product, product – but come along to Expo to see for yourselves as there will be an enormous amount of gear to view, including the new Kansi folding bikes, the range of VaVert accessories and Airace pumps.

It’s also the first opportunity to view all our spring/ summer clothing ranges in their entirety, see the new SRAM wheels and view the entire model range of Norco and LOOK bikes for 2010. On top of all of this, at 10am on Sunday morning we will have a charity cycle ride around the beautiful Hertfordshire country lanes in order to raise funds for the Stephen Murray foundation. The more participants the better – including some of the BikeBiz team, I hope.

Will there be any incentives and special offers for attendees?
As always, Expo will be packed full of brilliant profit boosting promotions/offers – available only to people attending.

Who is speaking at the seminars?
We’re pleased to welcome a number of external speakers to Expo this year. Cycle Systems (aka Bike Doctor) will be running technical seminars; we’ll have an external marketing company offering ideas to drive business; Sustrans will be presenting – highlighting BikeIt’s achievements as well as celebrating 15 years of the National Cycle Network; and finally Cyclescheme will be there to present and talk about what is has been doing nationwide.

Representatives from all these organisations will also be free for one-to-one talks for the duration of Expo 2010.

What cycling celebrities have you got at Expo 2010?
Aligned to our recently announced sponsorship of the Dirt Norco racing team and the Endura Racing team, we will have riders from both teams there, and we’re very pleased to welcome international stars Jamie Staff and Steve Peat.

What are the biggest challenges ahead for Fisher in 2010?
I honestly believe the biggest challenges we face in 2010 are the ones we are setting for ourselves. We are setting new standards of excellence in all matters related to our customers’ experience with us and this is something we really want to engage with all of our customers on.

The brand-building activities we engage in every year are always stimulating and challenging, but I do find the wonderful plans we have for Kansi and Norco in 2010 particularly exciting and I will be keeping very close to the development of these brands over the coming years. It’s very difficult to comment on whether or not the economy or exchange rates will further impact on the industry, but the positive external factors are all still very much alive and stimulating our businesses in a positive way.

Is there anything you’d like to tell the trade?
I would just like to add that the Fisher business has really changed for the better. Fisher is continuously evolving and improving. We understand that continued change is crucial in a fast maturing industry – and through our investments we will show we are totally committed to supporting the specialist cycle retail network.

I know very well that during our change process we didn’t hit all the right notes with some of our customers, but if you take a look now, you’ll find a new Fisher – a Fisher hungry and willing to take the opportunities the market is presenting to us all – so why not take them with us?

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