Three years on from announcing it would go direct to the retailer, MET's Jo McLeer talks to BikeBiz about the 2016 range, how dealers can link with the brand and new lid tech...
Business is going well across all of our export markets, including the UK. We have focused on establishing sales in all major markets over the last three years, which has seen our export market grow to over 50 countries and has seen us starting in the US for the first time this season. A major part of the success that we’ve had over the last few years is thanks to the strong heritage MET has as a bicycle helmet manufacturer and the depth of engineering and design expertise within our company.
MET focuses purely on bicycle helmets and nothing else. This gives us a competitive advantage in that we can really focus on our sole purpose - to produce the best performing bicycle helmets. An example of this core focus is the development of the Parachute being the first enduro helmet on the market and the world's lightest ASTM certified helmet.
Bluegrass is a much younger brand than MET, but we’ve seen significant growth internationally over the last couple of years. This has been down to a combination of having unique product - the Brave helmet is the first bicycle helmet to feature D30 technology and grass roots exposure through our brand ambassadors, for example Liam Phillips and our own European enduro event - the Bluegrass Enduro Tour.
December is the third anniversary of Met going dealer direct. Can you tell us about your UK strategy now:
Our sales team has a lot of experience within the bike industry, we have recently expanded the team and now have seven sales agents covering all of the UK and Ireland. The sales team is supported by our customer service team who are based in Italy.
We have a B2B available to make the order process as easy as possible for our partners and we have a third party logistical warehouse in Birmingham to ensure that we can ship within 24 hours to most areas in the UK. One of the main benefits of working retailer direct is that we’re much closer to the market. We can provide much better support to our retailers with more in depth product training and marketing support as we’re 100 per cent focused on our own brands .
Last year Met said that the enduro market had been pretty successful and that the Parachute had been a big performer in the UK. Is that still a market (and product) working well for Met?
The growth of the enduro market has been great and continues to grow for us. We were the first helmet brand to introduce an enduro-specific helmet with the Parachute. It’s the lightest full-face helmet at only 700 grams that’s also ASTM certified. The ASTM certification is the only certification that tests the deflection of the chin guard, the maximum deflection allowed to pass the standard is 60mm, the Parachute sits safely in the middle of the parameter at 30mm. The reason why riders buy a full face helmet is to have better protection for the face, so having the Parachute ASTM certified gives the rider extra confidence that we are offering the best level of protection.
The fact that the Parachute is so light and extremely breathable means that a rider can easily use one helmet for the climbs and for downhill.
Have there been any other sectors or products that have sold well for Met in the last 12 months?
In general our growth has been across the board. We are seeing that cyclists are becoming more conscious, not just of safety, but also of fashionable colour designs. We believe that this has been a strength of our collections for MET and Bluegrass in that we’ve got a wide selection of trend-leading graphical designs that are balanced well with some neutral graphical designs.
With the new range for MY16, we’ll be pushing the boundaries even further on graphical design within the main catalogue but also with limited edition designs.
What about product development - can you give us some of the inside details on how Met goes about developing new gear?
When Luciana Sala and Massimo Gaiatto started MET in 1987, it was very important for them that everything was developed in-house. Thanks to our manufacturing experience, we have a great team of people who have been in the company for a long time so they really understand the engineering and design aspects of building a helmet.
Firstly, we define our goals for a new helmet based on market feedback and trends after which the helmet is sketched out on paper. Once we have decided how the aesthetics of the helmet should look from the 2D sketch, our engineers are then tasked with building the structure of the helmet using CAD design and Nova 3. The Nova 3 program enables us to virtually impact test a design before the 3D print.
The next step is then printing a to scale model on our in house 3D printer, here we can check for the overall looks of the helmet and fitting. The combination of having our own 3D printer with the Nova 3 program means that we can proceed more quickly along the product development time line. Before we begin with mass production we engage in further impact testing of the helmets in our own lab where we house all of the impact testing machines required for all of the global standards.
Are there any particular headline helmets that you’d like dealers to be aware of coming up?
Yes, we’ve just launched the new aero helmets the Rivale and Manta at the Tour and both received very positive feedback internationally. Both were developed in conjunction with Team MTN Qhubeka p/b Samsung who wanted an open aero helmet for a regular stage race and a closed version for a flat stage. After testing them in the wind tunnel in Milan with Matt Goss we were more than happy with the results. The Rivale saved three watts at 50km/h and the Manta ten watts at 50 km/h.
We believe the Rivale is the lightest, fastest open aero road helmet that will be available, weighing in at 230g and selling for £110. Similarly, the Manta is the lightest and fastest closed aero helmet, weighing in at only 200 grams and retailing for £170.
We’ve just come back from our Australian launch where the new range has been very well received with shops loving the fit of the Rivale and Manta along with their low profile and compact shape. The Rivale will be available in the UK towards the end of September and the Manta will be available in October.
On the all mountain side we have a new helmet called the Lupo. This is the perfect balance between aggressive styling, breathability, comfort and gives more protection on the rear and side of the head. It also features an adjustable visor, front gel 02 pad and Coolmax interior, along with a great selection of colours. The retail price will be £100 and stock lands in October.
For Bluegrass we have a completely new range of body protection and gloves that is looking great and fits even better than our previous collection.
Are you going to be at Eurobike and/or any other UK cycle launches in the next few months?
Yes, we’re present at all of the major international shows including Eurobike, Taipei and Interbike. Look out for our booth at Eurobike, we’ll have something pretty special to show. Our booth number is B4-307.
We will also be attending the Birmingham bike show for the first time this year, which will be a great opportunity to launch the new range of products.
Are you looking to grow Met’s dealer base in the UK? And how can dealers get in touch?
We have a London based telephone number through Skype, which connects straight to our head office in Italy. Call 0207 193 7496, or via email firstname.lastname@example.org
For shops that would like to contact the sales person for their area directly, here are the contact details:
Scotland and the north west of England - Tim Hall 07850 493 505
North East of England - Dieter Pullan 07866 726 694
South Wales, South West of England and Ireland - Paul Edwards 07831 387 819
M4 corridor - James Stewart 07812 720 979
North London - Martin Jenman 07535 927 229
South London - John Styles 07976 573 662
South coast - Andy Bray 07896 124 968