SPOTLIGHT: Upgrade and Lezyne

Lezyne to manufacture lighting product? You heard it here first. Jonathon Harker talks to Upgrade’s marketing man Tom Marchment about creating a respected brand image, best-sellers and the future...
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How’s business for Lezyne?
Extremely good. Every time I speak to our stockists they’re seriously impressed with how the product is received by their customers. Let’s face it, a large part of most IBD and quality chain stores’ profit comes from bikes over £500, so it’s no surprise that people buying good quality bikes want to buy great quality pumps, tools and luggage, too.

What are your expectations for turnover over the next six months for the brand?
Our growth last year was phenomenal, in fact the turnover for Lezyne has multiplied many times since 2008. We’ve already seen strong growth this spring and we’ve no reason to suspect this won’t continue throughout the year and if so, we expect to double our 2009 turnover.

The Lezyne name is relatively young and Upgrade has played a key part in establishing the brand in the UK having taken it on soon after its formation. Is that fair to say?
Obviously, Lezyne is a massively innovative company, so it has provided us with awesome products and a great base brand for us to develop in the UK.

It’d be pretty unfair, for us to claim too much glory for Lezyne’s success. However, from the very start we worked extremely closely with Micki and Dillon, supplying feedback on product and marketing. We also lent our own experience and creative ideas. In fact, Dom (creative director at Upgrade) came up with and developed the ‘White Glow’ stand that we used to launch the brand in the UK at Core Bike 2008. Since then, the theme has spread and illuminated white boxes have drawn cyclists to Lezyne product like moths at events all over the world.

Another important factor was the potential we saw in the brand. Being a relatively small distributor, we focused a huge amount of our time, energy and passion on Lezyne in a way that a larger distributor may not, simply because the motivation to succeed possibly isn’t as potent when a distributor is already quite grand in size.

How has growing the brand’s image been achieved?
Establishing the brand has taken a huge amount of work and we have had to be pretty competitive with our offerings to dealers, as well as having a strong consumer targeted campaign. This strong communication with end users through advertising, events and excellent product reviews has created a great demand for our dealers to fulfil.

Although very costly, face-to-face contact with consumers and dealers has been a highly important part of our strategy. Lezyne’s products are so tactile and aesthetically pleasing that sometimes photos just don’t do them justice. Allowing large numbers of people to get their hands on Lezyne’s tools, pumps, and hydration packs at events such as the Cycle Show, Core Bike Show, enduros, sportives and triathlons means they really appreciate the quality and feel that Lezyne is all about.

Innovation seems to be key to the Lezyne philosophy. What other qualities are cornerstones for the brand?
No gimmicks, functionality is very important. The functionality of many small and lightweight cycling accessories is definitely questionable.

Even our Small Pressure Drive, which fits into a rear jersey pocket, will pump up a road tyre without making your arm drop off. This may seem like an easy claim to make, but simple things like ensuring as much of the volume of the pump is used for stroke volume as possible – by having an overlapping handle and no large pump head – all aid this.

Coming up with and creating simple new ideas that solve riders’ problems, such as being the first to provide stainless steel tools that won’t rust in your pack, is how Lezyne ensures it stays ahead of the competition.

Has the sponsorship agreement with Cedric Gracia increased sales across 2009 and 2010?
Cedric is somewhat of a legend. I’d say he probably has more influence in Europe than the UK, but it’s always good to have someone as high profile and interesting as Cedric adding a whole new angle to the brand.

Lezyne has a pretty sophisticated look and history, but with Cedric alongside our other Lezyne riders –including Mark Cavendish of Team High Road and Sam Reynolds with the DMR team, Lezyne has a pretty punk group of riders that love the brand.

I know that Ryan (Lezyne product manager) has worked closely with the supported riders and we have tried to let the public know about this with tens of thousands of Cavendish, Gracia and Reynolds Lezyne posters going out in numerous national magazines over the past nine months.

Can you highlight any products that have performed well above expectation?
All areas have been growing well, but our mini pumps are the largest area of our business at the moment with star performers including the super-high pressure Road Drive and Micro Floor Drive ranges. I think these do so well because they combine innovation with great looks and the key Lezyne focus of functionality.

What differentiates Lezyne from its competitors?
Something I have really noticed is the enthusiasm for the products that Lezyne initiates with consumers and shop staff alike. Before Lezyne came along, the sector of pumps and tools was not by any stretch of the imagination exciting, but Lezyne has re-invigorated people’s interest. This passion people have for Lezyne products and the premium feel the brand adds to any shop, are significant.

We work extremely hard to provide very competitive margins for a premium product in this sector, and have outstanding POS support.

It is also very useful that Lezyne provides a full range of spares, which we carry in-stock. It also has dealer spares boxes, which are free to most stockists, so little spares don’t need ordering each time.

What do you anticipate will grab the most attention from Lezyne’s portfolio over the next 12 months?
I can’t believe how our new range of soft goods is selling this spring. The Touring Luggage and Hydration Packs were designed by Ryan at Lezyne and he has done an amazing job. Simple features like easy-grad thumb-sized loops on the zips, full rip-stop nylon, rain covers included (on touring luggage) and great styling, have really upped the game.

Lezyne has had a revamped site recently – how has it been received?
A website is a massive part of any company’s link with its customers, so having a polished site has really allowed that link to grow significantly. Getting news about the latest product, supported riders and great reviews all helps towards maintaining the interest and passion for the brand.

Can you reveal what products are in the pipeline?

Well, there are definitely a few additions to current ranges, such as the new MTB specific floor pumps that have massive flow to help with tubeless tyre seating and pumping up large volume tyres. Then there is the lightweight and slimline, but fully functioning, Travel Floor Drive.

Although I can reveal very little at the moment, once people see them, Lezyne lights might be on many wish lists this Christmas.

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