Fresh from an appearance at January's London Bike Show, BikeBiz spoke with the pairing behind the innovative lock brand Hiplok...
What led to the creation of the brand?
Abrahams: Since we met studying Industrial Product Design at Uni, Ben and I have always thrown ideas around for new product and both being riders, a lot of these have centred around bikes. We saw that there was no easy carry solution to bike security on the market and wanted to create a bike lock that was really easy to transport, versatile and very secure. We got some ideas and concepts for a wearable bike lock on the table pretty quickly but then it took a lot of sourcing, testing and refinement before we launched Hiplok.
We are both British product designers and bike enthusiasts. Despite our international experience and Ben's overseas bike industry career (including Brooks Saddles and Troy Lee Designs), we wanted to set up Plus 8 Industries in Britain. We have such enthusiasm for all types of cycling in this country and London is a world leading city when it comes to design innovation and influence - where else would we base ourselves? All design and development is in the UK with manufacturing in China.
What were the biggest challenges in the creation of the first products?
Abrahams: Ben was working as bicycle director for Troy Lee Designs out in California while I was based at a design consultancy here in the UK when we first developed the Hiplok concept. The distance and eight hour time difference made setting up Plus 8 Industries and the product development of Hiplok especially challenging.
Smith: This was coupled with the usual challenges faced by a new start-up, including sourcing and manufacturing a commercially viable product from scratch and making enough noise to generate demand in a market traditionally dominated by some big international players.
Cyclists come in all shapes and sizes, so do you make extra large versions?
Smith: We are looking at a number of new options for the coming year, including a unique design for Hiplok Gold – watch this space or follow us on twitter for the latest @hiplok
Is there any sector which has seen the biggest take up of Hiplok? E.g. fixie fans? Commuters?
Smith: Hiplok has a broad customer base of riders with different types of bikes and from different demographics but one common theme is that our customers genuinely get on their bikes as part of their daily routine – whether that be commuting or riding for leisure, their Hiploks are well used.
How have things progressed since launch in 2011?
Smith: To say that customer reaction to Hiplok has exceeded our hopes would be an understatement. It's been hard work and we've definitely put in the long hours but sales have grown year-on-year and we have had truly awesome customer reaction both in the UK and internationally. We currently sell in 250 stores across the UK and have distribution overseas. We are still small and now that we have excellent retail and distribution partners in place, our goal for 2013 is to grow sales through building product and brand awareness as well as expanding the range.
Is bike crime growing and is it leading to a bigger market for locks, security devices, etc?
Abrahams: It's very difficult to get accurate information on bike crime as so many incidents go unreported. However, statistics show that while bike use is growing, sadly bike crime has also been on the increase in many towns and cities. Hiplok is unique in that it offers a bike security solution which truly combines security and portability – meaning that we have the best possible chance of encouraging riders to always take a secure lock, thus minimising the risk of theft. Our goal is to attract more cyclists to Hiplok and take a bigger proportion of the existing bike security market.
You were exhibiting at the last Interbike show in September. How is the brand faring internationally?
Smith: As in the UK, Hiplok has had fantastic reviews overseas and we have been working to set up distribution channels in a number of major markets. Last year, international sales accounted for over 50 per cent of our business and we are working with our distribution partners in North America, Europe, Japan and Australasia to grow sales in these regions in 2013.
And you've recently launched the Flipstand. Is that available now? Can you tell us a bit about it?
Abrahams: Flipstand is a cost effective and portable alternative to the traditional bicycle work stand. It's a high density foam based stand which stabilises and protects your bike in an upside down position so that you can carry out general maintenance on it. Flipstand is suitable for most types of bikes, retails for £12.99 and is currently available directly on our website www.hiplok.com. We are also working with UK company Muc-off on a special version of Flipstand which will be in stores this year.
Can you reveal anything about your future plans for the brand? Will you be at any 2013 shows?
Abrahams: We want to keep building awareness of the brand to ensure that Hiplok is recognisable worldwide as a trusted and innovative leader in bicycle security. We have several new Hiplok products on the horizon and hope to showcase our full range at Eurobike and Interbike this year.
Finally, how can dealers get hold of Hiplok product?
Smith: In the UK, we sell directly to independents and the major cycling retail chains as well as through Walkers Cycle Components. Sales enquiries should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.