Merida UK boss: ''The perception we're all about MTB is changing''

Chris Carter speaks to BikeBiz about the 2015 catalogue, investing in the brand and more
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Should your store fall on Merida UK’s radar, you’ve no doubt already flicked through the 95 bike strong brochure that goes some way to emphasise that the label’s upped its game substantially for 2015, retaining the value for money builds the brand is known for and adding value for retail partners. 

If you’re of the belief that customers buy with their eyes, falling for the colour and design of a bike over almost all else, then you’ll be hard pushed to find better looking bikes this year. Having invested $18 million in not just one, but three paint plants in the past three years, Merida’s German designers have been able to go a little crazy with their ideas and the results are quite eye-catching from the bottom to the top of the line.

There is of course much more to Merida than fancy paint, as highlighted by UK MD Chris Carter in this year’s catalogue. He told BikeBiz: “Merida is a manufacturer with 42 years experience trusted by a limited number of market leading labels to produce their frames. Significant resource goes into frame design and you’ll not catch us bolting a fancy derailleur on at the expense of the foundations of the bike’s performance.”

With three million bikes now produced annually – split among 44 international distributors who serve 77 countries – Merida UK is an admittedly small part of the A-team brand’s global business. There is, however, a near 350 strong dealer base in the UK and that figure is only going to grow as the brand gains momentum says Carter.

“The perception that we are purely a mountain bike label is changing and with that we expect interest to continue to develop. There are gaps in our dealer base that we will look to fill, particularly within the south-east and west. The 95 bikes we have chosen from the 250 strong catalogue are perfect for the UK’s worst weather and many have tailored price points to fit with cycle to work schemes. Having said that, the best sellers at present are all coming from the rigid hybrid and traditional lines, which is encouraging for those promoting cycling primarily as a means of transport.”

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Spanning £299 through to £8,000, the 2015 adult range goes toe-to-toe with the big brand competition, introducing tube forming at £400 with no prejudice on whether the build be a male or female frame. All of these are delivered to the dealerbase inside two days via TNT and with no shop floor commitments.

“We work with partners on a one -to-one basis, listening to ideas and doing our best to earn the best possible margin for partners,” says Carter. “We can also offer a demo programme to get the potential customers on board. 

“We‘ll take the pressure off the dealer wherever it is possible. The consumer is looked after too with Merida’s lifetime warranty on everything up to a rider weight of 19.5 stone, as well as a race warranty.”

At the time of BikeBiz’s visit Carter was in the process of signing off a Cycle to Work focused catalogue, written to provide the newbie with a jargon free entrance into the cycling world. It’s no coincidence that Merida’s current best selling price point sits between £600 to £650.

“The brochure will give our customers a sales tool to keep the consumer engaged in the brand while they make their decision. It’s written to outline in simple terms what certain specification upgrades mean and the benefits that they offer, hopefully helping upsell in the process. With the best selling price point anywhere around the £600 mark, we’re seeing lots of sales on Cycle To Work, with the remaining allowance often spent on accessories.”

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For the full £999.99 budget, Merida’s bikes offer 6066 aluminium as opposed to the usual 6061. There’s tapered head tubes too, something that Carter believes should have trickle down from the top-end sooner in order to give those making their first big bike investment some of the same stiffness characteristics enjoyed by competitive riders. Full carbon tapered forks, weighing in at 393 grams with a 300mm steerer, also feature heavily. 

Though Merida is investing heavily into research and development for its bikes, resource is also being directed toward a new parts and accessories division, also based in Germany. Also in the pipeline for 2015, Merida UK will be launching a brand new B2B around summer time. The resulting piece of software will offer live stock updates, all the sales tools and marketing material a stockist may need and more.

www.merida.com

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