2021 has undoubtedly been an unorthodox year, with independents, brands and distributors alike feeling the inevitable effects of a turbulent period for businesses the world over. BikeBiz catches up with several UK distributors to reflect on a bizarre yet successful period for the cycling industry.
Today, we hear from Simon Ford, sales director Extra UK
We have again enjoyed significant growth with some months showing triple-digit percentage growth above 2020. As well as the buoyant market during the first half of 2021, better stock availability compared to 2020 aided sales. We have also benefited from shortages at our competitors with customers switching their purchases to us, or whoever has stock.
With market shortages on certain items like chains and brake disc pads, we have seen huge spikes in sales making future forecasting very difficult, especially with lead times much longer than normal, 90 days to 440 days for one example!
We added three brands in 2021, firstly Capgo Cable Systems and Motorex Lubricants. Both brands offered something to our customers that we did not previously have. Our workshop business is growing, so it made sense to increase appeal in that sector.
Then in June, we added the UK brand Rockstop who came to us after outgrowing its own direct to dealer distribution model. Rockstop designs and manufactures frame protectors and rim inserts, items that were not previously carrying. Trade reaction has been fantastic, meaning we have had to restock twice in the opening month.
Although not a new brand to Extra, Crankbrothers added a shoe line to its portfolio and that has been successful beyond our expectations, to the point that we now have a waiting list of new stockists. Our strategy with brands is to focus and build the brands we already have; we look to avoid duplication where possible. We don’t want brands lost in a portfolio that is too big.
Behind the scenes
Early in 2021, our business into Ireland was disrupted due to the changes following Brexit. Foreseeing issues, we opened a Dublin based Ireland office and that has really helped better serve our customers there. Thankfully, goods seem to be flowing again and I’d like to thank our loyal customers and staff there for their help and patience.
I’ve already mentioned the operations side of our business, that’s needed a lot of attention because of issues arising from the COVID period, more staff, new software, and revised work methods. Some projects, like our new website, have needed to be delayed so we could prioritise where most needed. It’s needed a team effort to keeping things flowing in an operationally challenging year.
A post-COVID world
Product availability will be an issue for some; no stock means no sales. Many businesses have had to commit to large forward orders to secure bike stock, not great for cash flow but also guessing what you need 12 months ahead can’t be easy. Likewise, too much of the wrong stock could be an issue, it can lead to discounting that consumes profit. Inventory management will be key for many in 2022.
More people are cycling which is great news and what is particularly exciting is that the growth is coming from multiple disciplines, whereas in recent times it was very road bike based. E-bike sales are still growing, but also MTB for the first time in years, gravel, cycle touring (you can call it bikepacking if you like), cargo bikes, city bikes, there is so much opportunity for everyone.
2022 and beyond
2020 and 2021 featured unsustainable growth for most. In 2022, I’m expecting a much calmer market but still with growth over pre-pandemic levels. One thing that I am looking forward to again is some events. Our industry is a very friendly one and I think we have all missed personal contact, so I hope we can all meet up again soon, fingers crossed for COREbike 2022.