Fusion’s Jamie Hawthorn tells Rebecca Morley why the brand is so unique to the UK market.
Fusion is a 20-year-old Danish high-performance sportswear brand with a difference. It is offering a unique proposition for UK retailers, that it feels is different from the current competition, and something that provides solutions to the current market challenges UK cycling retailers face. In this time, Fusion has built a successful brand and business that works with its retailers, on the principle of regular reordering rather than large six monthly seasonal pre-orders placed months in advance, which end up all landing at the same time, putting strain on cash flow.
“Fusion products are produced to the highest standards in Europe, at its own company manufacturing facility using only European-sourced, high-quality materials,” Jamie Hawthorn of Fusion explains. “This enables Fusion to control production 100% and offer a completely flexible, highly efficient supply chain that delivers excellent stock availability to our retailers all year round with no overproduction, waste or stock risk. We are focused on producing the right product at the right time that our retailers can reorder when they need to.
“This flexibility is not possible when many brands use third-party vendor production facilities that produce clothing for many brands in large quantities at set times during the year, with strict timescales when these orders need to be placed by the retailer to the brand and the brand to the vendor. This current system used historically by many brands is completely inflexible for the retailer and the brand itself, but the challenge to us is: ‘Are UK retailers ready to try something different?’”
He continues: “We also supply clothing to the running and gym wear sectors, who have the same market and production challenges. Our highly flexible system puts the retailers firmly back in control so they can choose what they range using their own experiences and information that we are constantly providing on our best selling products. We prefer an approach where our retailers start with a small efficient range and expand and amend this range over time. As they sell one, they buy one, which provides Fusion with essential and up to date data on products sold, trends and sizing.”
The Fusion range does not change every season but continues to offer established best selling products all year round. At the same time, it has an ongoing product development programme, whether this will be ongoing enhancements to an existing product or developing something new. It does not feel the need to define its products by the production or range year, which it says is typical with the current industry and has been led by the need to produce completely new autumn and winter and spring and summer products, with no range continuity. This means retailers receive only large orders, which when not sold need to be cleared quickly at low or zero margin, or at a loss to get ready for the next inbound seasonal pre-order.
Fusion formed in 1999 in Aalborg, Denmark, and through manufacturing precision, use of high-quality technical fabrics and a constant drive to be innovative, it has forged a reputation for making durable, functional and cutting-edge products. Fusion says it constantly strives to ‘push the boundaries’ in the development of new products, with a dedication to continually exceed the needs of customers that is only matched by its customers’ own dedication to their chosen sport.
Hawthorn explains: “Fusion in Denmark has doubled its sales turnover during 2018, however, the level of stock held at the Danish HQ warehouse has been halved due to our production flexibility and constant replenishment of key best sellers. This is further proof that our highly efficient supply chain system is ensuring we are stocking the right products in the right sizes and at the right times.”
In early 2018, Fusion partnered with Upgrade Bikes, which is a well-respected distributor in the cycling industry with successful brands and an excellent retailer portfolio, Hawthorn says. He continues: “It was not only the attraction of the quality product within the Fusion range but also how we do business. Upgrade has historically never considered adding a clothing brand to its brand portfolio, but the Fusion proposition presents it with a clothing solution that does not require it to place six-month pre-orders in large quantities, all held in stock with high stock risk. We feel we have the right product, brand and solution for UK retailers and we continue to work on the improvement of brand awareness of this successful brand within the UK.”
As well as offering a unique proposition, Fusion is different in that it is available to IBDs only, and not available through online only retailer partners. It has become part of Upgrade’s IBD 100 dealer initiative, which offers 100 products from the Upgrade catalogue exclusively to IBDs. Fusion made its COREbike debut this year, showcasing its range alongside Upgrade at Whittlebury Hall. Dealers were able to see the range as well as a selection of other products that make up the IBD 100 range.
Speaking about the IBD 100 programme, and the addition of Fusion to the distributor’s portfolio, Rory Hitchens, marketing manager at Upgrade, says: “IBD 100 is supporting the independent dealer with a range of products that bring about unique conversations with their customers. We think it is important for dealers to develop a point of difference and Upgrade supports this with a unique selection of key lines from our top-selling brands. “It is also a chance for Upgrade to introduce brands like Fusion Clothing, that sit best in an in-store environment and with a limited dealer base where the brand can be exclusively promoted.”
So given the success Fusion has had in Denmark, what has the reaction in the UK market been so far? Hawthorn says: “We’ve had a good reaction to the product range, and retailers that have personally tried the products in advance of ranging it have claimed they are some of the best products that they have seen for a long time. The challenge is due to the current market conditions, many retailers are either reducing the clothing they buy, moving to custom kit only or dropping clothing altogether. But there is not a need to do that once you have the right solution, which we feel Fusion is.”
Matt Killick, sales manager at Upgrade, adds: “Fusion Clothing will be a very different proposition for the retailer because there’s no pre-ordering, there are no seasonal buy-ins needed, it’s ‘buy one, sell one’. There’s no commitment needed in any sizable amount from the retailer, so it’s very unique and something we’re trying to get people’s heads around really because they’re so used to buying clothing in a certain way. Having to only buy one bibshort and one jersey is alien to some people. But it will come I’m sure, we just need to keep pushing it and getting the brand name out there.”