Those who have been a part of our industry for longer than five minutes will no doubt be aware of the influence Moore Large has over the cycling sector. The distributor, which was established over 40 years ago by industry veteran John Moore, remains one of the few family-owned businesses to maintain a massive presence in the UK market. With 130 employees and a 250,000 square-foot warehouse in Derbyshire, Moore Large has pooled resources into shaping a range of both bicycles and accessories from brands such as Tern, Polygon, Haro and Kenda, but one of its biggest success stories is Forme. A simple Google search will reveal the general feeling toward its range; two recurring words appearing across forums are ‘affordable’ and ‘quality’.
In 2008, Moore Large identified a gap in both its portfolio of brands and the market itself. As a result, the company decided to bring forth a new mainstream British brand, beginning with a small range of Cyclescheme-focused road bikes, introduced in 2009. An official Forme launch quickly followed in March 2010. The new brand experienced rapid growth, expanding to over 50 models covering all mainstream genres and price points by 2013. It was here that Moore Large reached something of a crossroads with this burgeoning creation, and was consequently faced with one of its greatest challenges as a distributor.
“In 2013, we decided to expand the number of brands on the bike side of the business and reduce the volume of models in the Forme range, aiming to minimise crossover,” explains Moore Large sales director Adam Biggs. “This meant that Forme lost some of its focus and identity, so despite continuing to bring an excellent range of bikes to the table, the brand slipped off the radar for many dealers and consumers alike.”
In September 2017, as part of a refined and consolidated focus for Moore Large, Forme was relaunched with a multi-discipline range, from £260 premium junior rides through to £5000+ carbon road bikes.
“The brand now sees greater support and investment than ever before, and is set to expand its collection rapidly over the next few years,” adds Biggs. “We have carefully considered our brand positioning following the relaunch to ensure our market positioning will allow us to offer a genuine British alternative to some of the most established brands in the bike industry.”
Following the relaunch, one of the first key elements in pushing Forme into the modern bicycle arena was the investment in research and development. The core team of Biggs, brand manager Leon Stimpson and brand designer Rich Burley put their heads together and resolved to create a new comprehensive range of bicycles.
“Our HQ is like Aladdin’s Cave!” laughs Biggs. “We have many prototypes currently being tested, and as our brand development is in full swing, we’re currently testing bikes from our new Trail & Enduro, Aluminium & Road Adventure and E-bike ranges.
“As a new brand aiming to penetrate the market with the level of impact we are looking for, the highest level of product quality is a given, so our team is constantly under pressure to micromanage every part of the process to ensure every product we bring to market is the highest possible standard.”
Biggs continues: “This involves daily contact with the factory, many factory visits and exceptional due diligence. All bikes are designed in-house and tested by our team, which includes some of the most experienced bike riders in the industry – including current World Cup-level downhill riders and ex-professional road riders. Usually, we have at least two prototypes of any model prior to final production confirmation.
“In addition to product development, we are also able to carry out all graphical development in-house as Rich Burley, our brand designer, has all equipment required to be able to ensure all of our graphics are accurate. This eliminates lots of time going back and forth with the factory.”
One of the key contributing factors to any brand’s success is its identity. Creating a product with high technical specifications is one thing, but communicating an ethos and an image can be the difference between a commercial failure and a narrative that customers and dealers alike can rally behind and invest in. For Forme, one of the key elements of the brand’s image is its British heritage.
“There are many fantastic brands and products in the industry, so the fact that we are a British brand is arguably one of the largest influencers on a consumer’s buying decision,” says Biggs. “When considering the consumer journey for any bicycle purchase, more often than not, if they are shopping via a specialist retailer, they are looking for guidance and options to meet their needs and want it at a particular price point.
He adds: “Consumers are usually open-minded, so assuming we have the support of the dealer, if we can offer the key ingredients of looking cool and representing great value, the main point to close the sale is simply being British! Alongside being patriotic, there is level of quality expectation attached to British brands in most industries.”
A conscious decision was made in the early days of Forme’s creation to put the dealer at the heart of the brand’s pricing and distribution structure. Promoting a dealer-centric ethos in a time of widespread economic uncertainty has been an enduring mission. Biggs explains: “We’re currently in a transitional period of consolidation in the bicycle industry, so encouraging a dealer to stock something new and position Forme alongside well-established international brands is never going to be easy. After all, why would a dealer even think about adding us to their lineup if they already have good support and products from existing, better-established suppliers?
“Bringing a quality product to the attention of a dealer is never going to be enough to get you across the line, so the brand position, story and direction become the most important parts of the selling process.”
One of the first things the brand resolved to offer dealers was a defined route to market: “Omnichannel selling works well in many areas of retail, and if you look at global mainstream brands such as Nike, it makes complete sense. I can also see how this works for certain bicycle categories, apparel and many accessories. It makes buying easy for the consumer, opens up 24/7 shopping availability and much more.
“However, I believe there is only one way to guarantee the highest level of customer experience for a premium, mainstream brand like Forme, and that is to offer one clear route to market via specialist bicycle dealers. The key brands try to butter up selling direct as an advantage to the dealer, but they are ultimately cannibalising independent retailer sales and removing ownership of the sale. The retailer could have upsold to the next bike up in the range, they could have cleared the model they have invested in on the shop floor, and they could have tagged on a bike fit to guarantee size and improve the customer’s experience. Put simply, what I am trying to say is that we are 100 per cent supporters of the IBD!”