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Bristol-based Paligap has some of the market’s most exciting brands and with the recent introduction of three new companies to the portfolio, business has never been better. Mark Sutton finds out more…

INTERVIEW – Palling up with Paligap

THE BUZZ in the Paligap chamber at CoreBike, back in January, was electric. With the announcement of new distribution deals for three highly respected brands, the large room appeared small for two reasons; the number of people gazing upon the new season’s lines and the sheer volume of product on show from the distributor.

The three brands introduced are by no means new, yet haven’t been seen in the UK. The deals make Paligap the exclusive distributor of Merlin, a titanium road and mountain bike specialist; Litespeed, another titanium bike specialist with triathlon specific products; and last of all, Quintana Roo, a triathlon specialist, whose frame designs use leg-preserving geometry to enable the rider to maintain strength for the running leg of the race.

Marketing manager, Ben Gaby tells BikeBiz: “Taking on the three new brands has created more work for each department within the business. The first shipment has arrived and we are seeing encouraging sales already. We have increased new business and interest from road and triathlon specialist dealers who may not have dealt with us before because of our predominant mountain bike focus. We now offer a complete package ranging from Litespeed, Merlin, Quintana Roo, Torq, PowerTap, Saris, CycleOps, Ritchey and X-treme DVDs.”

So Paligap has titanium covered and it stocks a fair chunk of the triathlete’s favoured rides. But if your customer base is the type to throw themselves down mountains, or just enjoy a leisurely off-road ride, what can Paligap do for you?

There will not be a retailer in the land which is not aware of the Kona brand. This all-bases-covered bike brand has cycles for both male and female, children and trail-savvy freeriders – and all areas in between. One particular bike in the range that deserves highlighting is Kona’s AfricaBike, a bike that the Kona website claims is ‘the most important bike we’ve ever designed.’ The Africa bikes are designed specifically for home health care workers treating HIV/Aids in Namibia and Malaria and for wellness visits in Senegal.

The majority of retailers will have themselves covered when it comes to complete bikes, but one grey area is which clothing brands are the guys at the trails rocking?
Canadian brand, Sombrio, has taken the UK by storm since its introduction to the UK, winning numerous consumer press awards for both value and quality. Since launching the first complete catalogue in 2003, the brand has grown by word of mouth and claims to be one of the first rider-owned, rider-designed companies.

This year dealers can look forward to the summer launch of the 2009 Sombrio range. Dealers will be invited to view and pre-order next season’s line to guarantee stock.
When asked about the future of Paligap’s rapidly growing portfolio, Gaby reveals: "We are always interested in new brands, but every one is considered very carefully to make sure it suits our business plan. Our current portfolio complements itself very well and potential new products have to fit within the marketplace and be a very high quality offering. We don’t want to be just another supplier selling the same thing."

And catering for niches uncovered elsewhere is something Paligap specialises in. In recent years, there has been an ever-increasing volume of cycling on television, Youtube, via DVD and various other media forms, and it sells.
X-Treme DVDs, is Paligap’s answer to the demand for cycle-media. From training DVDs, to extreme series such as Road Fools, Earthed and Stripped, there’s entertainment for connoisseurs of off-road adrenaline and those looking for tips to increase thier own skills. Gaby says of the brand: "We have seen a growth in special interest DVDs; these will always have a place in the market."

As for the future, Gaby adds: "As we take on more brands, business will naturally increase, and we aim to broaden our appeal to more and more dealers. Year-on-year we have seen consistent growth; this is balanced with an awareness of the pitfalls of growing too quickly and the fact that we to remain a very customer focused company."

Above and beyond the call of duty and customer focus aside, the majority of the staff based at the distribution headquarters have raced at some point. Gaby tells BikeBiz: "We have committed a lot of our resources into events and racing over the last several years. This year we are supporting Tracy Moseley at international level and we have international riders sponsored by Torq, Sombrio, Ritchey and PowerTap, across the board from triathletes, road, cyclocross and mountain bike.
"We have been working with Nissan on the Kona Nissan Grass Roots teams. This is a Europe-wide initiative to bring new riders up through the ranks and to support existing talent, and we have some great riders on this programme, from dirt jumpers to enduro riders. Nissan has provided a budget for the riders’ kits and race tents, and we are supporting our dealers with a discount off race bikes."

Paligap is in the process of launching the highly anticipated Kona CoilAir Magic bikes in the UK. Having already seen impressive pre-orders, Gaby offers: "We are very optimistic that the new ‘Magic’ technology will make a major impact in the full suspension market. Stock is due end of May.
"Aside from our strong product portfolio, we often hear that our customers enjoy dealing with us. Daniel and John deal with our in-house calls and Mike, Jonny and Andrew take care of calls out on the road. It seems unusual to be part of a team of people who really enjoy their work, I can safely say its never a dull sales experience."

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