We sat down with Oxford Products’ cycling division commercial head, David Jesson, to find out about the company’s new strategy, and what’s in store for the autumn/winter season
Tell us a bit about Oxford, and its projected growth.
Oxford Products is a privately owned business with the Hammond family as majority shareholders. It’s currently forecast to deliver £30M in 2017 with a growth of 15 per cent – the cycle business is growing at 35 per cent.
Tell us about the in-house R&D department
We have a team of two design engineers who are constantly creating new products or refining existing products so that they continue to meet and exceed customer and consumer expectations. We have a 3D printer, which we use to prototype new products, refining the usability and checking mould quality. This prototyping with the printer allows us to reduce the development cycle by up to 12 months and gives us 100 per cent reliability when it comes to sending full machine and mechanical drawings to our production partners. We have recently installed a full product-testing suite so we can test products and prototypes to ensure they are up to the rigours of everyday use. This suite means we can test products quickly and cost-effectively and make us entirely self-sufficient.
Which markets do you cater to outside of the UK?
We’re a global business working across all continents and have customers and distribution partners in 43 countries. We recently signed a distribution agreement with Shimano Europe, which now distributes a comprehensive range of Oxford products through their 15-country European operation. Oxford Products has a subsidiary in the USA, whose head office is in Jacksonville, Florida. This is our bridgehead into North America and Canada.
We have seen more IBDs make the service element more obvious, bringing it out from behind the counter
What is your expansion policy?
We are growing our business through five main pillars:
1. Seeking geographical expansion into new countries.
2. New distribution in the UK with greater depth and breadth, meaning more stores stocking Oxford’s brands. Helping those stores that are currently stocking Oxford to sell a greater variety of products.
3. Adding new brands to our portfolio. We’re having good success with our recent additions of ACROS, Flaer and Taya Chains. 4. Working closely with our retail partners to run joint promotions and working with them on ways to engage with consumers at the point of purchase.
5. Supporting the wider cycling community – we were headline sponsor of Southern XC MTB series this year.
What developments have you noticed in cycle retail recently?
The first is e-bikes, and the second is growth in workshop business, particularly in the smaller IBDs. We have seen more IBDs make the service element more obvious, bringing it out from behind the counter.
How are you working with the IBDs right now?
Since we changed our strategy and started to build our direct distribution with IBDs, we have been listening closely to their feedback and doing whatever we can to support them. Some of the initiatives we are implementing include:
1. Merchandising and helping dealers with their in-store displays in order to make products that are self-serve more readily available and easy to navigate at the point of purchase, which then allows the dealers to have more time on the value added sales and advice.
2. Improved margins: where possible we are helping dealers by providing improved trading terms, making our offering extremely competitive.
3. Range management and working with dealers to remove slow selling lines and replace with SKUs with a higher rate of sale.
4. Customer engagement and promotion: we are actively participating with dealers when putting on events such as shop rides and races, brand evenings and demo nights.
5. Investing more in our brands to raise awareness and knowledge with consumers.
What consumer trends are you seeing right now, and how are you reacting to them?
We’re seeing demand for more safety products and improving rider visibility, and as a result are investing in the development of more intelligent lighting systems that illuminate the whole rider to make them much more visible. We’re also investing in lights with increased output to widen the appeal of our whole range. We’ve noticed a slow-down in the mid-market road bike sector and a switch to spending on MTB bikes, parts and accessories, and are reacting to this by adding more MTB brands, such as ACROS, to our portfolio.
There has also been a continued rise in e-bikes and more in the performance category, and a continued drive for value. These trends are being addressed in that more of our ranges and product items meet the demands for e-bikes, such as improved locks for both home security and away from home, specific workshop products that meet e-bike needs and bike covers that are a snug fit for that particular segment.
How has Brexit affected import and export?
The Brexit effect on imports has delivered a weaker pound vs the Dollar resulting in a 15-20 per cent increase in the cost of goods coming from Asia, and more recently in bringing product in from Europe. For export, it has made our products slightly better value across most of our markets.
What did you launch at Eurobike?
We launched a new helmet called Metro Glo which has a fibre-optic band that runs around the circumference of the helmet giving 360 degree visibility in low light situations. The helmet is supported by fibre optic “slap wraps” which can be worn on the wrists and ankles so all of the extremities are actively lit up. Through research, it has been proven that when a cyclist’s human form is recognised by vehicle drivers at night, they adopt a much softer driving style, reduce their speed and give the cyclist more consideration. The Metro Glo helmet will retail at £49.99.