Despite having notched up a formidable number of years in the business of making locks, Abus – like most companies about 18 months ago – was concerned about just how, well, secure it was in the face of an impending recession.
Axel Rosler, area sales and marketing manager for Abus, tells BikeBiz: “I think the whole industry was nervous. The financial crisis was in the news everyday, scaring consumers and at the end of 2008 nobody knew what would happen.
“The Abus company works in a number of sectors. We are family-owned in the fourth generation with divisions in home security, industrial security and the like. It was good for Abus to stand in so many sectors as some suffered under the financial crisis more than others –like the motorbike business. Luckily, and surprisingly, the whole UK bicycle market, and in all other countries, was pretty much recession-proof.”
In fact Abus enjoyed a hugely successful year in the UK last year, growing 38 per cent with distributor Zyro, due in no small part to a blossoming commuter market. With theft rising during times of economic hardship, demand remained high for security products too.
But Abus, or August Bremicker und Sohne KG, is more than just about locks. The company also has a firm footing in the helmet and bag sectors too.
Abus’ focus on the helmets side of the business reflects the rest of its product lines, as Rosler explains: “We’ve listened to UK retailers and found good solutions for them. We’re focusing on the kids, family and commuter cyclists because those are exactly the customer groups that are buying our locks.
“Many of our competitors in the helmet business focus on the high-end road and MTB riders – and they are not so much our targeted consumer.”
The introduction of bags to the Abus business also marks a shift for the decades-old firm, and the chance to bring its values to the bag sector.
“Abus is an 85 year-old firm and has moved from being a very traditional company to a lifestyle brand. As a company the quality of the product is very important, so whatever we create – helmets, bags and locks – is of a very high quality with safety uppermost. Safety and security in German is one word – it’s called Sicherheit.
“So with helmets we integrated a special flashing/constant rear LED into our kids’ helmets and also on commuter helmets where visibility is so important.”
Abus has been in the bag business for over 20 years. But why did a firm known for locks move into the sector? The reason is simple, as Rosler explains: “It started with the need to transport a lock. Many locks on the market at the time were not as cyclist-friendly as they might be – the problem was how do you transport a heavy lock? Cyclists had to use pannier bags but now we have innovative solutions like brackets, and bags with special sections built specifically for locks. We’ve grown that over the last 20 years and now have seven different bag ranges, four of which are coming to the UK.”
Abus also has its eyes on the changing needs of the market too. Following a booming commuter sector the firm has produced bike bags that won’t look out of place in the city. Likewise, Abus has produced a range of women-specific bags in response to the market:
“If you look at the UK you don’t see so much women- specific cycle product, especially bags. This is where we have been successful with the Lyria range which features modern designs, KLICKfix brackets and rubber buttons so they stand easily on the ground.”
As Rosler touched on earlier, Abus has been tapping into an increasingly lifestyle-orientated bike market, colour matching products across different ranges.
“We have just launched new chain locks in various colours. In markets like Japan, America and Canada we can see a lot of colour trends going on. The whole industry is developing into a lifestyle industry – if you think of fixie and singlespeed fans they like very colourful products. We’ve also found that colour matching is important to female consumers.”
So with a bunch of new product lines reaching into untapped sectors, colour- matching strategies, an eye on developing markets and all off the back of a year that saw 38 per cent growth in sales, you’d probably expect Abus to be expecting good things over the next 12 months. And you’d be right. “We are looking very positive into the next year. We have invested further in new products, we have new lock and bag models and for us the helmet market in the UK has seen a really big increase. We are very positive about the future.”