Back in the swinging sixties, Bert Lewis founded a small company called Northern Cycle Industries. His Canadian-based bicycle company was committed to delivering quality products and outstanding customer service and soon became known as Norco.
The business was originally run out of a garage and now has over 150 staff in three offices in Canada, 25 international distributors and a Canadian manufacturing facility, something Norco achieved while forging a reputation for cutting-edge product, quality and innovation.
The brand has had something of a low profile in the UK lately, but went on to hit the headlines when Fisher picked it up in August last year.
So, what led the St Albans-based distributor to snap Norco up? Martin ‘Hawziee’ Hawyes explains: “At Fisher Outdoor Leisure we needed a bicycle brand for our customers that was aligned with the prestigious parts and accessories brands in our portfolio. Norco added to this prestige and its key values of going above and beyond the level of customer service in our industry was inspiring to learn about and be a part of.”
Potential was also a key factor for the distributor: “The final reason was that this brand seemed to have a relatively low profile in the UK and that is pretty bewildering when you consider that Norco bikes outsell the big three in Canada.
“It is a company that is based in the ‘mecca’ of mountain biking with a dependable proven product,” Hawziee continues. “Norco is a viable alternative to the now common brands that consumers are trying to differentiate themselves from.”
Now, after almost 12 months since Fisher first reeled Norco in, has the reality matched those expectations? Hawziee thinks so: “It’s been eye-opening. We’ve been genuinely surprised to learn of the very loyal following Norco has from previous consumers. The customer service value has nurtured whole families into the brand and owners have often told us at demo events about how happy they’ve been with the bike and its dependability.”
And that reaction has led Fisher to distribute a full range of Norco bikes this year – the first time this has happened with the brand in the UK, according to Hawziee: “There has really only been north shore, downhill, and jump rigs available and we chose to bring in leisure and commuter bikes too.
“This year 40 per cent of overall sales have been made up of our flat bar road category and this is the first time these have even been available.
“The all-mountain, freeride and downhill bikes have a committed programme as always, which has been successful, but for next year we have already had to considerably increase our ordering to keep up with the demand from our dealer network. On that point we seem to sign up a new dealer every couple of weeks at the moment.”
And emulating Norco’s US and Canadian success on these shores is something Fisher believes is already happening, with the brand proving a category leader. Many dealers will be pleased to hear that the brand won’t be available online, to create footfall and “out of respect for dealers’ expertise and business commitments”.
The 2009 range comprises 24 models from various riding categories including downhill, freeride, all mountain, jump bikes, BMX, cross country (comprising both full suspension and hardtail), urban commuting and comfort bikes. The urban commuter VFR models are proving particularly popular, with butted aluminium 700c frames, rack and mudguard mounts and hydraulic disc or rim brake options. Prices in that line-up range from £329.99 to £849.99 at retail.
The Fluid Lt’s – priced from £1,599.99 to £3,999.99 – have seen a marked increase in sales for the five-inch travel series, something expected to continue for the next year at least and due an increase in range in the same time period. The Fluid 2 this year retails for £1,799.99.
With category growth exceeding expectations in the urban commuter and cross-county categories, Fisher expects further growth over the next one to two years and is focusing primarily on the four-inch and five-inch cross-country bikes in the short-term.
Branching into BMX
Four models will make up the initial wave of Norco BMXes available. These are set to hit UK retail this October, as reported in July’s BikeBiz. Featuring a low profile progressive frame designed to maximise weight savings, a variety of top tube sizes are on offer, catering for a range of rider sizes and preferences.
Fisher will only offer completes this year and the models have been produced by the people responsible for leading BMX brands such as WeThePeople, Premium Products, Haro and Eastern, to name a few. Fisher tells BikeBiz that initial feedback for the range ahead of Christmas has been excellent.