Interview: Claud Butler discusses expansion plans

International distribution and a new components and accessories line key to business growth
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Claud Butler has been a staple of the British bicycle business for decades. This year a bit of a shake up is happening...

Claud Butler seems to be everywhere – how many UK stores carry the brand?
We currently supply 750 plus IBD accounts and as some of these will have more than the one store, you can probably add another 100 to that figure.

Has the business any scope for international business?
At the moment the brand is exported to two countries, both within the EU. However, the decision was taken recently to pursue more.

What trends have you seen emerge in recent years and how have you adapted to accommodate these?
In my time within the trade, the most obvious is the change from MTB to hybrid, trekking and road bikes. Every year retail gets harder, dealers have had to make sure that consumers buy a bike that they will enjoy riding and is fit for purpose. The Claud Butler brand has always been a forerunner in this market and our road, hybrid and trekking offering is one of the strongest there is.
In more recent years the electric bike has also had a huge increase in its profile and when our Glide range was launched mid 2010, it immediately sold out.
There has also been an increase in higher value product. That can only benefit the trade.

Is the cycle to work bracket important to CB?
Cycle to Work is hugely important to everyone in the trade. Its value over the last few years cannot be underestimated and I for one hope it continues for quite a few more. The type of product we are strongest on (that of trekking, road and hybrid) ensures we do well with any dealer who stocks our range. How many tanks of fuel is a decent bike these days?

What aspirations do you have for business?
Primarily to make sure it continues to be the label dealers can rely on and to keep them believing in the brand. Having the service department that is widely regarded as the best in the trade goes a long way to ensuring this.
We are also looking to progress mid to high-end sales and push into exports. Both parts and accessories, as well as electric bikes, are new and exciting avenues for us and this is where is see the biggest growth for the company.

What kind of cyclist does the new components and accessories lines cater for?
Our new parts and accessories range is a core range of saleable items that probably make up the bulk of our customer's sales. We purposely have not gone down the route of cheap accessories as it needs to reflect the brand.
For many years our customers told us we should be supplying everyday goods and it has always been something I pushed for. Of course when you first start you have grand aspirations and want a huge all-encompassing range, but you soon realise it isn't as simple as that. It is almost like starting a new company.

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What product is currently in stock and can you say what's in the pipeline?
At the moment we have good stocks of everything. Something we were told during the January launches is that customers expect continuity. As this is something we already have to work around on bikes, I am confident we will manage.
Although it is still early days for us with regards to the new lines, already from both customer feedback and salesmen's mithering, there are another 15 lines soon to be added.

What POS material will be available to dealers stocking the new components and accessories line?
We are very strong on point of sale. At every sales meeting our sales managers leave with their car doors bulging with POS. Claud Butler branded clothing, posters, banners, framed pictures, logo stickers, feather flags, display stands, mobiles, window rolls, bags, mugs and pens all push the brand in store.

How are you marketing the brand this year?
Obviously there is the usual glut of product reviews, a 'best in test' road bike scoring 86 per cent being the latest, as well as features and adverts in the press. In similar vein to supplying dealers with plenty of POS.
Online activity and viral marketing is also something that has changed in recent years and we will soon have something very exciting to announce with regards to this.

Will we see the brand at any shows this year?
We gave the first parts and accessories preview to our customers during our own 'in house' roadshows that we have every January. This is follwed with five regional exhibitions where dealers are invited to come and see what they can expect for the coming year. The response was far better than we could have hoped for and we had to increase our initial forecast.
We are very active supporting dealers on any Cyclescheme open days, county shows, demo days, shop rides and any other type of event they may have.
As an example, one of my favourites has always been the York Rally which again, we do in conjunction with a local dealer.

What steps are you taking to ensure the CB brand remains competitive and to ensure dealers can achieve a strong margin?
Our design team of Dave Heath-Drury and Ed Smith have many years of experience in the industry and are always making sure that we offer both quality and value for money. They spend a lot of time sourcing the right product from the right factories.
At Falcon we are very protective of the margins our customers make on our product and we do everything we can to ensure this is something they never need worry about.

What criteria must a dealer meet to become a CB stockist?
The first step is to ring 01652 656000. The salesmen who covers your area will then give you a call to discuss moving things forward. We are a friendly bunch without too many airs and graces. Alternatively, email melanie.bailey@falconcycles.co.uk, or phil.haveron@btinternet.com.

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