INTERVIEW: Reece Cycles

Reece Cycles of Birmingham has one of the country’s most comprehensive product offerings. Mark Sutton talks to Jason Bonness about further growing the business, building brand names and more...
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Give us a brief history of Reece Cycles:
Reece has been a cycle wholesaler since the 1930s, starting off locally and with time, becoming a national distributor. Reece remains family-run today, although we're slightly more diverse than your standard family-owned bicycle business.

What stockist opportunities are available for your various complete bike lines?

Those looking to take on our ranges should make a simple call to the office and let us know what they will be seeking. From the initial contact, the local area sales manager will schedule a follow-up visit to discuss the dealer’s requirements.

Reece has a company policy to only supply bikes to the independent bike dealer network. Regarding Probike, Python and Free Agent, we try to protect the dealer’s area by not opening accounts in close proximity to one another. All accounts are dealt with on a one-to-one, personal basis.

Schwinn is dealt with on a completely separate basis to our other bicycle brands. Our aim with the brand is to restore its exclusivity in the market and to protect the image of the brand. Because of this we have received lots of positive dealer interest in a relatively short space of time.

Can you pick out any high or lowlights of the past year?
Business has been incredible in 2009, despite the economic doom and gloom.

We started 2009 with two new brands, the first being Schwinn bikes. These have been received very well and certain models like the women's Jenny sold out almost instantly.

January 1st also saw Reece Cycles appointed as a national distributor for Schwalbe tyres and tubes, which is possibly the most in-demand brand of rubber at the moment.

What has a brand got to do to be noticed by Reece?

Our brand portfolio has certainly grown quite a lot over the last few years, because we are always watching the market and often on the look-out for new and exciting additions to complement our existing product range.

A product needs to be of good design, well made and, of course, competitively priced in order to stand a chance of selling well in the UK market.

I’m currently talking to several parts and accessory brands regarding distribution possibilities, but I can’t really say any more at the moment!

How can a dealer open an account with Reece? Are there any criteria to be met?

The main criteria is that you are actually a store owner and not somebody operating out of the back bedroom or from a market stall.

We try to avoid opening more than one bike account per town. Parts and accessories can be two to three accounts per town, depending on catchments area.

What payment methods are available?
New accounts are opened on a pro-forma basis. The methods of payment accepted for new pro-forma accounts are credit or debit card, cheque and BACS. Existing accounts get terms, but can also pay by credit or debit card, cheque and BACS if they so wish.

Is anything causing your business concern at present?
The adult budget bike market, which ProBike is strong within, has seen a decline in numbers due to the supermarkets muscling into that area. I also believe the Cycle To Work scheme is partly to blame. However that has a positive side, as sales of our mid-priced Python bikes have increased.

The BMX World Champs is due to be held in Birmingham in the Olympic year – how will you get involved with this?
It's early days yet as far as the event is concerned. Nothing has been put down in stone, but being the distributor of Free Agent, and having current men’s Gold on the team, Maris Strombergs, you can be sure we’ll be involved there somewhere.

I’m currently working on a few projects with local tracks to get the kids interested; tracks such as Perry Park are being rebuilt with over £500,000 being spent on ensuring it’s a top-class facility.

What product are you most excited about in the coming months?
October is going to be exciting, because we aim to launch the Schwinn 2010 over several road shows across the UK (venues and dates are yet to be announced). The beach cruiser range has been totally revamped, and the fixie range now covers five price points.

Has anything far outperformed your expectations in the past 12 months?
The general market has certainly started to shift away from mountain bikes and begun to realise that the hybrid or comfort bike is the way forward for urban cycling in the UK.

Schwinn Madison fixies have also proved very popular, as have the fixie wheel sets we sell separately.

On junior bikes, the ProBike Wolf has been very popular in all sizes, of which 12 to 20-inch builds are available.

Is Reece involved with any event sponsorship and does the business do anything above the call of duty for cycling?
We currently sponsor a six-person Free Agent BMX race team, and supporting the Stephen Murray ‘Stay Strong’ BMX team as its frame sponsor.

Locally, we recently donated a number of bikes to the Birmingham Police for their PCSOs to use on patrol in and around the city centre.

How many staff do you employ and do many cycle themselves?

We currently have 18 members of staff based here in Birmingham, and out of that number there are four who cycle in every day, plus myself who rides regularly after work. Our sales team consists of seven area managers at present.

Going forwards, what are your aspirations for the business and for cycling in the UK?
We are soon to be going live with our long awaited B2B system, which should be a welcome addition for many of our customers.

As for cycling in general, it’s a great time to be involved. The part the bicycle plays in the green agenda is massive and as the Government does more to encourage city dwellers out of their cars, so its part in daily life will grow even more.

There is also the fitness aspect to consider. With cycling now being a GCSE qualification in some areas, kids will hopefully begin to see that riding a bike is more fun that being sat in playing on a games console on bright summer’s day.

Tel: 0121 622 0180
Web: www.reececycles.co.uk

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