ArmaUrto director Chris Battin tells Rebecca Morley about the brand’s dealer direct programme and how it fills a gap in the market for IBDs
Safety has always been a key barrier for those who wish to take up cycling. In April, a JMW Solicitors survey revealed that just over a third of cyclists in the UK have been involved in an accident on the road, with almost a fifth blaming these incidents on cars or car drivers. Data on reported casualties from the Department for Transport shows that 16,498 cyclists were involved in accidents in 2018, and the number killed or seriously injured has risen by 16%, from 3,047 in 2015 to 3,541 in 2018.
One of the reasons cyclists are more vulnerable is because they do not have anywhere near the same level of protection as a vehicle driver. 10% of cyclists who participated in the survey said they do not cycle on the road and when asked for their reasons why, most people described it as being ‘dangerous’, ‘risky’ and ‘not safe’, while others said they were ‘scared’ and ‘nervous’ about cars.
ArmaUrto has a range of protective base layers, cycling jackets, bib shorts, long sleeve jerseys and arm warmers, aimed at protecting cyclists. And it all started for director Chris Battin with a nasty cycle accident about four years ago. “After that I tried to purchase some protective road cycle wear which was lightweight, should a crash or fall happen again – which it did,” says Battin.
“But nothing existed and that remains the same to this day – except for the ArmaUrto range.”
After years of RoSPA and Mintel based research and development, Arma was introduced into the first range of protective road cycle wear. EN1621-1 incorporated impact protection for critical areas, pro rider design influenced and made in Italy from Italian fabrics, it’s the first of its kind globally, Battin says.
The brand launched in late 2018 when former Moss Bros CEO Rowland Gee came on board as a director/shareholder. It has since exhibited at the London Bike Show and The Cycle Show NEC, received a BikeBiz nomination for Innovation from a Newcomer and has become an Innovate UK business.
“Mid to late 2019 saw the first product placement into IBD stores,” Battin continues, “but obviously the world has changed over recent months. During COVID, we have been working with elite riders on Zwift in advance of the dealer direct programme, where a number of elite and pro-riders will be taking brand ride outs for us, our clients and IBDs.”
Going dealer direct
ArmaUrto is offering dealers the opportunity to open a direct account with the brand – a programme which was originally due to launch in March but has now been delayed due to COVID-19.
The programme aims to ‘revolutionise’ how independent retailers benefit from stocking its products and will include a range of incentives previously unavailable. These extend to improved margins, simple ordering, credit terms, in-store training, event support and access to products and promotions only available to independent specialist retailers.
The ArmaUrto Dealer Direct Programme will offer three levels of benefits, dependent on the level of collaboration each retailer is willing to enter into. As an ambassador store, the retailer can receive extended credit terms, free product for in-store staff, and will be the first to receive new products in-store.
All distribution options and models were considered since the brand launched, Battin says. “Going direct gives us the closeness of working with selected stores through direct promotion, social media campaigns, and elite rider ride out days.
“We’ve received a lot of direct feedback from them for product design ideas and development. That allows us to forge ongoing business relationships that benefit the store and its customers. Further comments from IBDs express a preference in dealing directly with a brand rather than at distance through a distributor.
“IBDs were saying that much needed margin is being eroded by sourcing through a distributor. The longer the chain, the weaker it gets. Dealing with ArmaUrto can help their profitability and viability along with having a unique product offering for their customers.”
ArmaUrto won’t be expecting IBDs to take large quantities of stock, but instead reorder little and often, Battin adds. “For their cash flow, that’s got to be very positive. We haven’t rushed into this IBD collaboration. We just had to get it right with all the right balance.
“I do believe that this model will give us the distribution we are looking for, along with adding value to the success of the best UK retailers in the business.”
To date, ArmaUrto has been self-funded but is now excited to announce considerable external investment that will allow it to create brand awareness and consideration that is channelled through IBDs.
IBDs will also benefit directly from ArmaUrto’s in-house marketing and social media team and will have access and use of campaign assets to promote in-store product. A ‘custom range’ for stockists is also currently in the pipeline.
“The reaction from shops so far has been really positive,” Battin continues. “There’s been a huge gap in the market for an effective protection solution, suitable for road cyclists, for a long time.
“Cycling has its dangers. The ArmaUrto range fills this gap and offers an industry solution that hasn’t been available before. Of course, COVID has stopped a lot of things from progressing as of late, but it has driven a lot of people back to active transport which is excellent.
“It’s frustrating that not much kit has come out of Italy with lockdown, and we also haven’t had the ability to present our brand to IBDs. But it’s not going to last forever, and hopefully, we can get back on the road again very soon and present our AW collection.
“The industry remains unlocked and on the bounce with a considerable amount of people returning to bikes to avoid public transport, however, we are seeing a lot of wobbly commuters out there!”
Encouraging more women to take up cycling is something ArmaUrto is passionate about too. In fact, the brand was given a speaking slot on the Casquette stage at the ExCeL’s London Bike Show, where Battin says the message was “loud and clear”: women’s cycling numbers are low – 20% women to 80% men.
“A reason that was mentioned many times was confidence,” Battin says. “I 100% get that. We always ask women that buy ArmaUrto kit how they feel when they’re using it and they all say they report a feeling of greater confidence, knowing they have EN1621-1 added subtle protection for critical areas.
“If our apparel, or wearable tech as a few people refer to it as, goes some way to encouraging more women back into cycling that’s got to be a good thing. Comments from IBDs echo this – there is a whole new market sector waiting for them with the ArmaUrto offering.
“IBDs can expect to benefit from a soon to be launched marketing campaign that features high profile UK-based women encouraging women to cycle. Being a dealer direct product, stores that stock the brand should expect to see more women consumers looking for the opportunity to view the product before purchase.”
ArmaUrto will soon start recruiting sales agents across the UK and is looking to appoint a marketing manager during Q3 2020.