Proviz Sports launched a new B2B website for IBDs towards the end of last year. Rebecca Morley catches up with co-founder Anthony Langly-Smith to find out more
When the first lockdown was announced in March last year, not many could have predicted the impact COVID-19 would still be having on our lives today. Restrictions were brought back in not long after they had been eased, and, while many are optimistic looking forward as the vaccine rollout continues, we’ll still have to wait some time before our lives go back to normal.
But during each lockdown, bike shops have been permitted to remain open. IBDs have been there to offer cyclists what they need to keep riding in the pandemic, with many businesses across the industry experiencing such huge rises in demand that there have been many shortages in stock as a result.
Proviz Sports has seen a similar increase in demand to other brands, says co-founder Anthony Langly-Smith. “There’s been a cycling boom, there’s been a lot of demand for bikes. Bikes are running out of stock left, right and centre. We’ve seen a similar thing where there’s been a huge amount of demand, a big uptick in people wanting cycling kit. There’s been the demand but getting hold of supply at the start of last year when a lot of factories were having to shut was a challenge. On the whole, it’s been okay, some people have got six-12 month lead times and massive delays on stock. We’ve been actually okay in that way; but there has also been a huge demand over the summer and throughout our peak season, which is the autumn.”
Stores and showrooms
The brand is also supporting independent bike dealers with its new B2B website, launched towards the end of last year. It means Proviz is now available across the UK, Ireland and the Channel Islands from stores and showrooms, allowing people to try on its range of products in person.
“In 2019, we trialled just working with IBDs but there wasn’t a B2B,” explains Langly-Smith. “But we were getting a lot of demand for a B2B, from reps, retailers but also internally; when someone sent an order in, it was a lot more manual work. The B2B had a couple of delays from the developers but we wanted to bring it out sooner because we were realising that a lot of the IBDs were needing stock really quickly. They would order, and then they would order again.
“For them to have accessibility to a quick and efficient B2B was really important and we understand that because we put ourselves in their shoes. They just want to be able to log in, add X to basket and checkout.”
The brand also received good feedback on what retailers are looking for when it comes to a B2B website, so it could ensure it covered everything when it was set up. Langly-Smith says the process prior to having the B2B was quite manual, with people having to fill out forms and scan them in. “It was a bit of a block for retailers. No one wants to be filling in forms at the best of times, let alone when you’re running a busy shop.
“We made sure that the form they fill in online is really simple and quick, and that they would then be sent their logins within the day so they can crack on and order. It makes their lives easier and it makes our lives easier, so it’s just a winner.”
Bike shops have been allowed to remain open in all three lockdowns imposed due to COVID-19, each time being classed as essential retail by the Government. This has allowed people across the country to embrace cycling – whether it’s being used as a daily form of exercise, to avoid the close contact of public transport for necessary journeys or simply as a new hobby when many other activities had to shut down.
“We get a lot of people wanting to try our stuff on; they actually want to see it, they want to touch it,” says Langly-Smith. The brand has also seen a synergy with Proviz and e-bikes, with many retailers seeing a large uptick in sales and customers asking what they should wear with their new purchase.
“We were getting a lot of people coming to us saying: ‘We haven’t actually sold Proviz, but people are coming in wanting Proviz, especially in the autumn.’ It’s very easy to send them a link to sign up. Ten minutes later they’ve got a log in, and within 20 minutes they can put an order in.
“We love the bike shop, I think it’s such an important part of towns and villages. It’s been really important that they have stayed open. Cycling has kept everyone sane, to be able to get that fresh air and feel like they’re doing something. I think that the Government has obviously identified how important it is that people can get out on bikes. It’s so good for everyone’s physical and mental health, so it’s been really important for us to be able to support stores and be able to provide them with quick stock.”
Looking forward, Langly-Smith believes this boom will carry on. “I know people talk about it being a flash in the pan kind of thing, but I think it will continue. For us as a business, we have a really active community on social media and we’ve got about 85,000 social media followers now. They’re amazingly proactive in a very positive way, suggesting products or colours. It’s been really interesting listening to them about some of the products that they like, and we’re going to be looking at really expanding our collection.
“We’re really excited about 2021,” Langly-Smith continues. “We want to continue to offer the IBDs a really good service, more choice, and expand and enhance what we currently do, taking their feedback and constantly improving.”