Chariot has entered a new era where, with the backing of Thule’s design team, the stroller label is able to conquer more territory than ever. Dan Britton, original designer and founder of Chariot, talks to BikeBiz about the future…
BikeBiz: In 2011, Chariot became part of the Thule Group – are parents still seeking the Chariot name and reputation?
Dan Britton: We think the Chariot brand continued to be sought after by active parents after the acquisition, however, as you know for 2014 model year we have rebranded the Chariot brand to Thule in most countries. So there is an education process underway.
Given that both Chariot’s and Thule’s reputations are synonymous with innovation and quality leadership, we believe parents will equally desire and seek out Thule branded child carriers as they did Chariot. But to make this process easier for both customers and dealers we kept the name Chariot as a product category.
How deep is the product range now it’s been rebranded as Thule?
The product range is even deeper than it was, as we have conducted some repositioning to ensure we better cover price points. In fact we recently added a more price competitive bike trailer (called the Coaster) and we eliminated our mid-priced Cabriolet model. We are just coming to market with two new three-wheeled jogger strollers/pushchairs (the Glide and Urban Glide) and child bicycle seats. We are having good success with our new price competitive products, and at the same time our premium price point products continue to sell very well.
How are sales performing to date?
They have overall been positive and growing. A few markets are softening with some of our older models declining, however most other markets are exceeding our growth expectations. And Europe in particular has had a great start into the season.
I know we are growing in Europe and we are exploring the potential to expand our child carrying solutions that promote active lifestyle in the UK as well.
Do you find it’s the more physically active parent that buys into the brand?
Typically, yes. However we are seeing our appeal among parents broadening, given that our products tend to be aspirational for families not yet committed to a more active lifestyle. With our new three-wheel strollers, we think they will help expand our reach even further with parents who engage in average levels of activity.
How are you tailoring the product’s functionality to the ‘outdoorsy’ parent?
Our products generally share a common design language with high-end outdoor and sports equipment. They are easy and intuitive to use. They have enhanced durability to endure frequent use in rugged terrain environment. They are padded and protected for keeping kids safe. They use materials and have features to manage use in all weather conditions.
You’ve just introduced a child’s bike seat category – a natural progression for the brand?
Yes it was a natural progression. We wanted to offer the full range of transport options for active families. The new RideAlong child’s bike seat is a great combination of features: from the reclining seat, integrated protection wings, padded harness and a stylish design. We believe our child bike seat exceeds the competition in all capacities.
Do you think bike retailers are benefitting from any crossover custom from outdoors or parenting stores by carrying the product?
Sure, the better visibility of the products helps a lot in many aspects. New customers, who never previously thought about these types of products, are getting interested. Many customers go more often into outdoor or sports stores than into a bike store, but they might trust a bike store more when it comes to the final buying decision. Thus we will get more customers into the stores and at the end of the day into the bike stores.
Tell us about the design team behind the carriers – where do they draw inspiration from?
Our core group is a team of about eight people, with a healthy diversity of skills and backgrounds. A number are parents and most are very active, which together of course typifies our core customer. Thus we get many of our inspirations from within. But this is well balanced against feedback received from our customers, as well as our retailers and distributors.
Has prior design/engineering expertise in car racking benefitted the brand in developing the Chariot product?
Yes. We are starting to reap the benefits of collaboration with other development teams within the Thule Group organisation and I fully expect the amount of collaboration will increase in the future.
How has the product reviewed on parenting and bike websites and magazines thus far?
The products have been reviewed extremely well and have exceeded many industry expectations. Parents are drawn to the versatility of our products and the small details that we put into the design that make it easier for parents to use. The coverage we’ve had has been very positive and generally surpassed the competition that we’ve been compared against in gear reviews.
Any new segments or key products in the pipeline with Thule?
In terms of Active with Kids, yes, we will continue to add new products. In fact there are a few new child products already in the pipeline. We believe we are the worldwide leader in outdoor active child transportation products, and see a lot of opportunity to continuing to grow this space with highly innovative and functional products.