What role can the bicycle play during COVID-19?

There’s no doubt the impact COVID-19 has had on every aspect of our lives, from our work, socialising and how, if at all, we travel.

A bike, however, can still play an important part, to provide daily exercise and help key workers make essential journeys. And Brompton’s free home delivery service provides an additional option for those who might be unable to visit their local retailer.

“We feel privileged as a company and as an industry that we’re seen as an essential service,” says Stephen Loftus, chief commercial officer for Brompton. “Brompton is a practical tool for moving around a city and particularly getting to critical work, and we’re taking that responsibility seriously with our retail.

“We realise though it’s a very difficult challenge to navigate. You need to look after both the people you come in contact with but also your own staff. We believe that out of our 300 plus partner stores, around 50%-60% are open with restricted hours. You can see that across national retailers and independent bike shops. And that is linked to their requirements for the direct to home service, because their local store might not be available.”

Brompton’s new direct-to-home service, ‘Brompton To You’, allows customers to buy a bike direct from the factory and have it delivered to their front door. Customers can purchase a wide range of Brompton’s stock bikes directly from its website, and receive the bike with free delivery and a number of other purchasing options including buy now, pay later with Klarna.

Protecting retail
Loftus says Brompton has a very committed staff that is still keeping production running, and it is lucky to have a robust business that can withstand such challenges.

“We are very grateful, and the retail industry in particular is very grateful for the Government funding in terms of the furlough retention scheme that’s in place. That is being put to good use across a lot of our retail partners to protect the long term jobs. We think this is obviously an incredibly tough period and Brompton is in a fortunate position.”

“But we feel for the retail environment,” Loftus continues. “It’s very tough out there. But we do believe that we’ll come through this period of time and people will reimagine cities and how you get around. The bicycle is going to continue to be a solution to people, both in the periods when it gets more relaxed, but also afterwards – I think people will reimagine how to get around, how to live life in a city.

“We want to keep as we can our stores, both ours and support our partners’ stores, to help keep them running through this period of time.”

Wheels for Heroes
Brompton is also hoping to expand its support for the NHS with its new Wheels for Heroes campaign, an initiative which is aiming to deliver over 1,000 newly-manufactured Brompton bikes to key staff. The campaign has seen Brompton launch a crowdfunder, and commit costs equating to an investment of up to £100,000.

With public and corporate support, the bikes will be produced at below cost price and loaned straight to healthcare workers via the Brompton Bike Hire Network for as long as lockdown restrictions are in place.

“There are a lot of key workers,” Loftus explains. “We’ve got to promote getting them to work in a more safe, sustainable way, and a bicycle is one of the solutions. Going to a shop is no longer what it was. You’re letting one person in a store at a time and people might be nervous to wait in a queue.

“We’ve got all of these problems which we’ve never experienced before, hence we’re just trying to adapt to the environment as practically and as quickly as we can, and just keep the customer at the heart of our mind in terms of trying to give what people need. That’s behind everything we’re doing, whether it’s providing this direct to home service or trying to find a way of making more bikes for the NHS.”

Brompton Bike Hire plans for this campaign to have a lasting impact beyond the current crisis. These bikes will always be allocated towards the health service and will continue to be used by the NHS for a nominal maintenance fee (£1 per hire) after the lockdown restrictions are lifted. Some of the fleet will also be donated to hospitals to use for graduate doctors and nurses.

“We are sincerely trying to take the responsibility that we’ve been given as an industry and as a company, as an essential service, to keep the business running but also make a positive difference to people,” Loftus concludes.

In other news...

ZyroFisher’s Andy Budd on how IBDs can go back to basics

As the industry waits out COVID-19, Andy Budd, director of IBD sales at ZyroFisher, casts an eye to the future to consider how IBDs can increase store turnover and profitability by revamping their approach to P&A