The Year in Review: Ison Distribution

2020 was undoubtedly an unorthodox year, with independents, brands and distributors alike feeling the inevitable effects of a turbulent period for businesses the world over. BikeBiz caught up with seven UK distributors to reflect on a bizarre yet successful period for the cycling industry.

Today, we hear from Lloyd Townsend, managing director of Ison Distribution

I liken our 2020 bicycle business as a rollercoaster ride in the dark. I also believe the wild ride we are on is far from over.  Significant ups and downs with hidden twists well into 2021 may be difficult to stomach for many. 

Funnily enough, this year should have been somewhat of a memorable party year for us at Ison. 2020 saw Halo Wheels celebrate 20 years, my great grandfather’s brand of The Light Blue bikes celebrate 125 years in the industry and John Squire see his eighth generation family-owned and run business celebrating 240 years of lock making. However, as we all know, it sadly turned out to be memorable for a different reason for us all. 

Brand changes
The year started well for us with our introduction of exciting new brands and products at the annual COREbike event. The new brands that joined us at COREbike for the first time included Squire locks, Princeton Carbon Works (PCW) wheels, Fidlock bottles and Benno etility bikes. We also successfully presented a new spin-off of Gusset Components, Gusset Grips, with a hugely expanded grip range. Despite COVID-19 making some of our new 2020 brand sales strategies more awkward than planned, we have still seen a great uptake on the new product areas for us.

I would like to highlight my sincere thanks to all the great staff at Ison for their flexibility and support during this particularly awkward year. Without these dedicated people, the bikes and parts being supplied would simply not have been possible.   

Behind the scenes
Ison Distribution is a relatively small player in the overall UK market and our stock levels are typically disproportionally high.  Like most businesses, our stock levels have been ‘hammered’ during this last spring and summer. I have noticed several dealers picking up what would be ‘new lines’ to them from us when hunting for options, and then finding that our lines are rather useful to carry on running with as standard. That said, our supply pipeline gauge is only so big.

We are doing all we can to help with supply. We have even been using horrendously costly airfreight to pick up some of the critical small items for our in-house bike assembly to keep dealers stocked up with bikes.

IBD focus
As the owner of a distribution business that was spawned from a fourth-generation IBD, I would like to think I have a good understanding of what it’s like to be an IBD. Ison Distribution’s primary focus is the supply and support of IBDs. I believe that support in business should be a two-way street, and that dealers can rely on our support through the good times, and the bad.

As one of founding members of the COREbike show, I am a firm believer in the merits of dealers and suppliers coming together to gain a better understanding of what’s going on in the market. Finding out easily what’s new and exciting for the coming year is important for the progressive dealers who want to keep their fingers on the pulse of a fast-changing marketplace. We still have a number of exciting new products and brands to introduce for next year, so, to mitigate the loss of the physical COREbike in January 2021, we are working on some video presentations with our suppliers for early 2021.

It will of course be great if the recently talked about vaccinations are able to quell the strangle hold that COVID currently has on the world, and who knows, we might be back to something nearer to normal later in 2021. Until then, take care, stay safe and protect the NHS.

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