Inspired to set up his own business while commuting in London, Proviz co-founder Anthony Langly-Smith tells Alex Ballinger about how the hi-vis accessory market has changed in the past 15 years
This piece first appeared in the February edition of BikeBiz magazine – get your free subscription here
Founded by brothers Anthony and Rupert Langly-Smith, Proviz has become a recognisable brand for cycling retailers. Specialising in premium hi-vis accessories and clothing, the brand was established to fill a void in the commuting market, which was being filled by intrepid cyclists improvising with their kit to stay visible.
An uninspired sector
“I’d been working in London and cycling to work every day,” said Anthony, explaining the origins of Proviz. “I just saw lots of people improvising with their high visibility kit. I actually had this workman’s vest that I got for £2. I’ve got photos of people sticking fluorescent tape on their helmets and sticking torches to their backpacks with duct tape, things like that.
“We thought there’s obviously a bit of a gap in the market here, to provide a solution and potentially disrupt a slow industry that was kind of uninspired. Hi-vis felt like you were talking about roadworks, so we wanted to actually create a premium product.”
The Proviz story started in 2008, and the brand has grown massively since the beginnings, as the cycle market has developed over the last decade and a half. But the Proviz founders are also aware of the importance of keeping the brand fresh, which resulted in the appointment of a new senior team and an overall rebrand in October last year.
The new senior team consists of chairman, Tim Patten – a former executive board of TM Lewin – and CFO Walker Hunter – previously Adidas – alongside head of marketing Sue Ritzdorf – previously Simba Sleep. E-commerce manager, Justin Brown – previously Park Cameras, head of wholesale – Angus Williams – previously Pure Electric – head of product design Dan Craven, and head of customer experience, Tracy Trew have also joined the business.
These appointments aim to push forward the Proviz rebrand, including the launch of a new website, built on progressive web app technology to enable growth from both a technical and content standpoint, according to the brand.
On the rebrand, Anthony said: “We were feeling that we wanted to align all of our messaging because the business has grown – whether it’s finance, whether it’s operations, whether it’s marketing – we just want to have them all knitted together for one purpose. It was really interesting doing it, elevating the imagery so we come across as that premium brand that we are.”
Proviz worked with a variety of outside agencies, including D2C on the e-commerce side, WeAreEleven and Save Seven as photographers, while Open Partners were appointed as marketing agency, with plans to expand into TV, radio, digital and out of home (outdoor) marketing.
Proviz currently doesn’t work with a distributor in the UK, instead working with retailers directly. But what makes Proviz stand out as a brand for retailers? “We are a specialist, reflective, high visibility sports brand,” said Anthony. “There’s other brands that do elements of high visibility and reflectiveness, but they also do a lot of other things.
“We only work in this space, so we can innovate, we’re constantly trying to move the needle and push boundaries – whether its superior breathability, reflective, colour reflective, you name it. I wanted people to see the benefits of cycling, where we can create a product that people enjoy using and makes a difference to their lives, so they feel empowered.
“So that’s what we wanted to provide to people all those years ago, and obviously the brand has grown and expanded into different sectors.” Alongside its familiar cycling accessories and clothing, like reflective gilets and backpack covers, Proviz has expanded into the running sector and outdoor, including a selection of hoodies and waterproofs.
The brand also benefited from a significant investment in 2022, raising £5 million, including £2 million from The Ravenscroft Group and £3 million from existing shareholders and new private investors. Growth plans include international expansion, particularly further into the USA, Canada, Germany and Northern Europe.
The brand is also looking to expand into newer markets such as e-bike and e-scooter clothing and is looking to incorporate its signature reflective technology with more insulation for the less physically-demanding form of transport, as well as an opportunity to increase the level of
style without compromising the functionality of the products.
Anthony said: “[E-bikes] are brilliant, because the more people that can get on e-bikes, especially from a sustainability standpoint, they’re not getting in cars. With e-scooters, I don’t know how that’s going to pan out, but I think e-bikes are an absolute no-brainer and it’s a good market for us.”