Catching up with Paul Elliot of Bob Elliot

Bob Elliot is one of the largest distributors in the UK. For more than 30 years, the company has successfully expanded and taken on a host of varied brands including Continental, Funkier, Schwalbe and Weldtite. We chaught up with company director Paul Elliot to discuss all things distribution.

In creating the company, what did Bob Elliot set out to achieve?
We have been a family-run company for over 30 years now, with the objective to supply cycle accessories to IBD’s across the UK with excellent service. This has obviously evolved during recent years to also accommodate customers working online as well. Throughout this time, we have added to our portfolio and tweaked it over the years to try and offer as many high quality products to our customers as possible.

When and how did you get involved with the running of the business?
I got involved in the business shortly after completing my time at University in computing. I was originally working part-time around other projects but decided to join the family-running full-time to use some of the skills I had learnt through my qualifications.

What would you say are the biggest challenges facing distributors today?
The biggest challenges over the last couple of years have been pricing and more specifically Brexit I suppose. It has forced us to consider all areas of our pricing structure, overnight effectively and implement changes based on our stock position and who and when we are due to pay for goods from abroad. This said, Brexit hasn’t necessarily had a negative effect – it has just resulted in extra work to re-adjust the portfolio to fall in line with new import costs. The “unknown” with currencies has made planning more difficult but nothing that cannot be overcome.

How do you go about selecting or negotiating new brands?
We try and build strong, ongoing relationships with brands wherever possible. We don’t like to chop and change too much. Sometimes change can be forced upon you, depending on market situations and visiting exhibitions as well as having contacts through our experience can always help when selecting something new.

Are there any products or brands that you feel really stand out in the Bob Elliot range?
We feel our portfolio is as strong as it has ever been. This has been a development of visiting more exhibitions over the World over recent years and adjusting our range where we feel is best for us. We have very strong performing multi-distribution brands such as Schwalbe, Continental, SiS, Zefal and Clarks as well as our growing list of exclusive brands including Funkier Clothing & Helmets, FLR Shoes, NRC Eyewear, Lotus Luggage, AXA Locks and Chiba Mitts to name a few.

What is the latest brand to join Bob Elliot and how did that partnership come about?
Our latest addition has been Alex Rims. This partnership has been in discussion for a few years now and at EuroBike in 2016 we finally got to a position where a range was selected and ordered. Alex Rims and Wheels are well known and well respected, and we are delighted to bring a range of road and MTB wheels to the UK market. Initial sales have been strong to-date and we believe this will be a growing brand for years to come.

What’s your ethos on people management? Why do people want to work for Bob Elliot?
We like to believe we have an approachable management style and speak regularly with our staff. Many have been with us for many years now, and like to think we have a strong relationship with both staff working at our offices and warehouse as well as our field account managers.

What’s your opinion on house shows?
We have attended the NEC for a few years now, and we find the show beneficial for different reasons. The trade day is important to invite customers to either show them new ranges or new products together with existing lines. The public days are a great way to get our brands into the public eye, and to help point people in the direction of stockists of our products. We have also had experience of exhibiting at Silverstone (Bike Place Show) over recent years which has been a trade-only show. We have opened some new, strong accounts there after displaying some of our exclusive brands.

Where would you like to see Bob Elliot it in ten years’ time?
I would like to see the company continue to grow, and continue to have a policy of strong customer service. Our ethos hasn’t changed over the years, wishing to be competitive in the market as well as trying to offer something for everybody.

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