2021 has undoubtedly been an unorthodox year, with independents, brands and distributors alike feeling the inevitable effects of a turbulent period for businesses the world over. BikeBiz catches up with several UK distributors to reflect on a bizarre yet successful period for the cycling industry.
Today, we hear from Peter Nisbet, Windwave MD
2021 has been equally as rewarding as it was challenging. Business continued its pandemic boom beyond what we could have imagined but dealing with supply has been a challenge and we’ve worked really hard to ensure we had continuity across our various ranges.
Growth was exponential during lockdown, only limited by the supply chain issues. Since lockdown eased demand has remained strong and volumes have held up. The bike category has been specifically sought after, with almost every imported bike being snapped up within a few hours. The fact that our brands have had an eventful year (multiple launches for Transition, Tour de France success with Colnago, and more…) has added to that demand.
We’ve also seen a huge growth around parts, accessories, tools, lubes and cleaners, which has become increasingly complex to manage with lead times on some products going through the roof (some as far as 2023).
We’ve continued supporting our portfolio of brands from 2020 and have had a few additions on top of this. We were super excited to take on exclusive UK distribution for Urge Bike Products as we love the products and the environmental ethos of the company. We’ve been able to raise great brand awareness around the brand and its products quickly, and the uptake among dealers has been very positive so far.
We’ve also added Granite Design, which produces top of the range tools and accessories such as the Stash RCX tool kit which hides into your steerer tube, or the Cricket Bell which offers both single-strike and cowbell modes.
Another brand we’ve added to the portfolio is RideWrap, a Canadian frame protection brand which offers both custom frame-specific wraps and bike type-specific wrapping kits (i.e. MTB, hardtail, road, e-bike…) that you can buy off-the-shelf at your local bike shop.
Lastly, we’ve secured exclusive UK distribution for Prevelo Bikes from the USA. These kids bikes are great and fill in an ideal gap here in the UK market. We’ve had many pre-orders come in from our network of bike shops already, with the first drop expected to land early 2022. Watch this space!
Behind the scenes
2021 saw us strengthen our sales team. Andy Hill joined us from Rouleur magazine to cover the Midlands, and Keith Murray (former Scott Sports UK and ZyroFisher) will cover the Northern territory and Scotland, as well as manage the overall sales team.
We’ve also welcomed Gordon Fontaine to the team as our digital content manager. Gordon comes from Muc-Off where he led their social media efforts; he now looks after our content creation and digital marketing to help not only Windwave, but also our dealers and suppliers, build genuine communities and promote our latest products. Cytech 2 qualified Martyn Saint has also bolstered the numbers in our technical department adding extra support for dealers.
A post-Covid world
Covid-19 brought about a dramatic increase in bicycle sales in response to the pandemic. More people were avoiding public transport and riding to work. Then there was a surge in people cycling for exercise. Add this potential to the existing market, and even with some dropouts the future looks bright.
Specifically thinking about the brands we distribute, my expectation is that once the supply chain is fully functioning again demand will stay at the current level (perhaps slightly below). I believe growth in the cycling sector will come in metropolitan areas from urban e-bikes and e-cargo bikes.
At Windwave, we place our customers at the forefront of everything we do. Whether that’s via our sales force on the road or via our brand managers at HQ, we’re a people first organisation and we’ll go above and beyond to help solve our customers’ challenges. We are particularly very proud of our technical department who worked through the challenges of the pandemic to offer rapid warranty and technical support.
This year, we also organised an exclusive Dealer Day with Transition as an opportunity for our customers to meet and ride with the guys from Bellingham. This took place at the Forest of Dean and was a great success. We’re already looking forward to expanding the concept into 2022.
2022 and beyond
One of our key focuses for 2022 will be around our environmental impact. Our operations manager Greg Norton adds: “For 2021 and going into 2022 we have been working on a plan to reduce our footprint by 80%. We will be introducing several improvements, our packaging being the primary focus, the majority coming from recycled materials the bicycle industry produces, all processed through our new Windwave Recycling Plant.
“We’re also looking to increase our current use of solar panels to power Windwave, and work towards a move to electric transportation for our commuting staff.”
This year, we’ve also been working very hard on updating our B2B website, making it as easy and quick as possible for our customers. This will entail a fully responsive design, easy access to current back orders and ETA, online invoices, improved item search and filtering as well as almost instantly up-to-date stock levels. This is something we’ll look to introduce in the new year, and we’re excited to see our stockists’ reaction.
Lastly, we’re planning on putting some increased focus on helping our brands grow stronger in the UK; not just from a sales angle, but a marketing one too. With original content creation and a stronger go-to-market strategy, we should be able to help both brands and dealers thrive.
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