The distributor’s boss on the balancing act of supporting brands and independent dealers

Fisher: ‘If you get distribution wrong, you alienate IBDs’

Fisher Outdoor Leisure has been actively bolstering its offering for independent dealers of late, introducing new ways to support independent businesses while ensuring it is offering brands plenty of value in an ever-more competitive distribution game.

CEO James Browning took time out to speak with BikeBiz on how the changes are going so far and the challenges they have brought about for the business…

“We were clear about what we wanted to do, to support the IBDs and also to be seen to be supporting them – they are the guts of the market,” Browning tells BikeBiz.

“Brands are the lifeblood for distributors so the balance is to build and sustain a brand with IBDs as well as a managed presence online, but if you do it wrong you alienate independent stores.

“We set out our objectives – how to get the maximum out of the growing market and help keep the IBD base healthy – and that’s something the industry wants.”

“And we’ve done what we said. The Margin Support programme now has three brands and has been really successful for Zipp especially and Tacx has been particularly pleasing too.”

Aside from the Margin Support programme, the St Albans-based distributor has brought in its Home Delivery service. Introduced in June, the scheme allows IBDs to offer consumers extended ranges from Fisher, without having to invest space and cash to product.

“With Home Delivery we are trying to help dealers with the huge range of products out there. Look at clothing, for instance, there’s so much to stock and more people are buying clothing online. That goes for outside the cycle industry too. How do you offer a full range in each size of each SKU? It isn’t feasible for many. With Home Delivery there’s no stock risk for the shop and they get the full margin.

“It’s available on all our brands and around 200 IBDs have access to the scheme, which we’re now rolling out to all of our customers.”

Browning admits that the scheme still has some way to go to become a hit with all of its dealer customers: “The idea came out of feedback from retailers. They said they’d love to have a system like it and since we launched there are some retailers who have done really well with it. Surprisingly the majority have done little through the Home Delivery service so far, so we’ve simplified it and it’s now easier to use. Our field sales team is getting the message out about how to use it. We’re hoping to have a video to explain it to dealer too. It’s been a slow burn, but it’s the right kind of service to offer.”

There have been other IBD-friendly changes too, like the upgraded B2B through which dealers can now pay their bills. “We should have been offering that before, but now we’ve caught up.”

And what’s ahead for Fisher?

“We’re positive about the coming year. Our recent brand signing have gone down well, like Hiplok and Early Rider.

Look is performing very strong and the new entry-level model (the 765) is going great. We’ve had some big launches with Rockshox, with Lyrik and Yari next month – those are big launches for us.

“And then there’s the eTAP early next year, which is very exciting for us – it’s a great product.”

In other news...

Mavic opens North American office to support sales and service

Mavic, the French manufacturer of bicycle wheels and equipment, has opened an office in Waterbury, …