BikeBiz speaks to Richard Allmark ahead of next week's house show

Fisher Outdoor Leisure boss on Expo and a changing bicycle industry

You usually start the annual Expo proceedings off with a charity ride. Will that be the case this year?
The Bike Ride will be taking place on Sunday February 17th. This year, it will be in support of the prestigious charity Stay Strong. This is a charity we have supported for many years which aids and funds the everyday and ongoing medical support of Stephen Murray, the BMX legend who was sadly left paralysed from the shoulders down in a tragic accident at the BMX Dirt Finals in 2007. We will be giving attendees the opportunity to enter our raffle with the chance to win some great prizes courtesy of our brands. All ticket purchase proceeds will go to the charity. An auction will also be taking place at our Gala Diner this year where guests can bid to win some fantastic prizes including signed jerseys and trips away. We wish to raise a great deal of money for Stay Strong and raise awareness of Stephen’s cause.

Last year we saw a raft of new brands, including Eastway – how is that going?
Last year we used Expo as an introduction to the Eastway concept. We’d already done a huge amount of consumer research which validated our concept, but Expo was all about understanding the trade’s perception to Eastway. The response at Expo2012 was fantastic and over the past 12 months our team has refined the range, specifications and ensured that the branding and message is spot on. When people see Eastway at Expo2013 they should get a clear understanding of the Eastway story and we hope they will all embrace what is a going to be one amazing ‘new kid on the block’! I am very proud of what Eastway is and I am very excited about what Eastway can achieve.

It’s worth remembering that Eastway is just one of three of our own brands developed with quality and innovation at their heart and centred on the modern cycle commuter world: Eastway, Kansi and U34 are the three brands we have built especially for this exciting and developing urban category.

And what can you tell about those other house brands?
U34 is our clothing and luggage brand for the commuter. This brand is packed full of innovation, from the extremely clever bracket systems, to the technical fabric used in our clothing which has been combined with some amazingly stylish designs coming from our partnership with St Martins’ College of Fashion in London. We know we’ve challenged the supply chain with this brand, right from the point of manufacturing with the combination of technical fabric and fashionable design, through to the route to market and how best to get U34 into the hands of the consumer. We are confident we’ll get it right with the quality of retail, marketing and PR partners we’ve put together and we’re also pleased to see the brand in the market place now at what is the beginning of an exciting journey.

Kansi is also back on the market. Not only can our customers feel confident that Kansi is manufactured and QC’d to standards higher than any of its rivals, the new samples you will see at Expo2013 (for bikes due in late summer 2013) show even greater design and innovation, adding further value for the consumer.

You’ve already announced that PowerBar is a new brand for 2013 for Fisher. Can dealers expect to see any more brand additions when they arrive at Expo?
Yes of course, we’d be short changing our dealers without even more new opportunities for 2013. At Expo we will also be introducing: DC apparel and footwear – we are delighted to be managing this wonderful brand for the UK bicycle trade, Vittoria tyres is new to our portfolio and finally, we are partnering Toby Henderson and the CGI team to distribute the BOX and PROMAX brands exclusively in the UK. All these brands are on display at Expo2013.

SRAM always has a decent space at Expo – same again in 2013? Will there be key SRAM lines to look out for?
The ever growing and innovative SRAM portfolio always needs and deserves plenty of space at Expo and this year we have extended the exhibition space to give the SRAM portfolio its own designated area. You’ll be able to test out the SRAM Red Quarq equipped demo bike and get a feel for its amazing capabilities, plus there are some new products in the Quarq and Zipp range which make these premium brands more attainable to both dealers and consumers. On the mountain bike side, for those who have yet to see it, SRAM XX1 will be on show as well as the latest offerings from Avid and Rockshox.

Obviously all the new products/brands are worth coming along to see, but can you give us a must-see top five that dealers shouldn’t miss?
Limiting it to five will be difficult this year with so many first sees from our new brands, but some of the highlights I would recommend dealers take in include exciting new products from Quarq, Zipp and the new eagerly awaiting road bike from LOOK, the 675.

I would also recommend popping by the Kansi stand where we will have some of the new range as well as the first viewing of the full Eastway range.

Finally, a must-see are the new U34 bags which will be on display for the first time as well as a sneak peak of the spring summer clothing collection.

Will there be any seminars this year? Can you give us a flavour of those?
This year, we are hosting a list of fascinating seminars from both brands and business specialists. On top of brand seminars from Look, Carrera and Powerbar that will give guests an overview on product updates and news, we also have experts joining us to offer free advice and support in business. Whilst Santini will be holding talks on increasing sales through visual merchandising, Steve Cambridge from ClickUp will be offering free guidance on maximising traffic through Google Adwords. As a certified Google Adwords partner, his knowledge and understanding is invaluable and he will also be hosting a free Adwords clinic for all guests throughout the three day event.

Will there be special offers and show deals for retailers attending? Can you give us a hint about what they will include?
I could but that would spoil the surprise! What I can say is that we always have great offers at the show and you’ll just have to come along to see what they are this year.

Aside from Expo, how’s business been in the last 12 months? For Fisher and also for the trade in general?
Clearly cycling in the UK has a profile right now that we’ve wished for, for many years. The exceptional results of the Sky and GB teams have created higher levels of interest, awareness and participation greater than ever before. It’s great to be operating in an industry that has great things to shout about. Business is not easy right now for anyone and the economy still has many years left to recover from the deep wounds of the 2008 credit crunch. That said, Fisher continued to grow its market share in 2012 with the commitment from our staff, our customers and our brand partners. We hope that 2013 will be an even better year for us. When I look at the rest of the industry I see changes happening through the supply chain and routes to market that will change the face of our industry forever and Fisher, like everyone else needs to be ready…

Beyond Expo, what’s coming up for Fisher in ‘13?
Moving in to 2013 and the coming years, with so much economic uncertainty around we must concentrate on running our business well. We need to work harder at improving productivity in our operations, gain traction and awareness with our marketing programmes and cut through with our sales efforts. We’ll keep closer to the marketplace and the consumer than ever before and ensure that we do our best to bring more and more innovation and relevant product to meet the needs of and inspire the consumers.

Anything else to add?
Each year we get great feedback from our customers who attend the show, saying it’s one of the warmest welcomes in the industry, so on that note I would just like to extend our thanks to all our dealers who come each year and to welcome all our customers who are thinking of attending. You won’t be disappointed.

Fisher Outdoor Leisure’s Expo 2013 takes place next week at Sopwell House, St Albans from February 18th to 20th.

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