This month, BikeBiz catches up with SKS export manager Robert Schatton
Can you give us a little background on SKS?
The brand name SKS is made up of the names Scheffer-Klute and Sundern. The company was founded by Karl Scheffer-Klute in the small town of Sundern located in the western region of Germany, exactly 100 years ago, where they began manufacturing curtain rails.
Now the family-owned company SKS metaplast Scheffer-Klute GmbH is run by the fourth generation. They ventured into the cycling business by producing air pumps made of steel in 1932, but the decisive breakthrough came in the 1950s when they began manufacturing frame-fitting pumps made of plastic.
At that time, these were sold mainly to bike manufacturers in large quantities. In 1983, the production of mudguards set the course for further growth. By the start of the 1990s, SKS had grown to be the market leader of mudguards and pumps for original bicycle equipment in 90 countries across the world.
Now SKS has continued to grow and expand its market position and is currently the EU market leader for OEM and aftermarket mudguard products. The brand is known worldwide for its innovative solutions for every wheel and frame size.
High-quality mini and frame fitting pumps, precise suspension and floor pumps as well as the iconic Rennkompressor, which characterises the SKS pump range today. In addition to mini-tools, chain guards, bottles, bottle cages and luggage, a smartphone holder with wireless charging function and a tyre pressure monitoring sensor have been integrated into the range to provide even more innovation and comfort on your ride.
The site in Germany has now grown to an area of 36,000m² and we currently have 8,000 pallet spaces, with another warehouse already under construction next door!
What area of the market does SKS target?
Basically, we want to make cycling more enjoyable for everyone. That means that in principle we look at almost all types of cyclists. We see ourselves as companions and problem solvers, which is why our product development is always target group driven.
For instance, in bad weather conditions, we have a comprehensive selection of fixed mudguards for commuters and leisure cyclists, but we also have innovative solutions for road, gravel and MTB cyclists with our Raceblade, Speedrocker and Mudrocker models.
Other products like our new bikepacking bags together with our sophisticated Compit smartphone mount system address first of all adventurers and travellers, a completely new target group. When planning a cycling adventure, you usually start by planning your route and will rely on a route navigation system.
Then you want to take photos and videos and maybe check the weather or messages from time to time – that’s why your smartphone needs a lot of power. With the Compit system, you not only have the navigation on the handlebars, but also the wireless powerbank directly underneath.
In the last few years in particular, we have expanded our product range, but we continue to ensure that our range of affordable products continue to be relevant to most disciplines.
What makes SKS unique – what does it offer that its competitors perhaps do not?
Since the very beginning we have relied on local production! About 95% of our products are made in Germany. This seal of approval stands for art of engineering, innovative spirit and first-class design.
Further advantages are flexible production capacities, shorter delivery times and shorter routes for European customers, in-house R&D – from idea to design through to testing, fair and safe working conditions and eco-friendly manufacturing.
In addition to our five year guarantee, we also have an exceptionally dedicated customer service offering and most spare parts are available for many years after a product may no longer be in the market, meaning SKS products can have a long lifespan.
In a rather bizarre twist of fate, COVID-19 has provided a significant boost to the cycling industry. What impact has it had on SKS?
The current order volume is enormous. In order to meet the significantly increased demand, we have to keep production consistently at the highest level. Our capacities have been continuously expanded over the past few years. We will continue on this path and a new warehouse is currently under construction.
For 2021, we expect another record year after the success of 2020. In the first quarter of 2021, we have already seen a 35% increase. Among other things, we have been able to win many new customers as with our local production keeping a consistent supply to market where many of our competitors have struggled with stock.
The pandemic has also accelerated the digital transformation in our company, for example we have invested time and money into our YouTube channel to allow us to increase our reach with informative product videos due to the lack of face to face time with our customers at trade fairs and cycling events. Make sure you take a look at these!
This year marks SKS’s 100th anniversary. How are you celebrating this milestone?
It was going to be a big celebration… unfortunately, due to the pandemic this is now no longer going to be possible! The big party for our 350+ employees and friends has had to be postponed until next year, when we hope to be able to celebrate our 101st anniversary.
Nevertheless, the anniversary year is full of surprises: cycling fans can look forward to new innovative products. On our new website we recall “100 years of SKS” and with posts on our social media channels and in newsletters, SKS fans can regularly take a look behind the scenes of the company.
What are your plans for 2021 and beyond?
In addition to the expansion of the digital product range, a new series of floor pumps at reasonable price points is also planned for 2021 which will deliver German quality and tradition as many of our products do. They are the benchmark for the future direction of the company.
We hope that we can continue to manufacture cycling accessories competitively in Germany for many years and the fifth generation is already in the starting blocks to prepare the family business for any challenges the future may bring.