The Green Commute Initiative team

Green Commute Initiative reflects on mixed year for Cycle to Work schemes

Rebecca Morley catches up with Joanna Flint of Green Commute Initiative (GCI), winner of Best Retailer Services at the BikeBiz Awards 2022 in association with ArmaUrto 

This piece first appeared in the March edition of BikeBiz magazine – get your free subscription here

How was 2022 for GCI, what successes and challenges did you see? 

It was a mixed year as customers faced unprecedented long-lead times which saw some customers waiting for almost a year for their bikes to arrive. What was surprising was that many people were prepared to wait for their dream bike, which is possible to achieve under GCI’s no limits scheme. 

Joanna Flint

With flexibility in-built into the GCI model, we were able to accommodate changes and amendments to orders as lead-times inevitably got extended. In terms of sales, we closed the year slightly up on the previous year which was a great achievement considering 2021 saw considerable growth. We also reaffirmed our ISO-27001 [an international status for information security] status which is key to winning new business. 

How has the market changed in recent months? 

Stock issues seem to have resolved themselves in most cases and customers are getting in the saddle at a much faster rate than before. Naturally, the winter months are quieter but it remains to be seen if the tightening of pockets will have a positive or negative effect on the Cycle to Work industry. Logic would dictate that bike sales should continue to grow but let’s see.

What key trends do you expect this year?

This is a hard one as there are so many unknowns, which as usual, makes life, and business, pretty hard to predict and plan for. 

There are many compelling reasons for more people to start cycling; cost of living crisis, health crisis, climate crisis. However, there doesn’t seem to be a year that goes by without an ‘event’ throwing a spanner into the works. We think there’s an opportunity for e-cargo bikes to become more mainstream, especially with the expansion of the ULEZ in London and introduction of more LTNs [Low Traffic Neighbourhoods]. 

And as always, the women’s market is under-represented so there’s scope there. However, we believe the e-bike will continue to flourish as more people realise its potential. 

What did it mean to win Best Retailer Services at the BikeBiz Awards 2022? 

We were absolutely delighted, and still are! The category has some dominant players with significantly larger customer bases from which to poll votes so it was refreshing to see the judging process updated to reflect this imbalance. 

We’ve always had the courage of our conviction that a fair Cycle to Work Scheme could and would be successful. Our low commission rate for bike shops means that they can keep more of their profits within their business, helping them to flourish. Our fast payment terms help IBDs manage their cash-flow more effectively. 

Plus, we help the end consumer keep more of their savings by not charging wholly unnecessary ‘ownership’ fees. GCI is signing up more clients and retailers on a daily basis as the march towards fairness presses on. 

Read more: ‘Seeing our industry together and getting excited about products’ – Madison CEO Dominic Langan on the return of iceBike

What are your upcoming plans for 2023? 

We are exploring the bike subscription market and will announce an exciting new partnership [soon]. We will also seek to enter into new agreements with direct-to-consumer vendors who will finally be able to exit restrictive exclusive contracts. This will give our customers yet more choice. We will also launch an API (Application Programming Interface) to enable the validation and redemption of our vouchers at online checkouts, enabling a smoother customer buying journey. We still face challenges of persuading those that favour the market leaders but hope the message of ‘getting more people cycling for the good of us all’ will prevail. 

What the BikeBiz Awards 2022 judges said about GCI…

 “The Cycle to Work scheme continues to be a welcome opportunity to both riders and retailers, encouraging more people to try life on two wheels, and Green Commute Initiative’s non-profit set-up is the perfect balance for both the consumers and the stores themselves.” – BikeBiz and MMB editor Alex Ballinger 

“GCI – the best cycle scheme initiative available for all parties involved. The administration aspect is quick and simple with minimal commission costs to the retailer, and with no limit on value opens up the option of e-bike purchases.” – Pedal Revolution managing director Kate Warner 

“Bikes should be accessible to everyone, no matter their income, and all too often cycle purchase scheme aren’t an option for those on lower wages – often exactly the people who would benefit the most from such schemes. Green Commute Initiative’s Everyone Cycle scheme and bike pool make this more possible, and gives people the opportunity to get cycling with the added benefit of it being cheaper, greener, with mental and physical health benefits to boot. And it’s a not for profit. The more I hear about GCI, the more impressed I am.” – MBR digital editor Aoife Glass  

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