Distributor's MD speaks out on Fulcrum, Zipvit, exceeding growth targets, rebranding and tackling snow...

i-ride: ‘Eddy Merckx Cycles is going from strength-to-strength’

i-ride seems to have been a busy few months with the warehouse and office move (in the snow!). Have things settled down now? And what prompted the move?
The move was brought about by growth and the drive to hold extra stock – and of course better customer service. It was also an excellent opportunity for us to further organise our operations and it has given us the space to grow our team.

A good example of how the move has facilitated improved service is that 98 per cent of all orders placed on our B2B site before 2pm are now dispatched the same day. Customers also benefit from just £50 carriage paid on our B2B site too. To be honest, the snow did create a few issues for us, especially when our seven ton truck loaded with bikes got stuck 15 miles from either depo. However, we worked all weekend and it kind of brought out the pioneering spirit whilst adding excitement to the whole process. The move was six months ago now – time flies! I wouldn’t say we’ve settled down as we’re always busy maintaining our service and letting consumers and trade alike know about the latest products. 

And what prompted the rebranding to i-ride? Have dealers and the trade got the hang of remembering the new name?
The name change just seemed to make sense. Our consumer website and adverts had all been under the i-ride name for several years and so we just brought the trade identity into line with this so sales from i-ride branded adverts and reviews could be easily converted by retailers. We implemented the name change around Core Bike show when we had the chance to discuss it with our customers as well as having plenty of BikeBiz articles about i-ride at the time to strengthen the changed identity. The transition between names was very smooth and it has just been business as usual.

There have been some changes at the top of the firm recently too, including a new managing director and a new sales manager. A time of change for the company, or still the same as it ever was?
My new role as MD has been incredibly exciting and I’ve loved being more heavily involved with every area of the business. We have such an enthusiastic and hard working team here at i-ride that it’s really been a pleasure. Andy Butler joined us at i-ride last summer and earlier this year he moved to the sales manager position. His passion, drive and friendships with retailers have definitely enhanced the business.

Our recent growth has been excellent and we’ve exceeded all our targets. This rise in demand for our products means we’re expanding our internal and external sales teams as well as adding staff in the warehouse, several positions are current on the BikeBiz website. Mike Clark joined our on-the-road sales team to cover southern England in April and he has already had a large impact. We’re pleased that more new members of staff will be joining us shortly.

How is business at the moment? Previously you’ve said that an innovative approach to business has been important to the firm. Is that still the case?
We feel that i-ride is a great combination of the traditional informal cycle industry way with a drive to succeed through targets and strategic planning, whilst also being a company where everyone’s ideas are welcomed and developed. These three facets aren’t always that easy to balance, but that’s what we aim for and it has served us very well over the past few years, but of course we are always looking for ways to improve.

Have you had any star performing brands this year?
We first became involved with Eddy Merckx Cycles just two years ago and the brand is going from strength-to-strength at the moment. The combination of Eddy being involved with the actual bike design, innovative new technologies, a strong team in Quick-Step and UK specced bikes, have lead to a brilliant take up in the market. Eddy Merckx Cycles really do push the boundaries of technology. One very good example is their use of pitch-based instead of cheaper pan-based carbon fibres in order to increase stiffness. This means virtually zero deformation of the frame in crucial frame areas. Thanks to great leading technology and durability Fulcrum has also outperformed all our expectations and we fully expect 2012 to be another great year for the Italian wheel brand.

You signed sports nutrition brand Zipvit back in November, how has that been received? Is it the first time the brand has had a real go at the UK?
Zipvit Sport hadn’t made its product available through UK retailers, so we were very pleased to bring such a prestigious brand to the market. Zipvit had spent a long time developing their products with top athletes including the Cervelo Test Team and Sean Kelly. This meant that the products were very advanced before we became involved.

However, it has been very refreshing to see how keen they are to work with us and retailers to constantly improve their offerings. Even though Zipvit Sport has development facilities and offices in Switzerland, they are also co-located in Staffordshire, so communication is very easy and they often go out to visit stores directly. In fact they are willing to visit any shop that orders Zipvit product to build and install a free point-of-sale stand. That really is excellent service.

What about trends this year? Is triathlon still going strong?
Triathlon is still strong for us, but we have really been struck by the continued growth in the sportive road sector. In this area we have noticed the demand for great all-rounder bikes such as the De Rosa R838 which has mid-way geometry to combine good climbing and positions with even road manners so they are at home in a sportive or having a go at local club racing.

Are there any more brand signings in the works?
We’re always keeping an eye out for exciting products that can provide that something extra not already available in the UK market. So as you would expect we’re talking to a few companies at the moment, but we’ll all just have to wait and see what comes to fruition.

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