Having begun in the motorcycle trade, Oxford has built strong foundations on which to develop a comprehensive cycle-specific catalogue. Mark Sutton talks to marketing director Henry Rivers Fletcher about his pedal-powered ambitions...

INTERVIEW: Oxford Products

Founded in 1973 by motorcycle race fan Alec Hammond, Oxford Products quickly made a name within the British Superbikes circuit, initially as a result of the company sponsored teams taking wins in races all over. Given time to gather a strong group of dealers nationwide, the luggage and motorcycle fairings business also took off, giving the company room to expand into soft luggage and locks.

During the early ‘80s it was suggested that the security range be tweaked to suit the needs of those selling both motorcycles and bicycles. And so Oxford’s cycle range was born…

Marketing director of Oxford, Henry Rivers Fletcher tells BikeBiz: "In those days it was very common for motorcycle shops to also sell bicycles and very quickly it became apparent that Oxford’s motorcycle lock range could be tweaked slightly to make it suitable for push bikes. During the mid ‘80s Oxford became the main brand name for cycle security and the brand’s popularity enabled it to diversify into cycle helmets and accessories."

Next in the timeline came a move to add some consistency to the cycle market sales with ever-popular licensed products. Sonic The Hedgehog, Dennis The Menace, Winnie the Pooh and other popular kids characters joined the Oxford stable, offering cycle-specific dealers a real reason to look into what Oxford could offer the IBD. Oxford’s cycle products enjoyed tremendous success over the following years until, what Fletcher describes as "a bum management decision" in the late nineties halted product development and threw Oxford’s cycle business into the shadows for nearly a decade.

Today, the Oxford brand is once again thriving under the careful stewardship of 40-year cycle veteran Martin Sykes. As the guardian of all things cycle at Oxford, Sykes has re-established both a viable product range and a successful national wholesale network.

Oxford now sells only through its network of wholesalers and as a result is enjoying a period of rapid growth.

So why should a dealer consider Oxford when seeking a strong add-on sales brand? According to Fletcher: "Product-wise, everything we do in the motorcycle world has to be bigger, heavier, tougher and more extreme in specification to that which is required by the cycle world. This means that we have to think very carefully about how we develop the products so that they are suitable for the cycle market. But it also means that we are lucky to be starting from a very high point – another unique angle for Oxford."

In fact, Fletcher is so confident in the security range that he goes as far to say: "I would absolutely recommend using our product to secure items within a dealer’s store, particularly the ground anchors, mainly because when a consumer sees a dealer using a product, they will be more motivated to purchase it themselves. The average bicycle value has rocketed over the last ten years, making the use of proper home and workplace security far more relevant."

So the product can be safely be described as durable, but to what extent will the margins on offer look after a dealer’s bottom line? "Oxford is able to offer very generous margins throughout the distribution chain. There isn’t a company out there offering locks, luggage, lights, helmets and accessories who can survive without being highly competitive in terms of value,” says Fletcher.

“I feel that for the most part, Oxford’s trade prices are significantly sharper than those of competitors, so dealers can either choose to run our product alongside more expensive brands as a value alternative, or do away with those brands and make higher margins on every sale."

Walking around Oxford’s showroom it’s clear that the company spends plenty of time on developing point-of-sale support. There’s small, free-standing units to large, wall-mounted bays, as well as short-term card merchandisers and permanent metal racks. So what’s the deal for retailers who commit to Oxford’s catalogue?

Fletcher offers: "We try to make things a bit more interesting for trade customers. For example, just recently Oxford has launched, in conjunction with its wholesalers, the offer of a small, free-standing unit stocked with fast-moving accessories and locks for just £300 at trade price – together with over £350 of free goods."

So, has Oxford shaken the misconception that the motor trade will always take priority? Well, yes. Cycle specific sales in 2008 were up some 40 per cent year-on-year and 2009 is already up 34 per cent on the same period last year. What’s more, Oxford has now employed a dedicated cycle market buyer who will work closely alongside the long-established purchasing team. And, Fletcher adds “expect a raft of new products coming through the pipeline in the near future to further boost sales."

Tel: 01993 862300
Web: www.oxprod.com

Oxford wholesaler partners:
All Round Wheels –
Sutton Coldfield
Motor & Sport – Saintfield, NI.
Richard Betts – Lowestoft
Pell and Parker – Peterborough
The Cycle Division – Huddesfield
Prestwich Cycle Factors
Cycles UK of Rayleigh – Essex
Pro-Tec – Bristol
Hykeham Wholesale – Hykeham
Reece Cycle PLC – Birmingham
Huet Distributors – Dublin
Rectro Cycle Factors – F Erith
Mackadam Factors – Cardiff
UK Cycle Accessories – Poole
MB Cycle Factors – Canterbury
Walkers Cycle Accessories – Leicester
Mealor Clarke – Saxmundham
J.W.Wills – Hitchin
M&J Distributors – Manchester

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