The distributor talks six warehouse moves, new brands and market saturation...

iSkute: ‘Scooters can bring a new young market into cycle shops’

iSkute distribution was founded by brothers Luke, Dan and Grant Maker. The distributor has been a key player in the scooter market, with major brands under its wings, making it a key company to grill on the thorny topic of whether the scooter market is hurting BMX sales. And to the credit of iSkute, they tackled the question head on…

Have you got a background in the cycle and scooter industries?
The business is founded by three brothers, Dan Grant and Luke. Dan has a long history in the cycle industry and sport. With a keen interest in free sports such as surfing and skateboarding he recognised a new product just over a decade ago called the micro scooter and whilst working with Grant was influential in bringing it to the UK cycle market. Since then the product has evolved into more performance models and we got offered a new brand emerging out of Australia about three years ago that we jumped on.

Grant set up the business with a bit of help from Dan, and it was evident pretty quickly that we had struck upon something pretty special. In 2011 Dan joined full time then Luke did shortly after that. Luke’s experience comes from other industries but has always been focused on sales and distribution.

Through iSkute we set up distribution partners here in the UK, across Europe and the USA. We started with Grit Scooters but as the business grew so did our portfolio and there was a need to separate the UK business from the rest of the world, which is how Greenover Distribution came about. We now represent eight brands, have over 12,000 sq ft of warehousing, seven full-time staff, over a dozen sponsored riders and seven agents across the UK and Ireland. We sell to around 20 other countries across the world but still manage to maintain a strong family ethos. Basically we fight and make up, but wouldn’t change it for the world.

How many times have you moved warehouse since you started?
Since we began we have moved our warehousing over five or six times – we just kept growing out of places. Eventually, we felt we really needed our own premises so we moved into a new unit with over 12,000 sq ft. It was a huge relief to have the offices and warehouse in one place.

What would you say to those who say scooters are hurting the bicycle business?
This is a good point actually, I think it depends on the type of store you have, but basically our sales have gone somewhere and the majority of them have been through cycle stores that have embraced the product and the sport. After all it is very much a wheeled action sport like BMX.

The scooter industry has come a very long way from the old folding scooter days with the emphasis now on innovation and performance. The demographic is still pretty young too, so I am not sure it is the case that the bike shops are losing BMX sales to these little rippers. In fact if anything, for the dealers that have got on board with the scooter movement they have increased their customer base with these new young guys back in the store buying BMXs. If anything it has helped and should continue to do so. The scooter scene is here to stay, it is a sport that has been developing for over ten years and you can carry on ignoring this or you can get on board.

Times have been tough for a lot of cycle retailers but in some cases you say scooter sales have helped keep some shops afloat?
Absolutely. I can think of many a conversation I’ve had with cycle stores that have stated that if it wasn’t for the surge in the scooter market they may not be around now.

Essentially, like with all things, the shops that have embraced the sport and really got behind it have reaped the benefits, through sales or adding a new customer base.

In some cases I am aware of, certain ‘cycle’ shops have become known as the ‘go-to’ shop for scooters in their area. Participation is huge and still growing, the price of entry is really good value, the product is amazing, you can customise your ride for that individual identity and it is getting kids outdoors and into something that could go on to other sports such as BMX or cycling, what’s not to love?

What are the biggest challenges ahead for iSkute and for the market in general?
There is an inevitable risk that the market will become saturated with too many brands, although we are still a long way off the number of bike brands out there.

But with or without this our challenge remains the same: How do we make our brands the ones that drive innovation, support the sport and help to grow participation at the grass roots? To answer this is easy, we use the team riders to drive development and innovation, we use the latest manufacturing techniques to help this, we support many events across the UK and the world with the team and also provide sponsorship for these events, such as Scootfest.

We hold the only UK series of Grit Academy events to help first time riders gain competition experience at the grass roots and we have our team riders host coaching and trick teaching sessions at a number of different skateparks to engage with the young riders.

Without doubt the scooter scene is here to stay, with events like Scoofest, scooters now being demo-ed at the X-Games and the guys like Team Extreme and the Animal Tours now incorporating scooting into their shows it has never hit such a big audience.

We have recently picked up the UK distribution rights for Lucky scooters, one of the first brands to have been involved in the scooter world right from the start, doing more for the sport than anyone else right now. Lucky has been able to achieve incredible exposure for the sport, and currently have the best rider in the world on the team, Dakota Shuetz, who has been displaying his skills across prime time US television. As you can imagine, we are really excited about having the chance to grow the Lucky brand in the UK.

Dakota will be here in May doing shop and skate park visits all in an effort to increase exposure of the growing sport.

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