Mountain Boot Company: ‘It’s been a challenging but ultimately very successful year’

With its roots in climbing and skiing, Mountain Boot Company has been branching into the cycling world. UK sales manager for the bike category, Chris Aitken, tells Alex Ballinger about future plans for the Newcastle-based distributor

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

“Without doubt we’ve come into the bike market at a difficult time and it’s clear that the industry is working through those challenges,” said Chris Aitken, sales manager for the bike category at Mountain Boot Company. “But we’re confident in the level of support we can offer retailers to add value to the category.

“The number of new cyclists is well publicised, and whether that’s cycling to get from A to B or discovering mountain biking to connect with nature and unwind, we’ve all experienced that a passion for cycling can grow from there.”

Outdoor origins
Mountain Boot Company, founded in 1995, may be a familiar name to those in the outdoor and ski industries as a leading distributor of outdoor brands, including Scarpa climbing equipment, and Deuter backpacks.

But more recently Mountain Boot Company (MBC), based in Newcastle, has been expanding into the cycling market, taking on the Deuter bike range in 2020, and bringing Sea to Summit bikepacking gear directly to the bike industry. “It’s been a challenging but ultimately very successful year,” said Aitken.

“The strength of our relationships across our brand portfolio, and a tremendous amount of work from all involved, mean that despite the ongoing challenges we have been able to continue to deliver the outstanding level of service and support that we are known for, while investing in our team to better serve our customers into the future.”

Focus on cycling
“With our roots in the outdoor industry,” added Aitken, “this investment included dedicated resource focused on the bike market in conjunction with a renewed focus on the category for Deuter, where there has been significant development for the brand and the product range across cycling disciplines which continues in the coming years.

“From a brand perspective, our current position within the bike market belies the strength of what’s on offer and we’re ready to support retailers to go on that journey with us as we grow Deuter in the minds of UK cyclists. We continually receive great feedback on people’s experiences with the brand and the products, whether that’s a new backpack, or one they’ve been using for 20 years.

“As sustainability rightly becomes an increasingly important part of people’s purchasing decisions, we want to tell the story of the deep-rooted commitment within Deuter to operate in the most socially and environmentally responsible way possible.”

Economic uncertainty
MBC has increased its focus on the cycling sector at a time of great upheaval, both for the industry and for the wider world. The hangover from the coronavirus pandemic, combined with the ongoing effects of the war in Ukraine, and a growing cost of living crisis in the UK, makes for an uncertain outlook for cycling brands and retailers.

However, MBC and Aitken are hoping that the resilience of the cycling market will shine through: “There has been a huge amount of work put into recovering from the implications of the pandemic at a production level. Together with Deuter we’ve been forward planning for SS23 for a long time now, and we’re in a strong position in that respect. That’s in part thanks to the long standing and mutually exclusive partnership with our production partner and a huge effort there to not only recover but significantly grow production to cope with demand.

“Of course, the impact of national and global events are creating uncertainty when we think about our disposable income, and this is understandably impacting the confidence of some retailers. However, it’s been proven during the toughest of times early in the pandemic that the outdoor and cycle industries are resilient in the face of such adversity and not only do these activities remain an important part of people’s lives but evidently become even more crucial to physical and mental wellbeing. So far, we’ve continued to see this being the case during this cost-of-living crisis.”

The brands
MBC’s biggest offering to the cycle trade is Deuter backpacks, which has 135 years of experience making packs and luggage, and 33 years in the cycle sector. The distributor aims to reintroduce Deuter to the bike market in the UK, with the aim of highlighting its quality range of products, and the importance of bike-specific backpacks for both comfort and practicality for riders.

Meanwhile Sea to Summit, which specialises in camping gear, offers bikepacking specific equipment like sleep systems and, new for 2023, a bikepacking tent that packs into two custom fork bags. Aitken said: “We’re still in the early stages of working in the bike industry, so the focus is on building those relationships with our customers and working with the right new partners as we grow. We’re a flexible and dynamic business so will continue to understand how best to serve our customers in the bike industry and improve how we do so.

“We’ll continue to build Deuter in the right way. To some extent this is a reintroduction of a brand that a lot of mountain bike riders know and love because of the significant history in the sport and well-known quality, they simply haven’t seen us around for several years, but the brand and range is stronger than ever.

“The brand holds an incredibly strong position in many other European countries, so we’ll be working towards replicating that in the UK alongside growing the range of events and riders we support with both Deuter and Sea to Summit.”

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