In this month’s distributor update, BikeBiz catches up with Silverfish commercial director, Alex Metcalfe
This piece first appeared in the February edition of BikeBiz magazine – get your free subscription here
We may be well into the new year, but it seems that many of the challenges facing the bike industry remain the same, according to Cornwall-based distributor Silverfish. Following 2022, “a year like no other,” the bike trade must still deal with overstocking and the slowdown in the low-mid end of the market as we move into the pivotal months of 2023.
While there is a cause for concern for many in the trade, Silverfish’s commercial director Alex Metcalfe says the brand has been working to build for the future.
The premium market
“For Silverfish, 2022 was a year of great excitement,” said Metcalfe, who joined Silverfish in September last year. “As a business dedicated to specialist bicycle retail, we’ve made significant steps to build a foundation for future growth.
“We’ve always been a team passionate about adventures, and bikes in particular, and we hope our marketing has shown our passion for mountain bikes, premium products and the retailers with which we partner.”
For the future, Metcalfe predicts a continuation of the overstocking issues we saw come to the surface last year, following the supply chain delays caused by Covid, and the somewhat surprising rate of the slowdown in bike sales.
But for Silverfish, a focus on the premium end of the market may help to bolster business. As Metcalfe said: “The biggest challenge will be the amount of stock in channel throughout the entire supply chain and particularly in the low to mid end of the market. All the reports we’ve seen state that suppliers already have overstock of entry to mid-level bikes and components, with more to come.
“Silverfish have always focused on the premium end of the market, attracting brands which have a strong following and the research we see suggests this customer group has increased so we feel well placed to serve them. Our biggest focus during this time is working with brands and retailers to ensure that riders know and request our products.”
Changes and appointments
Last year also saw Silverfish make some key appointments, including Metcalfe himself who joined the board to lead sales and marketing, from his previous positions at D30 protective equipment and Gore Wear. Metcalfe has risen through a number of senior sales and marketing roles at Gore Wear, WL Gore and Associates, leading him to taking responsibility for the global business as sales leader.
Most recently he was sales director for Europe and APAC for D30, leading a team across the outdoors, sports, motorcycle, PPE, defence and electronics sectors. Silverfish also made some key additions to the portfolio last year, while a number of brands also released major new products to the UK market.
Metcalfe said: “I joined Silverfish last year and am delighted with the strong portfolio of brands Darren [Mabbott, Silverfish MD] and the team have built up to date. In the past year or so, we have seen some significant additions to our ranges. Building on the success of their muscle bikes, it was superb to see Yeti introduce their Yeti 160E.
“Yeti has such a loyal fan base and these riders have been crying out for Yeti to bring an e-bike to the market for a long time, so it’s been great to meet their needs. It was also massive for us to bring Forestal to the UK market; we love this brand and, just like Yeti, we will also be distributing it in Germany, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg. The way these bikes ride is blowing everyone’s minds and we’re starting to see amazing reviews coming in for them.
“Supporting our brand expansion in our European territories we very recently just added Burgtec to our portfolio. Representing this great British brand in these territories feels a bit of an honour and we know the potential is huge for such a well-engineered, in vogue brand.”
Exciting new products from Silverfish include the introduction of the Yeti SB120, SB140, and SB160 bikes into the UK and European areas. Metcalfe said: “Their predecessors had a huge following and both retail and consumers are so excited for the new bikes that we’ve seen a phenomenal uptake linked to our go-to-market strategy. I’m so excited to see the new bikes out in the market and at the dealer demos we run.”
Meanwhile Silverfish has also partnered with Peaty’s cleaning and maintenance products to deliver care packages to let IBDs test out products. Unsurprisingly for such a turbulent time, bike retailers have been reacting to the strains and opportunities in their own way, but Metcalfe says Silverfish has seen notable differences between how big and small retailers are reacting.
“The reactions to the current climate have been hugely varied, just as retailers vary greatly. The bigger retailers typically felt the impact first and quickly acted and we’re now seeing them coming back to life.
“We’re still seeing solid daily replenishment business, particularly on consumable products because riders are still wearing out parts on their bikes and looking to make component upgrades. We still see enthusiasm for new products as well.”
And for the future of Silverfish, Metcalfe added: “Our big focus is growing consumer engagement to create consumer insistence. We’re proud of the brands we work with, and our dream is that riders come into store specifically asking for our products.
“To this end, we’re looking to partner with retail and brands more closely to multiply this engagement and, therefore, insistence. As always, we’re always looking at complimentary brands to add to our portfolios, brands that shout adventure, and which you aspire to have in your garage or shed.”