Raleigh enthusiasts and prospective dealers alike were invited to the Eastwood showroom during January for a preview of the 2009 product portfolio. Mark Sutton reports on some stylish designs...

Raleigh Show Review

It makes good business sense to have an account with Raleigh and most UK dealers will certainly have one. Whether it’s used occasionally, or is refreshed with orders daily, the company has all bases covered and is keeping an increasingly close eye on market trends.

With a strong background in traditional leisure bikes, the brand has branched out in the past decade, venturing into downhill, folders, BMX, urban work bikes and more. And to complement the existing range of high-end bikes, Raleigh now distributes exotic carbon friendly brand Corratec.

As MD Mark Gouldthorp puts it: “Raleigh has become a one-stop-shop with 99.9 per cent of product available on demand. We travelled to Eurobike last year with the intention of bagging a new brand to satisfy the high-end dealer and, after some internal discussion, decided Corratec would perfectly sit alongside our other bikes. There’s an opportunity for 30-plus dealers in the UK to carry the brand, but we’ve filled some of those places already.”

Design improvements to the entire range of cycles was perhaps one of the most striking and most commented on highlights of the visit. When asked if the striking lacquered colours and tidy graphics were purely experimental, Goulthorp said: “We’ve got three full-time designers on board now. In the past our resources in this department were a bit more limited, but the ’09 range places great emphasis on aesthetic attraction.”

Indeed it does, but perhaps more impressive is the subtle touches tailored on the first points of contact. For example, a great deal of focus has gone on comfort features such as the saddle and grips. Great news for those dealers keen to strike a sale from a good first impression.

There was a far increased presence of commuter-style bikes with urban touches at the Eastwood show. Notably, influence appears to have come from the Dutch cycle market on some models, a style that many suggest is not only a hit with the image-aware customer, but with the practically minded too.

Take the new ‘Elegance’, a £300 retail ladies commuter, complete with stylish basket, it’s ready for panniers and whatever else you wanted to mount on the rear rack.

Moving with other trends, Diamondback’s BMX accessory range has taken note of Macneil’s pivotal saddle technology, utilising it in the latest saddle launch. Meanwhile, plastic pedals and stunt pegs find their way into the catalogue in time to catch the post-Christmas upgrade rush that has so often been seen in the 20-inch market.

So were there any whispers of discontent at the show relating to the inevitable and now-present price increases? Gouldthorp responds: “There certainly would be trouble among dealers if the product had not moved on with the price. There has been no adverse reactions to our price increases – which are lower than many of our competitors –mostly because bikes have been cheap for too long. And secondly, the product has upgraded in terms of quality in line with any additional cost.”

In any case, BikeBiz was re-assured that Raleigh has laid out a detailed quarter-by-quarter business plan to ensure that, despite any problems caused by currency, the business will grow in value again this year.

An estimated 45 dealers per day were attending Raleigh’s showroom, with around 80 per cent established main dealers or Cyclelife clients.

“Our presence at the London Cyce Show in October has helped raise curiosity in the brands we carry,” explains Gouldthorp. “Feedback so far has been positive with many commenting that they were glad to have made the journey. I like to measure success by the amount of negative feedback received, whether constructive or not. Dealer feedback has played a huge part in developing our 2009 portfolio and rightly so – it’s our client’s who take the end-user’s feedback daily. Earlier this year we also worked with students at Loughborough University to inspire design ideas through fashion trends.”

And it was time well spent. Aesthetically, Raleigh has considered every detail from frame graphics to POS material. Dealers can now download detailed price cards from the Raleigh B2B website. These serve as a fantastic self-selling tool for dealers with a high footfall.

Gouldthorp was optimistic about other trends too. Of the re-emergence of the traditional 700C bike he said: “We’ve seen massive growth with 700C models. These are the kind of bikes with plenty of practical uses and additional features. Women in particular, we’re told, are entering stores with only the consideration of how the cycle can practically serve their day-to-day needs. Budget seems less important if the bike can earn its keep.”

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