With Expo 2011 only days away, BikeBiz quizzed Fisher CEO Richard Allmark on what to expect from the St Albans show...

SHOW PREVIEW: Fisher Expo 2011

How’s business been?
2010 was another record year for Fisher. We have seen real growth in many brands and categories… but to highlight a few, Santini and LOOK had a fantastic year, with retailers really getting behind the brands and their market-leading products and technologies.

It was also the year that we launched Kansi into the UK market. We’ve been thrilled at the response from trade and consumers alike to the bikes and the brand has had amazing cut-through in the short time it’s been out there. We also launched Vavert accessories and Airace pumps at Expo last year, and both of these brands have had an excellent first year.
2011 has also started brightly with the news that we have added Zipp, meaning all the SRAM brands – SRAM, Avid, Rockshox, Truvativ and Zipp – are now available under one roof.

This year Expo is back at Sopwell House – is it fair to assume Expo’s first year at the venue last year was a success for the firm?
Very much so. Expo has developed strongly over the years and the 2010 event at Sopwell House was without doubt the best yet, with extremely positive feedback received from everyone who came along. In fact, we’re expecting this to be our best-attended Expo ever, as prior registrations are well ahead of previous years.

The setting is fantastic, with plenty of space for all brands to be displayed in one location. Also, being so close to our HQ we can invite people to come and take a look around our facilities here whilst they’re in town.

Can we expect to see any new brands at Expo 2011?
Yes, we’re pleased to be able to show two new brands for the very first time – Bluegrass and CST will launch to customers and press. 

Exclusive to Fisher in the UK, the Bluegrass range includes full-face helmets and body armour targeted at the downhill, dirt and all mountain rider. With great product, strong graphics, competitive pricing and a sponsorship roster that includes a number of world famous riders and sponsorship of the infamous ‘Avalanche’ event series, the Bluegrass brand will be in ascendency worldwide this year – so get on board early! 

Fisher is pleased to announce that it has also been appointed as UK distributor for CST tyres and tubes. The initial commuter focused range consists of durable, everyday tyres and tubes at market leading retail prices, sure to appeal to a broad consumer base. With a simple, ‘everyday low pricing’ structure and discounts based on mixed quantities purchased, we know there’s plenty to interest our retail customers here.

Can you give us any hints about the incentives and offers that will be available for attending dealers?
We very much appreciate the fact that our customers have to take time away from their business to attend Expo, and how difficult this is to justify in a small business environment – so we always go out of our way to make it worthwhile for everyone to attend. Customers who come along will have access to a range of great offers including exclusive stockist deals, show discounts and promotions and of course a goodie bag each to take away.

Those attending Expo this year will also be the first to be able to sign up to our brand new fisherb2b website. This new platform offers much improved functionality including a great new search facility and improved account management features and we’ll have a few web exclusive promos too.

In addition, we always like to make it a really enjoyable experience – anyone choosing to stay over with us at the hotel is certain of a great evening, with good food and entertainment laid on.

Kansi made its Expo debut last year and has since been on the show circuit. How has the brand been bedding in?
Kansi has had an amazing first year. Everybody who has tried one out, every press review, every piece of customer feedback – they’ve all been glowing in their praise for the brand.

The combination of great looks, outstanding ride and competitive price points has really made people look again at the folding bike market. People who may not have previously considered buying a folder have suddenly taken notice of Kansi. From students to retirees and even Radio 1 DJs, the broad appeal of the brand has seen its initial sales really take off. With a range of new Kansi accessories due in spring and an exciting media plan for 2011, we’re confident it’s going to be another great year for Kansi.

Once again Expo is supporting charity Stay Strong – how can the trade get involved?
Ever since Stephen Murray’s terrible crash in 2007, Fisher has been proud to support Stay Strong and I think the whole industry should be thanked for their continuing support.

Expo will see the second running of the Expo Charity Ride for Stay Strong. Taking place on Sunday February 20th, everyone is invited to join us on a 12 or 30-mile ride with some of cycling’s brightest stars. Steve Peat will be joining us again, alongside the whole Endura Racing Team (including Team Car), Olympic silver medallist Wendy Houvenaghel, Danny Hart and more still to be announced. Everyone who takes part will also receive a custom Santini Stay Strong jersey which has been re-designed from last year, as well as the option to buy Santini Stay Strong long sleeve jackets. All money raised will go to Stay Strong and we urge as many people as possible to take part.

How important is it to host face-to-face events like Expo?
I think it’s incredibly important. It is the perfect opportunity to meet up with customers old and new to discuss how we can work together more closely in the future. It gives customers the chance to feedback their thoughts – good and bad – directly to the Fisher team and brand representatives in an informal atmosphere. It’s also great for encouraging people to interact with our product ranges, see the latest offerings and discuss all things cycle trade related.

We’re always pleased to hear from customers about what’s working for them and any products or services they’d like us to offer, and Expo is a fun way to catch up.

Are the tough economic conditions taking their toll on the trade?
We are fortunate that as an industry, many of the external environmental factors are working in our favour, with many political and sociological drivers leading to increased interest in cycling.

As always, the British climate plays a massive part in how successful a winter season everyone has… and the weather gods weren’t kind to us this last quarter. But let’s hope the late Easter and extra Bank Holiday make up for this later in the year.
In addition, the economic outlook this year is of course uncertain, with public sector job cuts, interest rate increases and currency challenges looming.

All of these factors may of course have an effect on consumer spending power, but we balance our concerns with all of the external positives supporting our sector. Here at Fisher we approached the year with a belief that said; run the business well and closely, manage costs and stock better, motivate and look after staff, and above all continue to nurture customer and manufacturer relationships as this is still the key driver to success in our wonderful industry… In short ‘approach with caution but stick to your plan!’

Beyond Expo, what’s coming up next for Fisher Outdoor Leisure?
We’ve got a really exciting year planned. We’re thrilled to be sponsoring a number of major events this year, including the Santini Sportive Series (July 3rd at Stowe, and July 31st at Castle Coombe) and SRAM 50 mile ride at Fight in the Forest in Aid of Livestrong (April 3rd, Beaulieu, New Forest).

The SRAM Technical Centre team will also be out and about offering Technical Support for our customers and neutral race support at key events all over the country throughout the season.

We’re also proud to be sponsoring the Endura Racing Team for a second year with LOOK, SRAM and MET, and this year the team also includes Oli Beckinsale riding in the XC domestic and World Cup race calendars. We are also supporting a number of high profile teams and athletes across all disciplines.

Our new B2B site launches at Expo, and we have lots more additional features lined up for rollout throughout the year. Following on from our successful introduction of a new warehouse management system in Summer 2010, we also have upgrades planned for this summer which we believe will further improve our service levels to our customers.

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