The next generation: Forme on the rapidly evolving kids’ bike market

The kids’ bike market is evolving rapidly. Lee Flanaghan and Josh Charteris from Forme Bikes sat down with Alex Ballinger to explore this changing corner of the bike trade

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

While we regularly see trends come and go in the bike market, in previous years the kids’ market has been fairly stagnant. But more recently, we’ve seen the rapid evolution of the junior bikes sector, with price points flying up, and the range of bikes on offer expanding dramatically.

For Forme, the British-based bike brand, the children’s market is a key focus, as Forme aims to offer a broad range of bikes for youngsters, from balance bikes to full-suspension off-road machines, all designed with quality and longevity in mind.

“Some people may think there’s not much work involved with designing kids’ bikes,” said Josh Charteris, head of product development at Forme. “But actually it’s the polar opposite. There’s so much more to consider – everything is different, and the amount of attention and development required is almost more than you would put into an adult’s bike.”

Forme’s focus is on supplying kids’ bikes with a longer lifespan, and a higher quality, than customers might traditionally expect, as children have previously rapidly outgrown their beloved bikes within a year. This means that Forme pegs its junior bikes at a slightly higher price point, opting for alloy frames over steel, which is also a more sustainable option as a more easily recycled material.

Lee Flanaghan, head of brand and communications for Forme, said: “Being a parent and buying a series of bikes for my own son, I was surprised initially what parents are willing to spend on kids’ bikes. I think there’s a shift happening, not only in juniors’ bikes but also in other areas, partly driven by concerns about the environment and sustainability, a sense that people will spend more on the quality item.

“The reason for buying something higher quality, more expensive, is twofold – it lasts longer, because of the way the bike has been cleverly designed, they’ll get 18 months to three years out of it, instead of a year and it being thrown away.

“The second reason is the secondhand market – the difference between buying a supermarket bike for £100, compared to a decent £4-500 bike – will it last longer and will I get a decent price for it when I come to sell it?”

Forme, owned and distributed by Moore Large, was founded in 2010 in Derbyshire, and aims to be a through-and-through British brand offering bikes for almost every discipline. But part of Forme’s mission is also to create a lasting relationship with its customers, building loyalty that can even stretch from childhood through to adulthood.

Charteris, who was appointed to his role in December, having joined from his previous position as research and design manager at Frog Bikes, said: “We want to inspire kids to be on our bikes, but that can be a relationship that grows with the brand.

“As the child develops and grows, and maybe finds niche parts of the sport they’re into, then they might stay with us and go on next to road bikes and mountain bikes, because they’ve had that positive experience.”

So how can retailers capitalise on the changes in the kids’ market? “I think most retailers realise it’s about the broader relationship with the customer,” said Flanaghan, “and that’s where the independent bike dealer shines.

“They can have those relationships that an e-commerce site can’t build. They might have a family that brings their bikes in for servicing, they buy kit, helmets, accessories, lights.

“I think their opportunity is massive. I don’t believe they would shy away from committing quite so much floor space to kids’ bikes because it doesn’t make as much money. I believe it’s about seeing that broader picture.”

Forme also sees the importance of its presence in the wider cycling community, as the brand works closely with local cycling club Ilkeston CC, and staff are involved as coaches in local British Cycling Go-Ride events, and Bikeability training, all aimed at getting more people on bikes.

But what’s next for the children’s market? “I think you’ll certainly see a reduction in range,” said Charteris. “I think we’ll see more players reducing the range but creating bikes that are designed to be with the consumer for a longer period of time.

“I think simpler frame geometry, understanding how a child grows, how that demographic is different to adults, and how that can be utilised for the longevity of the product.”

Flanaghan added: “I see a continued shift towards high quality, higher-priced, more premium children’s bikes. That will continue and that sector will grow. I think the decline will be in cheap, disposable bikes, driven by increasing awareness about sustainability.

“I sense and hope that there’s a better emphasis on junior cycling in schools, as we shift as a society to cycling being a means of transport day-to-day. I think we’ll see a shift where cycling might end up in the PE curriculum or in the school curriculum generally, not just the once a year cycle training. I hope it will be higher on the radar for teachers and will lead to higher uptake of cycling for kids generally.”

While Forme expected the continued growth of the more premium kids’ products, the team also hopes that innovations in children’s bikes, from geometry to materials, will trickle down to cheaper bikes, creating a more sustainable and more appealing market for consumers.

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