BikeBiz Awards 2022: Specialist Distributor of the Year.
Rebecca Morley catches up with Advanced Bikes UK’s Sophie and Adam Browne to hear more about the company’s plans for 2023
This piece first appeared in the March edition of BikeBiz magazine – get your free subscription here
Each year, the BikeBiz Awards aims to celebrate those in the cycling industry who have lead the way in talent and innovation in the 12 months previous. This certainly applies to 2022’s Specialist Distributor of the Year winner – Advanced Bikes UK.
Advanced Bikes UK’s vision is simple – to inspire people to change their habits and go cycling sustainably. Mid-way through last year saw the company look to extend its dealer network in the UK with the Reco launch at July’s Eurobike in Frankfurt.
Reco’s frames are made out of a carbon fibre-reinforced plastic granulate with a complex injection moulding technology creating a robust recyclable material. This method means that the frame can be ground up again after its life cycle, melted down and then manufactured into a new frame or component.
This manufacturing process takes place over a short period of time and is energy-efficient, said the brand, with the production of the Reco frames taking place in Germany with cost-efficient and carbon-neutral shipping to the UK.
BikeBiz recently caught up with Advanced Bikes UK’s Adam and Sophie Browne over a video call, to find out what successes and challenges they saw in 2022.
“Consumer confidence dropped a bit towards the end of last year, we have found that challenging because it has trickled through to our retail network,” Sophie said. “Pre-ordering isn’t really what our customers do. With a new brand, they go slow and they suss it out and then they see what we do in terms of pushing the brand, which is natural, but it definitely would have been different a couple of years ago.
“There are challenges that come with bringing a new brand and product into the market, with people often asking: ‘Who are you and what you doing here?’”, continued Adam. “I saw that as an opportunity really to help people understand that we’re bringing something fresh into the market, something that they hadn’t seen and had a different approach.
“Even though people were slightly hesitant to hear the information, once they heard what it was there was a lot of interest.”
On the successes, Sophie said they’ve managed to build a good dealer network and one that everyone can be proud of – a network that can work together. “That’s been a success and we’re generally quite happy with how we build a footprint in different regions.
“We’ve seen the excitement in the industry about wanting to be part of a new era of e-bike technology. We haven’t seen pushback really – once people were into us, they were really into the technology. That’s a really great success knowing that people are into innovation here in this country and that helped us to push forward.”
The right track
During our call, the pair also showed off their trophy won at November’s BikeBiz Awards in association with ArmaUrto – Advanced Bikes UK was awarded the Specialist Distributor of the Year, a new award for last year’s event where the winner was decided by a panel of 12 industry experts.
Judges included MBR digital editor Aoife Glass, who said: “E-bikes have the potential to be a gamechanger when it comes to accessibility and more environmental-friendly transportation and mobility choices, but to succeed the business must also be savvy and customer-focused.
“Advanced Bikes UK demonstrates a passion for helping people and the planet, with the circular economy at its core, while also providing detailed audience insight and logistics that sets it up for success.”
On winning the award, Sophie said: “It’s a sign that what we’re doing is the right thing. It’s satisfying to see that passion and hard work, and doing it with a very sustainable approach and a very personal approach actually pays off. We feel very proud of it.”
“There’s a credibility part of it that’s very beneficial,” Adam added. “Having won this award, it not only helps with talking to the end user or to the bike shop, but also brands. It does give us credibility, especially it that specialist field.
“We’re both very passionate cyclists. Our goal is to get more people on bikes one way or another. It’s about helping people build a better life.”
Adam continued: “We’re in this for the long haul, and we really see that the industry is in its infancy because I personally see a parallel. Assisted cycling is different, even though they look like bikes, it’s a different thing. The people that are getting interested in that will be different people that want to get on a road bike.”
So looking ahead, what trends does Advanced Bikes UK expect to see in 2023? “We’re all about circular economy with Advanced Rico products,” said Sophie. “Circular economy is a bit of a buzzword, whatever we do evolves around that and we think in the industry and the wider industry, that is a trend.
“Then there’s also experiential consumption. It describes e-bike retailers or bike retailers that make a really good effort, having a very personal selling approach, take people out on an experience ride, without the customer having to commit to buy a bike.”
Adam added: “From the user’s point of view, once they buy our bikes, they know that they’re helping the world. It does create 68% less CO2 emissions when it’s produced. When they’re on it, they can be happy that they’re doing something positive.
“A negative trend is that people are being very cautious with their spend. There’s going to be some businesses that really don’t make it through this. My prediction on this is that cheap bikes will sell and expensive bikes will sell but there’s a lot of stuff in the middle. Unfortunately for a lot of people there’s going to be a discount war, and that doesn’t help the industry at all.”
Another trend that’s perhaps isn’t new, but is UK-specific is the integration of design and fashion and technology. “In the UK the trend is much more that it’s got to be pleasing for the eye,” Sophie explained. “It’s got to have a fashionable approach, the way it’s sold, the way it’s positioned. That’s an ongoing trend, and I think that will continue into the next couple of years.”
For the year ahead, Advanced Bikes UK is aiming to grow its footprint and retail network, really proving the concept, and also being more part of cycling advocacy, Sophie added. “We will also keep focusing on selling.
“We’ll also keep focusing on helping the UK change their mindset on cycling for commuting. We will push that along with it, and I think that will give us quite a lot of strength as a distributor that we’re helping our customers change culture at the same time.”
Adam and Sophie also spoke of the retail environment, and how consumers will look to buy bikes. “If you really want to understand and get the best thing, then you’ll have to go to knowledgeable people, so it’s whether the better dealers will prosper in that,” said Adam.
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Sophie added: “I think retail will actually continue to be strong if it’s done right, the people that have only really built online might suffer a little bit more than the traditional retailer with really good personal style behind it. That’s our prediction.”
“One of Advanced’s goals is to save the bike shop,” said Adam. “One of the reasons they don’t sell direct has been previously, that bricks and mortar businesses are better for the higher-end products, because there’s less chance for warranty issues, less chance for returns, less chance for being mis-sold.
“They’ve actually had an experience because the person that’s selling it is recommending it, fitting it to your lifestyle. The chance for something to go not right is far less.”
Adam added: “For us, it’s a marathon definitely, not a sprint. We’re not in a hurry, we’d rather keep getting the right dealers rather than growing massively. We know it will take us a while to get a big hold on the market, but we will grow really sustainably once again.”
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