It’s not just about owning a bike any more - there is so much else that goes with it. How has this market grown over the years?
That is an interesting question and one that needs some qualification.
Certainly, bike sales have been in decline but parts and accessories have remained near static but there has been an increase in the number of brands and products available, especially on a brand direct basis.
From my experience, even when bike sales are in decline, dedicated users will still be enthusiastic about upgrading kit and clothing and the real opportunities are in that area for sure. Sensible shops and dealers will be looking for ways to attract customers and make sales without tying up cash in bikes so the P&A market should always be relatively buoyant. It needs to be borne in mind though that unless we can introduce a new customer to cycling at a lifestyle level more regularly then we will suffer from the introspection of sales to existing participants and not actually grow in real terms. This is where the government and other bodies need to do more to emphasise the importance of cycling to the economy and health in order to encourage more people to engage with cycling and become valuable consumers for both bike and accessory sales. The pure sports category needs to be enhanced by lifestyle and transport categories for real growth to occur long term.
Innovations in bike stands, rather than just leaning your bike up in the hall or against the
wall in a garage – how have they changed?
This a particular area of interest for us as we distribute Feedback Sports here in the UK, who you could argue offer the most complete range of bike stands and bike support on the market. There are so many ways to store a bike now and it gives the bike user flexibility to fit into their lifestyle and living arrangements.
We still see the majority of our storage sales to the trade for trade use, for example the Rakk from Feedback Sports is the accepted number one solution for bike display in stores. On the home side we have seen massive success of the Velo Wall Rack 2D and the Velo Hinge - they are inexpensive highly functional and demonstrate fantastic longevity. Whilst there may be other products with a higher aesthetic value available, it is rare they also possess sound design and engineering features.
The range offered by Feedback is deep and not too wide - this is intentional and due to the focus on engineering a quality and relevant product for the market and to offer the dealer some stability on range selection and in store offering.
How much thought and science goes into the design of these new products?
Knowing the team at Feedback Sports and the relentless focus they have on engineering, I can attest to the thought and design present in all products they develop. This has been reflected by the endorsement of so many pro team mechanics in cycling sport and the fact that so many working mechanics and stores buy Feedback Sports for personal use. They specialize in designing products that are ‘real world’ and will stand up to long term use. Testament to this is our rate of return which is virtually zero - all items are designed to be easy to repair over their lifespans meaning that in normal use, a Feedback product will work almost indefinitely.
Also the rise in nutrition and energy to fuel cyclists – how is this reflected in the marketplace?
Cyclists have an obsession with food - after all what other sport can claim to be so cake centric! Jokes aside, we live in an age where consumers have more information and science on nutrition than ever before and more options than we really need but we still have climbing rates of obesity and diabetes present in our population so something isn’t working and it’s probably education. The sports cyclist can be broken into two main types in my eyes when it comes to sports nutrition, firstly the ‘normal food’ rider and secondly the ‘fuel’ rider. The former will aim to fuel him/herself with up to date and new products that are well marketed and have a story and crucially taste good! Usually these will be organic or with a provenance or message they can mirror from their normal diet and eating habits.
They probably read into brand stories and ingredients lists fairly deeply and go for products that you
could make in the kitchen except it’s easier to buy made and packaged in the right format for the bike. The latter consumer will be more focused in how to fuel and be way more numbers oriented and not as taste led. They may be more accepting of products that are more synthetic in appearance or manufacture and have some form of pro endorsement. Put simply, they want to know how many calories, how quickly it will work and if it is priced well - they usually consume a large volume in a year.
We offer Honey Stinger to the market which offers great taste and the energy source of honey in formats that cyclists accept such as gels, bars and chews. We feel the brand appeals to the former customer mentioned above.
There are also products designed to take some of the irritation of a long ride away. How are these products brought to the market?
Ah yes… one of the least romantic products we offer but one of the most valuable and demanded.
Chamois Butt’r is a product many riders can’t be without! We have just spent some time conducting a product composition analysis and reformulation with the guys at Chamois Butt’r to improve and confirm we are 100 per cent euro compliant for all the ingredients contained in the product and we are happy to say we are. As part of this process we were also accepted by the European Cosmetics Portal as a legitimate and safe product for consumers to buy with confidence. We feel, like with nutrition products, that the consumer really values provenance and is given confidence to buy when they can be assured of the supply chain and consideration given to them as users.
What do you look for in a new product?
You have to ask yourself, does a product offer a consumer genuine value for money and crucially, would we spend our money on it at retail. This rarely fails to weed out the bad products from the good but there are other parameters to consider such as ‘who is behind the brand’, ‘what is the product roadmap’ etc. But put simply it always comes back to whether or not a product enhances a user experience or adds genuine value.