When i t comes to al l t hi ngs cycling, one of the go-to brands is Specialized. Three years ago, Specialized decided that having a dedicated presence in SA rather than distributing its products through 73 independent outlets made financial sense. That involved trimming 73 outlets to 29 and implementing dedicated Specialized Concept stores as well as Elite stores with Specialized as the main brand within a four-brand store. Within a year the company had almost doubled its sales. And year-on-year growth is in the double digits.
It ’ s a t urnkey solution that Specialized feels gives more focus to the brand and the rider. “The rider is the boss and you need to listen to what the rider wants,” says Bianca Grobbelaar, marketing manager for Specialized Bicycles Africa. Thus, the company’s concept stores also offer bike set-up facilities, combining body geometry fit with the retool system, a system it is also looking to implement in its elite stores.
“Specialized r acing i s ver y important to us. It is important to win races and to have top athletes on podiums,” says Grobbelaar. This does not mean they neglect the weekend warrior or the normal recreational cyclist, but top athletes and winning races obviously gives the brand much-needed exposure. The value of TV coverage for the winning team on the last stage of the 2014 Absa Cape Epic for instance was R19.8m.
Specialized confirms a l ean towards mountain biking, citing figures of around 70:30 in mountain bike’s favour. And, the company says, its full suspension bikes are by far its best sellers. Unsurprisingly, 79% of bikes ridden in the Absa Cape Epic are full suspension bikes.
A technologically advanced brand, Specialized’s credo is “i nnovate or die”. The brand envisions possibilities, realised by the many specialists it employs at its headquarters in California, USA. But on future technological innovations, it is keeping mum. Still it makes mention of a “big push on the mountain side” and a “different” road bike coming through in 2016. One wonders if it will be an eBike (electronic bike), currently getting much focus abroad.