Cy­cling in­no­va­tion

Finweek English Edition - - ENTREPRENEUR -

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.

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