Brompton supply dilemmas attributed directly to new cycling infrastructure growth

Brompton has clarified its supply stance in the face of sharp criticism from bike shops claiming that supply has stopped “this year”.

Speaking to CI.N late last week, Brompton’s Chief Commercial Officer Stephen Loftus noted the frustrations within the independent bike shop channel, though weighed those complaints against a much larger picture of supply strain where export markets were likewise having to get by on a reduced supply.

“It’s not quite right to say supply has stopped this year, as our order book runs October to October, so we have shifted supply needs around to that point,” he begun.

“There is a BBC article out this week that described a global supply shortage on bicycles and of course Brompton is a global business. We have come up against our own struggles in the face of the Coronavirus, both in production and in supply. The welcome increase in demand for cycling across the globe has accelerated rapidly as cities have begun to roll out infrastructure in response.”

What Loftus says next only goes further to cement the link between safe lanes and calmed streets with a natural rise in cycling for transport and leisure purposes.

“In Berlin, immediately as soon as safe lanes began to be laid our traffic rose 60%. In France, in particular Paris, the traffic on our site rose 200% and right off the back of that sales jumped in the region of 60% to 70%. The story was the same in London, New York and elsewhere,” says Loftus.

This spike in demand, we’re told, was what prompted a deep assessment of the firm’s supply capability. The Greenford manufacturing plant was, like many others in the industry, forced to furlough vulnerable staff, reducing manufacturing capability.

To address the decline in available skill against a growing demand, Loftus says that the bicycle industry is in an excellent position to rescue jobs from other engineering industries that have been less fortunate. Brompton is now on a recruitment spree of skilled workers in a bid to maintain momentum and reach lofty new targets, which Loftus says can not be met without the help of bike shops.

“We had a situation where our lead times were significantly out of step with orders, so we had to close down many things. The order book for new orders has ceased, but existing orders will be fulfilled. We have shut down our custom bike builder on the site for now. Our direct supply only represents 10% to 15% of our trade globally and 25% in the UK, so it’s not a case of this getting priority,” Loftus assures in a direct response to some criticism aired online, adding “85% of our present capacity allocated to the UK has been fed into our dealer network.”

We’re told that the UK shop network currently has around 2,000 bikes, whereas one of the firm’s major export markets, South Korea, has just 200.

An extended version of our interview with Loftus will run in Cycling Industry News’ next Trade Journal, available to genuine UK trade members free of charge by subscription.