Extra UK on new hires, strategy & its growing brand portfolio

With 28 brands and counting, Extra’s additions of late have been described as “premier league signings”. CIN speaks to Extra’s fast growing team about taking the 25-year-old business to the next level alongside its retail partners…

There’s been a notable surge in press communications from Extra in the past 24 months, something that’s generally the sign of a business either having a shake up or experiencing a growth spurt. With Extra it’s a bit of both.

Having completed a move into new digs 12 months ago, formerly occupied by the distributor’s partner logistics firm (we’ll get to that…), both the offices and the warehouse are being slowly filled with more staff and more brands.

In fact, the move came about on the back of a number of high profile hires into the business, perhaps most notably long-term Shimano brand manager Mark Greshon who joined from Madison at the start of 2018.

Head of marketing – Stephen Hayes joined from Whirlpool, adding big business experience to a team that was already coordinating some 40 events annually on top of all other marketing activity. To cope with the demands of a now annual turnover of £19 million, in the space of just a few years the business has near doubled its payroll, with around 25 staff on the books, all of whom are
dedicated to customer service, marketing, sales and procurement.

The marketing team has been further bolstered by experienced personnel – like Brand Manager John Harris who joined in December bringing ten years’ in the trade including at Madison – as well as new recruits, like marketing postgrad & keen MTBer Michael Braybrook.

More recently, Matt Beighton joined as joined as Topeak Brand Manager, another experienced cycling industry staffer having enjoyed stints at Madison, KTM and Raleigh. Finally, Richard Jones moved across from Extra UK’s technical department to become a marketing and brand assistant.

Adding those extra marketing and brand personnel was in part down to the changing nature of the bicycle distribution game and also down to a desire to push Extra UK into a new phase of growth. Set up by cycling industry stalwart Brian Stewart (previously a co founder of the firm’s Milton Keynes based rival Madison) alongside business partner John Phillips back in 1994, Extra UK has gone on to build a 28 brand strong portfolio of labels, many of which are genuine class leaders in their respective fields.

“Brands want more from distributors”

“Brian and John have driven the changes,” Hayes tells CIN. “Naturally they want to move the business on to develop and grow, but the market is changing too and there was a wider recognition that we needed to support brands in a bigger way. “Brands want more from distributors and of course we all want to make them a success so we’ve developed much more detailed sales and promotion plans for each brand.”

To retain focus, the firm has been tactfully turning distributor deals down too, particularly in the weeks post-Taipei Cycle Show. “We believe in quality rather than quantity. We’re frequently approached by new brands but you can’t just collect brands if you’re committed to the long-term success of the brands you already have.”

In the past 18 months, Extra’s portfolio has grown strategically with carefully considered additions including the likes of HJC Helmets, Absolute Black, Squirt and Pirelli. This year alone, the distributor signed Trent Fitzgibbons’ helmed M20, tube brand Tubolito, FastForward Wheels and perhaps biggest of all, ABUS.

“Pirelli is a brand that we’ve been very excited to bring through in the UK,” says Head of Brands, Mark Greshon. “Their expertise in compounds and tyre construction is second to none and while the exact compounds used are a closely guarded secret, but anyone who has ridden them loves the way they corner in either wet or dry conditions. They’ve incredibly low rolling resistance too, a real performance product.”

For the retailer it’s an appealing package too. Presented in slick rectangular boxes, the portfolio at present consists of 23, 25 and 28c road tyres, but will soon be joined by a 38c four seasons style tyre falling under a different family.

Tubolito has been a roaring success so far, especially with the bike packers and adventure bike market. There’s also been interest for the distinctive orange valve stemmed-brand from the BMX race scene. For road riders the weight saving appeal is clear as compared to standard rubber tubes you’ll save almost 70g of rotating weight per wheel. Price for the tubes has not been an issue either, reports Extra.

FFWD arrived in April, filling a gap in the Extra line-up for a quality high end wheels brand. “We’re looking for the long-term potential when we sign brands but with FFWD it all happened quickly. We’ve not spent much time promoting it on the road yet [CIN visited while the ink was still drying on the deal] but we’ve been getting several of dealer calls a day about FFWD,” Greshon reveals to CIN.

The groundwork to the M20 Industries deal dates back to Eurobike 2018, where they met founder Trent Fitzgibbons. Returning to the cycle industry after selling his shares in Australia-based distributor JetBlack Cycling, Fitzgibbons set up M20 in 2016 with a range that now includes compression socks, active sport socks (no compression but with features like reflective detailing), performance hydration systems and skin care products.

And last but not least, there’s the small matter of ABUS. Moving to Extra after a decade with ZyroFisher, stock started arriving with the Northants distributor at the start of April. With sales split roughly 50/50 between the brand’s locks and helmet lines, the security lines are largely made in Germany over three locations.

The brand is supporting the high profile World Tour team Movistar as well as tie ups between ex pros Fabian Cancellara and Cedric Gracia. “

These aren’t just filler brands,” explains Hayes. “We are deliberate in which ones we’ve taken on. We’re looking to exploit the opportunities in the market.”

Aside from the newer arrivals, long running brand relationships with the likes of Topeak continue to unearth product gems, like the recently expanded Ninja series of accessories. Tapping once again into the adventure market, the clever range saves all important bag space via a modular series that attaches tyre levers, tools and more to bottle cages and the like. An IBD exclusive, the Ninja Master series has a renewed focus on tools.

“This range is one of the latest in a long line of market leading innovations from Topeak. Whether it be tools, pumps, luggage or lights, Topeak is at the forefront of progressive product design, whose prime focus is function over fashion” Beighton adds.

Also newly arriving with Extra is the full range of Synthesis 11 carbon wheels, the fruit of a partnership between Crankbrothers’ and Industry Nine, with Hydra hubs available on the full range. Meanwhile, Ergon’s latest seat launches include products optimised for e-MTBs – featuring a ‘rear ramp’ that supports the rider better in the kind of steep seated-while-riding-uphill situation that e-bike riders can find themselves in.

With more brands coming on board Extra is investing in training for both its staff and accounts that desire it. Demo day support is similarly ramping up, with Clif and Nuun support available for demo days and the later recruiting brand ambassadors. A brand specialist for Fi’zi:k and Crank Brothers is also on the road helping develop fresh shop events and demonstrating the range of the hugely successful Fi’zi:k shoe collection.

In further support of accounts, Extra has a wild card up its sleeve; the firm essentially has its own logistics business in neighbouring Datamex, a delivery specialist whose cargo is almost exclusively cycling products from the distributor. “This frees our team up to focus on what we’re good at,” the firm says, adding that “they even manage the B2B and IT, enabling our customer service team to be on hand at all times to answer trade calls.”

To take advantage of Extra UK’s wide ranging brand portfolio you can contact the sales team on 01933 672170.

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Hayley Everett

Staff Writer

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