A return to top flight sponsorship has brought Italian helmet specialist Limar back to the forefront of consumer’s minds, the brand has said on the back of a period of sustained growth.
It was just last year that Direct Energie opened up an opportunity to adorn its riders and Limar decided to jump at the chance to tie a three year deal with the Pro Continental team. Since then, a more recent link with decorated Astana team has more than doubled the brand’s pro tour presence.
Getting back on the pro circuit is a strategy that’s seen the firm return to form, explains Limar’s Bianca Bernadi.
“Recently we have seen important increases in several European countries. In the UK the great challenge of our distributor NRG4 has been the brand repositioning in line with the new company reality and product value. Having spent years in deep product development the return of Limar to the world of sponsorship has given a great push to our brand recognition. The wide range of products for all helmet categories, together with the new increased brand visibility, strongly supports our deserved positioning among the top European helmet brands.”
Limar exports all over the world, from Europe to the Far East, USA to South America and Oceania, boasting coverage within 90% of the world’s markets.
However, it is Europe that is leading the brand’s charge for the coming years. The Asia-Pacific too is expected to remain the largest region in the world for bicycles in the five coming years and thus forms a significant part of Limar’s ambitions. As others in the industry have spotted, this forecast for growth is supported by a large population and increasing tendency to use the bicycle as a sustainable mode of transportation.
“In order to be as close as possible to the market in these regions, we have adapted our range developing helmets specifically dedicated to Asian riders,” says Bernardi. “In the coming years we have scheduled a strong development particularly in Japan and Korea , at the same time our positions in South East Asia will be reinforced.”
Back in the UK and finding the need to adapt to a very specific set of challenges, Limar recruited NRG4 back in September of 2016.
“Our business is experiencing radical changes we cannot ignore, on the contrary, we have to adapt our strategy,” starts Bernardi.
“On the one hand, the consumer often chooses the “internet option” through online specialized websites that have been quickly taken over from retailers as the leading source of information for consumers in the past decade. On the other hand, sport and outdoor store chains are becoming bigger and stronger.
“With our distributors as our partners on the each market, Limar wants to face the challenge and take those new market parameters into account.”
As put by NRG4 operations director Craig Middleton, a very specific strategy has been chosen to drive the Limar brand in the UK.
“Nrg4 made the decision to go with just one major online partner in order to protect the dealer’s interests and margins regarding online pricing,” said Middleton. “Nrg4 has a number of dealer incentives involving free POS for the dealer’s store and extra savings if you also stock the Limar sunglasses range as well.”
The independent bike shop, then, is largely relied upon to deliver expertise to any customer not turning directly to the web. Product extensions, such as Limar’s venture into the glasses arena, quite often require dealer expertise.
“Our eyewear portfolio is a complimentary accessory to our core business,” says Bernardi. “We selected one of the top manufacturers to develop exclusive lines focused on the technical performance of the lenses, specifically for riders. Therefore, our eyewear range breaks down into three major categories of lenses: photochromic, interchangeable (those two most specific for riders) and polycarbonate lenses (better for leisure use). We have developed the eyewear range to match our helmet portfolio’s palette as customers seem to pay strong attention to colour matching.”
Laying claim to producing the world’s lightest helmet with the Ultralight+, high-end road stores will undoubtedly find the brand to be sought after among those looking for marginal gains. Tipping the scales at 175 grams for a medium, the Ultralight+ is actually heavier than the original, which when presented at Eurobike in 2011 actually came in at just 160 grams.
It is further research and development and an unflappable commitment to safety that has lead to the creation of the latest generation, says Benardi.
“We manufacture safety products, so our main goal is to prevent head injuries in case of impact. Helmets need to have a high impact absorption and mechanical properties to ensure that, in case of accident, the shock absorption properties of the EPS combined with the polycarbonate shell prevent shock being transferred to the brains. Thanks to our know-how we can achieve these great performances without affecting the helmet weight and exceed key standards, including CE EN 1078:1997/A1:2005, AS/NZS 2063:2008+ A1:2009 and CPSC 16 CFR 1203.”
Found at the firm’s Northern Italy HQ you’ll find an in-house testing laboratory that has the ability to simulate the official tests as carried out by independent test houses. This, says Bernardi, improves efficiency long before new designs are cleared for manufacture over in China where of course the finished product is tested for a final time.
Limar’s parent, a Costa di Mezzate Bergamo-based specialist in polystyrene moulding, further backs up the label’s credentials as it sets about a global market share grab.
“Manifattura Polistirene Espanso (MPE), Limar’s parent, was one of the first in the sector, to exploit the in-mould technology and applications for a wide variety of EPS moulded products, explains Bernardi. “The possibility of taking advantage of such a deep production know-how has allowed Limar to pursue the constant innovation target and to achieve important goals in the sector. A big box to tick was bringing the weight down while retaining all of the safety advantages.”
Leading into Eurobike we’re promised further innovations, largely in part due to feedback from those pro cyclists now affiliated with the label. Outside of pro cycling, the 29 helmets making up the remainder of the range continue to benefit from top-end trickledown.
On the kid’s front, Limar’s youngest customers benefit from a wide range of models that can satisfy all parents’ requirement for their child’s safety. Looking for something for your store’s shelves? Check in with the 242 and 249, each offering a low nape protection that meets the strictest standard for kid’s helmets and a shape that allows the youngest kids to lie comfortably even against their parents bike seat.
Getting people to wear head protection remains one of the firm’s greatest hurdles though, concludes Bernardi.
“Wearing a helmet is not yet something “natural” all over the world and sometimes it is too late when the user realizes the benefits of the helmet. Most governments are recommending the use of a helmet, but very few (except Australia since 1992 or New-Zealand ) have decided to make the helmet mandatory for any rider.
“Therefore, at Limar we are all concerned about our n°1 mission; we have to make the user feel like wearing an helmet. We hope through continued R&D to contribute to a better acceptance of the helmet, because it is important to look and feel good when wearing a helmet. We are Italian and design, look and style is very important for us!”