The rapid expansion of light electric vehicle retail business Pure Electric has hit hurdles with insiders telling CI.N this week that several head office staff have been abruptly laid off in the past few months in a bid to reduce outgoings.
Managing director turned CEO Peter Kimberley, brought in from Halfords’ former Cycle Republic business to manage the roll out of the retail chain, will be among the casualties, our sources have confirmed, with one stating “I thought he was doing a good job, this growth strategy seemed unlikely to pay up straight away.”
Kimberley has since been in touch with CI.N to offer his thought on his time growing the business, stating:
“I have enjoyed an incredible time working with Adam and the team and after taking time to reflect; I have made the difficult decision to step away from Pure Electric. Having joined a business operating with one shop to now have nineteen showrooms across four territories is something I am personally extremely proud of with this scale of growth in such a short period is testament to the dedication and commitment of everyone across the business.
“This growth has only been possible through Adam’s infectious vision and continued passion for new, game-changing technology that improves everyday lives and pushes the boundaries of urban electric mobility to become the world’s leading specialist.
“I would like to take the opportunity to thank Adam for the opportunity of being part of this amazing venture, where we have built a business alongside some world-class brands and partners recognised & voted by LinkedIn as the UK’s 3rd top start-up business in 2020.
“I continue to believe that electric scooters and electric bikes will be the dominant transport for so many people across our cities, with Pure Electric the leading retailer having a pivotal role in reducing society’s reliance on cars, lowering air pollution and congestion in our cities.
“People are at the heart and core of any success, there is no doubt that Pure Electric has so many talented and passionate colleagues with flair and determination to grow a global retail business.
“I am remaining with the business for the remainder of the month to provide a smooth hand over of responsibilities to the senior leadership team.”
Having set out late in 2019 the Pure Electric retail chain has rapidly expanded in the UK, springboarding off a Spring of 2020 deal with Halfords to occupy the retail premises of number of its stores.
Since then the business has aggressively expanded its presence not only in the UK, but now into key European cities such as Madrid and Paris, where the chain is still recruiting. In an exclusive interview with CI.N, founder and financier Adam Norris said in July of 2020 that the chain would shoot for 500 stores in eight years in a bid to markedly change the eMobility picture in Europe.
The retail chain commented on the changes, telling CI.N: “Pure Electric continues on its journey of high growth, and indeed remains one of the fastest-growing companies in the UK. Our growth in stores, colleagues and supply partners is evidence of our ongoing success.
“We have big ambitions, and we look forward to moving into our new large office in Bristol in the coming months as we create a new home for the business capable of hiring, developing and retaining the very best talent in the UK and continuing to cement our foothold in the micro-mobility market.”
The tail end of 2020 into early 2021 appears to have been a pivotal moment for strategy change within the business, with our sources telling CI.N that staff “not seen to be contributing to the numbers” have largely been let go, including key head office marketing personnel, content producers and even staff imported from overseas to manage the firm’s cargo bike strategy.
“It was weird for me. I went into a January meeting expecting a progressive forward looking meet, but immediately there were questions about why I was not contributing to the numbers. I had not felt to that point that short term turnover was a focus, something shifted. A week later the marketing director was letting me go; it was quite abrupt. I have no regrets and I hope they go on to deliver the mobility revolution. For avoidance of doubt, I have no ill will, it’s business, but the way people were treated was not exemplary,” one source told CI.N this morning.
A further source added: “Pure Electric was the first time I went chasing a job rather than be approached. I lasted Six months. I was called in for meeting a meeting, told the strategy had changed, was informed of a redundancy cheque and it was goodbye. My email account was pulled by the time I could log back in to say goodbye. I have no axe to grind, it’s their way of running a business. With the luxury of significant funding they can change their mind quickly to pursue fast turnaround. Most businesses, particularly in cycling, have to stick by a decision and hope it plays out.”
Outside investment is now believed to be sought in order to maintain the explosive pace of growth, according to the ex-staffers.
“What you see at time when business is looking for investment is a real piece of housekeeping, with overheads and stocks trimmed. It makes the business look leaner and that appears to me to be what has happened. I think there were conflicting ideas at the top as to whether online or retail should be the focus going forwards.
“This was a different environment to the typical bike industry firm, which it’s fair to say tend to run at a different pace to those in financial services. The bike industry is convoluted with lots of SKUs, so bike shops have to be huge for delivery of a proper job. It’s a different industry to scooters even, which are lower SKU, easy to sell online and at retail. The bike game is different. Profit margins and availability add to the headache. As a business they’ll be successful as there are successful people running it, its just a shame it has come at a cost of people.”
Pure Electric, having already launched own brand electric scooters are very soon to launch a number of other own brand products, we were told.
Concern was raised to CI.N that, conflicting with the purported environmental messaging, questions raised on long-term sustainability and life cycle of products, like electric scooters, have thus far been largely dismissed.
On the note of own-label goods, our sources agree that the focus for the business has shifted to margin improvement and fast profit delivery.
“It is of course entirely reasonable to focus on profit, so it’s fair to readjust some dead weight, but it was the manner of delivery that was not on, in my opinion. I was surprised to only be given such a short spell, especially given many months of my service were ultimately dedicated to a scrapped project that would not have aligned with the new strategy,” one source concluded.
All sources CI.N has spoken with were given a “reasonable redundancy cheque” and have since found replacement work. Their accounts align with a number of reviews posted in recent months on employment site Glassdoor.