Upgrade Bikes Talks International Brand Tilt and Team Building

As CoreBike just passed us for another year, Matt Ryley, Matt Killick and Rory Hitchens tell us what to expect from Upgrade Bikes in 2022 when it comes to price, inventory and bestsellers…

As you read this, a physical return to trade shows may, for the first time in a long time, be an attractive prospect. With the social atmosphere at CoreBike recently being reason enough to attend, exhibitors hoping for exceptional attendance had a great chance to catch up on their accounts.

Upgrade Bikes was one of the exhibitors looking forward to the event, although some of the international representatives remain unlikely to make the trip as they normally do. Another slightly unusual trend is hard to ignore as so many products are pre-sold due to supply chain swings. So what will be the Sussex distributor’s priority?

“The focus will be on products that can be ordered and delivered this year. When a product is already pre-sold for the year, it will not be displayed. There will always be plenty of excitement with the new brands being represented and great reminders about the top sellers that make up the bulk of our Upgrade Portfolio dealer profits,” says the Upgrade trio.

In the whirlwind of keeping retail businesses in some trend of normality, you’d be forgiven for asking “new brands, what new brands?” “. Well, if you missed the updates on the CI.N homepage, there are a few to note; Thompson, Amp Human, OTE, Dexshell, Repente and SixSixOne, each of which is detailed on the reverse.

“We wanted to expand our portfolio with brands that weren’t entirely dependent on Taiwan for supply,” Upgrade said. “As a result, we have created new opportunities with a mix of new and established brands. Our supply chain performed very well, especially our two power plants; DMR and Lezyne, which were quick to increase manufacturing. Unfortunately, longer delays will continue for some time. Good, up-to-date information is essential for dealers. We encourage you to check B2B then with our office for the latest updates on estimated delivery dates.

The sales team has also grown alongside the brand roster, giving stores more confidence to get a rep visit when needed. The sales team now has five on the road and another seven in the office for key accounts, customer support and returns.

Mainland UK has been revised into four new sales areas. The south is covered by established rep Joe Bardey. Upgrade has appointed a new sales representative, Richard Walters, serving the Midlands, and Mid and South Wales. A long-time commercial agent, Martin Jones now covers the North of England. Meanwhile, Tim Hall covers North Wales, North England, Scotland and the Isle of Man. Ireland and Northern Ireland are still served by sales agent Craig Malloy.

In the office, Matt Killick continues as UK Sales Manager. Tom Lipscombe and Chase Sullivan serve key accounts. Martin Gibbs, Rupert Robinson and Dan Hill are joined by Chris Haigh with a specialty in tech support.

Aside from staff, the reinvestment of funds from the bike boom has also been done in back-office sales systems. The upgrade states “We are operating on a new cloud-based server which provides higher levels of protection and faster processing. Our procurement and logistics teams have had a more challenging role since the pandemic has disrupted ‘normal’, so more resources have been allocated. »

Some particularly strong creatives broke cover, promoting key products and the athletes who depend on them at an elite level. In this marketing, upscaling moves brands forward and generates new customers in the most unlikely places, as you will read in our article on “out-of-the-box marketing ideas”.

“We have a strong creative team at Upgrade; more time and money was spent on digital marketing and advertising, especially on the DMR and Kinesis house brands. Lezyne has also increased its contribution to social media advertising targeting the UK, which is very well received.

These brands have consistently provided upgrade accounts with bestsellers over the years. From the long history of DMR pedals in the off-road market, to the polished finish that a slatwall full of Lezyne products can deliver for a shop, each is sought after and in many market segments. But where does Upgrade see the greatest traction right now?

“We don’t need to explain that e-bike sales are now very important to most dealers. We have expanded our Kinesis offering to respond to this. Meanwhile, high-end sales are doing well as more riders upgrade their bikes and accessories to higher-quality brands. Pivot has been on a roll with our tight dealer network and the consumer is happy to spend on quality when they know bikes will need to last longer these days as availability is tight. Likewise, Reynolds wheels have performed very well as consumers recognize the quality that comes with the lifetime warranty,” the distributor offers.

dexshell upgradeWith the integration of brands like Dexshell, Upgrade has also seen a broadening of the large rider base and brands like Nutcase have also worked well for retailers wishing to offer products for the travel and leisure markets.

If there’s one label that’s got accounts excited right now, it’s Thompson’s American-made alloy stems and posts, and Taiwanese carbon bars and parts. This finishing kit complements Kinesis UK beautifully and has a history of delivering a top level finishing kit for such builds.

“After the initial impact of Covid in 2020, the US side has caught up well, but we still expect longer delivery times for products made in Taiwan. This is a brand we are confident of placing large orders with, so we expect to see stock levels increase, but our resellers are certainly keeping us under pressure with repeat orders,” says Upgrade, adding that the new bars Mountain bikes and wide gravel drop bars boosted stem sales.

Most important of all in the face of supply chain pressure is the dealer margin. A longtime friend of the independent bike shop, Upgrade has, like many others, walked a fine line to ensure durability in every link of the chain.

“We fully understand the importance of the dealer margin. As our landed costs increase, retail prices will inevitably increase, so we too will have an exploitable margin. We expect this to happen more frequently as we experience price changes from our suppliers. To smooth out changes, Upgrade works closely with suppliers and maintains good stock levels. This delays any price increases, but ultimately cannot curb them.

“Pricing is now very fluid and it’s something our buying team spends a lot of time on. We’re grateful to have a strong team looking at this all the time. Our goal is always to deliver cost-effective products to our dealers, while delivering the best value to the consumer,” the team concludes.


TO REPENT Saddles have joined Upgrade, giving the distributor a second brand of saddle that will suit those looking for a more conventional approach to ISM saddles. Handcrafted in Italy, Repente makes beautiful, lightweight, comfortable and high quality saddles. The design emphasizes rider fit through extensive knowledge of shape and width to allow freedom of movement in the hip joint. Carbon rails, high quality chainstays and materials and innovative features make for a range suitable for all avid road, gravel, MTB, triathlon and TT riders.

THOMSON joined the portfolio to offer dealers an alternative to the outgoing Ritchey and is described as “a real feather in our cap” by the team. Thomson’s concise offering of seatposts, stems and bars has worked very well for our dealers and continues to be a benchmark for reliable, high quality components.

TAKES AWAY, the UK-based nutrition brand, approached Upgrade to be their commercial distributor. OTE is the first nutrition brand the supplier has partnered with. Its strong marketing and branding is already established and Upgrade’s role is to make it easier for resellers to order as they can combine it with their existing orders.

HUMAN AMPLIFIER will be new to many dealers. This is an innovative sports lotion scientifically proven to reduce lactic acid buildup, improve performance, fight fatigue and decrease muscle soreness after intense workouts. Upgrade indicates that there are huge openings for AMP Human, which is endorsed by Geraint Thomas. With only two SKUs; sachets or bottles, it is a product that is easy to store and to present at the counter for traders.

DEXSHELL manufactures warm and waterproof socks, gloves and shoe covers. Upgrade’s role is to further introduce it to the bike market. The company’s sales team has made rapid progress with the simple and accessible product line. “We see great potential for Dexshell, appealing to anyone looking for warm, comfortable hands and feet,” they say.

SIXSIXONE Protection is great for upgrading, especially with DMR and Pivot. As the original mountain bike protection brand hailing from California, it remains a staple for knee pads, helmets and more. Upgrade was approached by the brand to reinvigorate its IBD presence and it was a very successful first half.