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CEO of International Bike Group: ‘We definitely see online and physical stores as complementary’

Category:
Leadership & Governance

Date:
5 April 2017

NPM Capital venture International Bike Group had a great year in 2016. The parent company of online platform Fietsenwinkel.nl saw its sales increase by 65% last year, to over €40 million. Right now there is nothing holding back the company’s ambitions, says Bastiaan Hagenouw, CEO of IBG.

Fietsenwinkel.nl has become the Netherlands’ biggest online bike retailer. But yet last year, you opened seven new brick-and-mortar stores. Are you shifting your focus away from the online channel?

‘No, it’s more that in the early years, we put most of our efforts into getting the online platform known. And all that effort paid off: today we’re the best-known bike retailer in the Netherlands, we have the biggest selection of bikes and accessories, we carry more or less all the big brands and we can always offer a lowest-price guarantee. That said, we know that four out of five Dutch consumers still want to see, feel and touch a bike before they make their purchase decision. And that’s what we’re tackling now: we definitely see online and physical stores as complementary. Many customers start their customer journey on our website, experience the bike in our test centres, and then it’s the solid advice from our specialists in the shop that closes the sale.’

How fast do you think you can grow? Are there enough suitable shop locations, to name just one aspect?

‘In 2016 we took steps to augment our physical shop network with the ‘destination’ locations - the larger showrooms at the urban peripheries. Our average showroom is 600 m2 with a workshop and test track where customers can try out our selection of bikes and e-bikes. At the end of April 2017, our thirtieth shop in the Netherlands will open its doors. Because we are deliberately shifting our focus away from the high-profile and high-demand city centre retail locations, we are sure we can find the right locations for the stores we still need to open. What we’re really looking for is locations where customers can park free and can take the time for a test ride on our own premises. Our goal is to, within the foreseeable future, have a network of locations that allow 90% of the Dutch population to get to one of our shops within a 30 minutes’ drive.’

Another figure that stands out: the maintenance and repair network has doubled in size, from 100 independent locations to over 200. What’s your strategy there? 

‘Number one, bicycles simply are a service-intensive product. That’s a given. Two, today’s Dutch consumer expects to be able to count on maintenance, close to home, even when they buy their bike online. As market leader, that’s something you can’t ignore. That’s why right now we are going all out to expand our maintenance and repair network, including all the underlying IT systems. As it stands, we can say that 80% of the Netherlands has a fietsenwinkel.nl service point within 5 kilometres from their door. And we are seeing it in the figures, too: in 2016, just 5% of our turnover was in the Maintenance & Repair column; in 2017 we are expecting that to rise to about 15%.’

Independent bike shops can join fietswinkel.nl and become part of a tight-knit network that covers the whole country. Are you seeing any resistance to that?

‘No, quite the contrary. It’s a win-win situation for an independent bike shop, which before had to sell X number of new bikes in order to keep afloat. We make sure that there are more people coming to the workshop, which for the independent bike shop means less dependence on in-store sales.’

The total number of bikes sold in the Netherlands has been stable for a few years now, at about 1 million per year. Is there really room for growth?

‘Definitely. Even if that’s because of the clear swing going on right now, from traditional bikes to e-bikes. In 2016, one-third of bikes sold through fietsenwinkel.nl was an e-bike. In 2017 we expect to sell over 100,000 new bikes, and I’m convinced that nearly half of them will be e-bikes. On top of that, we have been seeing that the people buying e-bikes are not pinching pennies: last year, the average price tag of all e-bikes sold was 1800 euros.’

Is IBG looking to move abroad?

‘Let me put it this way, we’re looking very seriously at rolling out our successful formula into other European countries. At present fietsenwinkel.nl is active in Belgium, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, and these activities are good for about 3 million euros of our sales. So there’s plenty of room for growth.’