Thursday, July 16, 2015

News: Planet X on the export trail

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Rotherham-based cycle retailer Planet X is focusing on boosting exports and is targeting the US market first.

Planet X specialises in time trial, road, track and fixed wheel bikes along with mountain bikes under the On One brand. They relocated to new premises at the Ignite development in Templeborough in 2009 and have gone from strength to strength.

Last year the firm broke through the £20m turnover barrier with international sales of £6.1m. An impressive growth in exports of 43% on the previous two years placed Planet X at 69th on The Sunday Times BT Business SME Export Track 100 league table 2015.

Founded by keen triathlete Dave Loughran in the 1990's, Planet X is now the largest builder of high performance bikes in the UK, designing and selling under its own Planet X, On One and Titus brands. It has also acquired the respected Holdsworth and Viner brands, relaunching them by manufacturing the bikes in the UK.

The company sources frames and other components from Taiwan and Italy and its passionate team of cycling enthusiasts in Yorkshire then make bespoke road, mountain, triathlon and cyclocross bikes to order. Prices are often much less than high street equivalents due to Planet X's business model - buying direct, not spending on physical stores and growing by word of mouth.

Planet X's Rotherham base also includes a showroom and sales area with another store in nearby Barnsley. However, the company generates 80% of its turnover online.

New CEO, Chris Potter, a logistics specialist who has previously worked for IKEA and ASOS, joined earlier this year. Its focus now is on growing its US sales and it recently re-launched its website for this market. It has been making improvements behind the scenes and now ships all US orders from the UK, where it opened a purpose-built warehouse at Aldwarke last year. Previously it had held its US stock at its base in Portland, Oregon, which it acquired in 2010 when it bought US bike brand Titus Bikes. But the size of the warehouse limited the amount of stock it could hold.

Once the company has put the finishing touches on its proposition for the US market, it should be easier to expand further into other international markets.

Chris Potter, chief executive officer at Planet X, said: "If we can get the model right in the US, it will be relatively easy to adapt for other long-haul markets such as Australia and South Africa."

The company has further plans to develop its website, with potential for foreign language websites and a platform allowing online shoppers to build the exact bike they want, with prices modified accordingly. Potter added: "This is one of our unique selling points. Because our bikes are assembled to order, we offer a degree of customisation that you wouldn't get anywhere else.

"A big part of the bike buying process is the physical side. It can be a leap of faith to buy online."

Planet X website

Images: Planet X

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