Orbea adapts to the challenges of 2021 and is crowned Bike Brand of the Year – Features

Rebecca Morley meets Damian Hackett, Orbea Country Director for UK & Ireland

This piece first appeared in the March edition of BikeBiz magazine – get your free subscription here

2021 has been an extremely difficult year for companies in the cycling industry, and it was no different for Bike Brand of the Year winner Orbea.

“The biggest issue was the supply chain issues and trying to keep our retailers supplied in such a difficult environment,” said Damian Hackett, Orbea Country Manager for UK and Ireland. .

“We may have adapted better to this new scenario than many brands, because our business model was developed around the idea of ​​agility in everything. On this subject, what may not have been fully appreciated by the industry at large is that Orbea had a spectacular evolutionary curve for several years before any outbreak of Covid.

Since bringing all of its production back to Europe in the middle of the last decade, Orbea had already begun transforming its facilities and internal structures, Hackett continued. “For this reason, we were well placed to accelerate these factory developments which were already part of this evolution.

“It has helped us cope a little better with the huge challenges that have resulted from the recent surge in demand. We had already reviewed and improved our business from all angles long before the Covid crisis, with a view to laying a really deep foundation for the future growth of the brand.

“Many of the markets in which we operate have experienced high double-digit growth since the middle of the last decade, and not just since 2020, with internal structures evolving as quickly as possible to support this growth. So it’s a bit like the duck on the pond. On the surface it seems quite calm and still, but below the surface it works like crazy.

At the start of the Covid epidemic in 2020, Hackett continued, Orbea pivoted in about a week to figure out how it was going to manage to close all its facilities, try to increase production to manage demand from markets that were open. and required bikes on the double.

“Very few companies would have had the agility or flexibility to do that,” he said. “I guess it speaks to the cooperative nature of our business that our employees didn’t bat an eyelid at having to change so much about what they were being asked to do so quickly.

“As manufacturers, we have been able to continue painting, assembling and producing bicycles from our factories in the Basque Country in Spain and Portugal.

“We have had to work closely and directly with our suppliers to try to reduce component delivery times, and we are working closely with our logistics partners to try to find innovative solutions to the global transport problem, including EU to UK.

“In some cases where the supply chain just can’t be resolved, we have tried changing components to speed up deliveries. We airlifted components rather than waiting for containers to become available. »

Orbea has tried where possible to improve all replacement components, but it’s an “ever-changing battlefield,” Hackett said, and the brand works hard to make sure its customers get what they need. they need. “To begin to describe the complexity of the daily challenge right now is almost impossible. Let’s just say from where I stand, every bike we ship is a small logistical miracle.

“We are lucky that Orbea is such an adaptable organization. Over the past five or six years, we have completely redesigned our factory, built major new inventory warehousing facilities, and recruited talent from all corners of the world to strengthen our staff in all areas of the business.

Orbea’s capacity is now vastly improved compared to what it was just a few years ago, Hackett said — certainly before the pandemic — but the brand still faces the same supply chain disruptions that the rest of the industry is facing.

As a further innovation and in response to new market realities, it has redoubled its commitment to its retailers by introducing Rider Connect, where it enables its retailers to sell their pending orders directly on Orbea.com.

“In this way, we are trying to maintain the momentum gained over the past few years by ensuring that our dealers are as self-sufficient as possible to meet demand where it exists,” Hackett said.

Award-winning feel
Many nominations for Orbea as Bike Brand of the Year have mentioned the Climb – which Hackett says is the first in the line of e-bikes the brand is creating with the intention of blurring the lines between traditional bikes. and electric bikes.

“I don’t mean to be arrogant in any way saying this, but we knew the minute we saw the first Rise that it would be a massive hit.

“Bikes that can make you feel like the engine – you’re in control, but have as much support as you need when needed. The industry response in the form of awards and applause has been extremely satisfying and gratifying, but the greatest return is the thousands of users who have found a new ability to be on the trails longer, ride more long distances and have more fun.

“That’s what we’re doing, so while we’re extremely grateful to all the magazines and websites that have praised Rise, our greatest satisfaction comes from hearing from users who feel more autonomous than ever.”

Winning Bike Brand of the Year, Hackett said he actually felt very emotional. “I guess when I came on board to manage the UK market, so many people laughed at the idea that one day Orbea might be in the top five brands of IBD bikes.

“I think one of our retailers recently reminded me that in 2015 I said that was one of our stated goals – and he thought the hamsters in my head had gotten out of the cage and were going wild!”

“In all honesty, our team in Spain have been amazing in creating such amazing bikes and it has made it much easier to gain traction in the market. Without reference products such as Rallon, Gain, Occam, Rise… we would still be a bit out of the way to look inside.

“With great products and a great sales team constantly aiming to support our retailers, we were selected as the brand of the year. On behalf of the entire Orbea team, I can say that we are humbled and very grateful for this honor, and through such difficult times, we will aim to exceed the standards we have set in each department in the future. .

At the heart of Orbea’s ambitions for the future, Hackett said, are more innovation in its products and new ways of dealing with its retailers to support them even better in the future.

“Initiatives such as Rider Connect and our Demo Booking program put our retailers at the center of our digital engagement policy. Retailers have had a bittersweet few years, but I think they need reassurance that they are essential to Orbea’s ongoing business in all markets, and we will do our best to support local IBDs with industry-leading products and services in the future. .”