The line between the outdoor and cycling industries continues to blur. Dozens of brands that attend Outdoor Retailer also exhibited at Interbike in Las Vegas, Sept. 22-24. And OR continues to be more cycle-centric with a bike share program spearheaded by core cycle-cool brand Swobo outside the Salt Palace at the summer ’09 show and a the presence of the International Mountain Biking Alliance (IMBA) at this year’s show.
While specialty outdoor retailers may not want to take on the logistics of a full cycle shop, they have been interested in crossover products that customers can use for biking as well as other outdoor pursuits. But what’s in it for outdoor brands who exhibit at Interbike? The same crossover effect. Many have found that targeting traditional bike consumers can be an important way not just to expand brand presence but also to tap into new markets.
Bottles have been perhaps the biggest trend in the outdoor market, a story we covered from Outdoor Retailer Summer Market (click here to see the Aug. 20, 2010, story on “Bottle battles.”), so it’s no surprise that bottle brands were also out in full force at Interbike. What was surprising was to see a brand like Stanley with a cycling presence, since its metal bottles don’t seem suited to bike use. But according to parent company PMI senior marketing manager Joanne Anderson, Stanley saw big potential to enter the bike market as a lifestyle item and decided to take part in the pre-show demo this year to test the waters a bit as a part of its Stanley “Built for Life” Tour.
Stanley introduced a one-handed bike bottle (MSRP $20; www.pmi-worldwide.com) that fits bike cages. It’s not the type of thing racers or mountain bikers will use, but it is suited for commuters, hipsters and urban cyclists who are just as interested in style as they are performance.
“The lifestyle aspect of the cycling market has a lot of energy,” said Anderson, who is herself an avid cyclist and raced at the "Cross Vegas" cyclo-cross event during the show. “Bike lifestyle is also a category that has not really been affected by the economy, so we see a big opportunity here.”
Packs and more
Packs are the most obvious place for brands to crossover from outdoor to cycling. CamelBak has been a giant in the market, changing the game when it first introduced the idea of pack-supported hydration and holding on to much of the market share ever since. But many outdoor brands feel they need to be at Interbike not just to compete in hydration but more specifically to gain a name as cycling hydration brands. Deuter is known primarily as a backpacking and child-carrier brand, but it has been exhibiting at Interbike for the past 10 years.
“We feel the bike channel is an important overall part of our business,” said Christian Mason, Deuter U.S.A.’s director of sales and marketing. “It may not be our primary channel, but we feel that the bike customer arguably backpacks and skis and reaches across a variety of activities.”
Many retailers gravitated toward the brand’s highly ventilated, bike-specific RaceX Air pack (MSRP $99; www.deuterusa.com), but Mason also said they were most interested in versatility. Do-it-all packs like the Speed Lite 20 (MSRP $79) garnered lots of interest since they work well for biking or hiking, he said, which reinforced Deuter’s reasons for attending Interbike.
Hydrapak (www.hydrapak.com) has approached hydration from the opposite direction: It is a brand that began in the bike industry and has expanded into the outdoor market. While its packs have been successful at Outdoor Retailer, it has also bolstered its business thanks to OEM licensing of its hydration reservoirs, which it developed in the heat of the extremely competitive bike industry.
“We cut our teeth in the bike industry, and though we don’t get the same amount of love from the outdoor industry, it has been a natural progression to cross over into hiking packs and OEM partnerships,” said Hydrapak’s director of sales Matt Patterson.
Hydrapak’s Del Mar (MSRP $145) saw interest from retailers who saw its potential as a commuter cycling pack that could serve double duty on hiking trips.
With Tour de France legend Lance Armstrong a co-owner, Honey Stinger is firmly entrenched in the bike industry, but the brand still remains at Outdoor Retailer. That’s where it first introduced its sweet and tasty Organic Stinger Waffles (MSRP $1.60, two-pack of saucer-sized waffles) and the brand was handing out samples at Interbike like, well, hot cakes.
“We feel it’s important to be at both shows because there is so much crossover between the cycling and outdoor markets,” said co-owner Len Zanni.
Suppliers offer education
Beyond manufacturers, the bike show (www.interbike.com) also is proving increasingly important for suppliers normally associated with the outdoor and wintersports industries who want to expand the reach of their products. Schoeller Technologies (www.schoeller-textiles.com) exhibited for the first day of the two-day, pre-show demo in order to support manufacturers using its new ColdBlack (www.coldblack.ch), a finish that keeps dark-colored fabrics cool -- it handed out cold beer in ColdBlack beer cozies to prove the point. Bike and triathlon exhibitors -- including Hincapie, Pearl Izumi, Assos, Epix and Blueseventy -- brought products with the technology to the show, but Schoeller thought it was important to be present as well since the concept of cool dark clothing requires some explanation. The demo was the ideal place to connect with dealers.
“We came to teach retailers and shop folks more about ColdBlack so they would be familiar and more comfortable educating their customers,” said Schoeller spokesperson Shannon Walton, who added that the demo was also an ideal venue to introduce the technology to potential new partners.
“There are not yet a lot of ColdBlack applications in the outdoor industry, but it has been absolutely adopted by the bike and tri community and we want to be able to support our brand in that world.”
The technology has taken off particularly well in the triathlon category, since these athletes need to deal with varying conditions over a long period of time when temperatures can rise quickly. Blueseventy’s Distance Tri Suit (MSRP $190; www.blueseventy.com) integrates the fabric as a performance enhancer since it can keep core temperatures lower in the heat of competition.
Another supplier making inroads in the cycling community, Boa Technology (www.boatechnologies.com) did not exhibit at the show, but attended in full force to support its core bike brand partners, including Lake, Specialized and Scott. Boa has a strong hold on the snowboard boot category and has moved into outdoors through partnerships with Black Diamond on backcountry ski boots, Millet on climbing shoes and The North Face on hydration reservoirs. Bike shoes and other applications are a natural place for the brand to continue to grow.
“Cycling is a major priority for us, so we are always looking to improve our visibility in the category,” said marketing manager Garrett Graubins, who spent time adjusting Boa shoes at the Lake and Specialized booths and noted that Interbike was one of the best times to interact with those partners. Much like Schoeller, Boa also sees the show as a chance to educate retailers on the technology.
“We spend so much time week in and week out communicating with our partners and sitting at planning tables. So events like Interbike are a golden opportunity to chat with dealers and get to know them better. We get some very valuable feedback.”
Specialized’s S-Works road shoe (MSRP $350; www.specialized.com) features two Boa dials and has become a favorite with finicky roadies who want an exact fit without having to readjust in the middle of a competitive ride.
Then there were some brands on the floor that on their face seemed completely out of place at the bike show – think snowshoes. But savvy retailers see traditional outdoor products as a way to stretch out sales on the off-season, said Chris George, sales manager for Redfeather Snowshoes. Exhibiting for the second time at Interbike, Redfeather offered an affordable product in its Race technical snowshoe (MSRP $270; www.redfeather.com) that retailers in mountain towns can still move when winter stalls the bike business.
“Cyclists like to use them to cross-train,” said Derek Hamilton, the owner of Bear Valley Bikes in Big Bear Lake, Calif., and pro mountain, road and ‘cross racer, who we met at the Redfeather booth. “We have a big 10K snowshoe race up at Big Bear and lots of bike racers will enter it. We had a big snow year last year, and I sold 50 pairs of shoes.”