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BRITISH MANUFACTURING UP THE JUNCTION


OCTOBER SAW Brompton’s home city get its own Brompton Junction store…more than a year after the first Brompton Junction store launched in Kobe, Japan. So what took London so long? Butler-Adams explains: “It was basically down to a dealer in Japan. He was the first to have the confidence to turn his store purely into a Brompton-only shop and from there the trend followed in Hamburg, then Amsterdam…” “We opened the store in Covent Garden as an experiment. We don’t know retail, but what we can do at the shop is try out different ways of retailing the brand and then dealers can take ideas from it, from whatever works. “The industry can be too techy and too


male-orientated, which is fine, but it can ostracise potential customers. At the Covent Garden shop we’ve tried to use it as a testing ground as how we can appeal to that wider audience. It’s not cluttered, there are female staff, etc. But we’re keen not to piss off our dealers. We don’t offer cycle to work there and we don’t stock our most popular colours and models. If someone comes in asking for those things we point them towards the map and where their nearest dealers are.”


processes didn’t have to be reproduced at each and every workstation. Speaking of developing technology, the firm now has a 3D printer to aid the prototype process – “this would have been unaffordable to a company like us not so long ago,” Butler- Adams acknowledges. Other key changes included becoming unionised and generally “growing up as a company”, he says. External factors have given Brompton a few


grey hairs over the 25 years of production, like when Sturmey Archer ceased in 2000, cutting off Brompton’s custom hub supply – “that nearly wiped us out”, Butler-Adams rues. Being open with customers is essential when


four braziers to 45. Is it hard to find braziers in this day and age? “They don’t exist,” Butler- Adams explains. “You have to train them and that means you have to be patient when you want to increase production.” Space is certainly a concern, with the Kew


Bridge site evolving with extra temporary buildings until earlier this year when Brompton enlisted a new warehouse to house the growing operation, a mile down the road. Innovating production is an ongoing process


too, with the move from batch production to line production a particularly “tough decision” four years ago that worried staffers initially, but has been worth it, the MD says, not least because it meant expensive equipment for


32 BIKEBIZ JANUARY


things go wrong, he adds: “We’re not perfect, but it’s about being honest because the truth comes out. You have to be open. A good example is one of our representatives gave a talk to US dealers and they asked him if there had been any problems with the bikes and he spent an hour telling them all the problems that we’ve ever had. The dealers couldn’t believe it. They were used to brands saying they’ve never had any problems. “But we’re now more robust than we’ve ever


been,” he adds. Ultimately, all the effort behind the scenes is


centred on one thing, the managing director stresses: “We’re just focused on making a bloody good folding bike.” This is part of the reason Brompton hasn’t


gone to town on accessories as much as it quite easily could have. “We probably should be doing much more,


but we’re not about making everything you can possibly attach to your Brompton. We’re concentrating on making more bikes and getting more people on bikes.”


“We probably should be making more accessories, but ultimately we’re focused on making a bloody good


folding bike.” Will Butler-


Adams, Brompton


Brompton Junction at Covent Garden


Made in the UK “The UK is great at efficient manufacturing,” says Butler-Adams. “We’re making more cars than ever and Triumph is producing more motorbikes than ever – they are huge in America, selling as many as Harley Davison. “UK engineers have been forced to innovate


to stay competitive, whereas in Asia manufacturing was largely cheap because of low labour costs. That meant many have rested on their laurels and now labour costs are up so companies just switch production elsewhere.” Looking ahead, the MD believes the future is


bright for Brompton and for cycling in general. “Brompton has seen turnover growth of 20 per cent a year for the past nine years and this year is looking at 27 million turnover. “There’s not been a downturn in half the world and even the one in the UK and the US has really been about a four per cent drop since the pre-recession ‘glory days’. Of course it has affected how people spend their money, but you don’t just throw up your hands and give up. You have to offer more value. “We’ve seen exports grow for us to 80 per cent of our output. In the UK 60 per cent of our sales are in London, but the percentage of journeys made by bike in Greater London is just three per cent. The potential is huge. We’ve not even started.”


While he is concerned about the DfT’s


prediction that cycling will fall in the UK he believes that, in general, governments understand cycling has to be backed. “In the West people are getting fat. In


emerging economies the car has sprung up out of nowhere and the cities and towns haven’t had chance to get used to that so congestion and air quality are absolutely awful.” brompton.com


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