The most detailed article from this series. HP Velotechnik‘s Heiko Truppel answered my questions, and his answers are very long and describe many aspects of the production of recumbent bikes and trikes in difficult COVID time. Read what they had to fight with in 2021, what makes them happy now, and what they are looking forward to this year.
How was your season in general?
We have faced another strong season – strong with respect to demand, but also concerning demanding challenges. Under the latter aspect we are happy and proud that we have been able to meet the high demand in general. Our purchasing department put enormous efforts in ensuring the supply with parts and components and I can say that due to a quick, consequent and courageous response to the Corona crisis our company could perform better than many much bigger players.
How significant was the increase in your sales?
We could achieve a healthy double-digit growth. Of course, we are very happy with this result, but when we analyze the numbers over the season and compared to other years, there is another very interesting finding: The demand in the recumbent sector appears to be less volatile than in the bike branch in general, and compared to pre-Corona years, the recumbent sector even seems to leave the season cycle behind it. In other words, sales became steady on a high level over all months in 2021 which confirms the thesis that recumbent buyers are not so much apt to quick decisions.
What was the biggest challenge for you?
As mentioned above, the supply side has beared the biggest challenges not only for us. Meanwhile, we manufacturers have to put our orders two years in advance instead of weeks or a couple of months. To meet the tight supply situation, at HP Velotechnik we decided to significantly raise our stock of parts and components. Of course, this comes not only with costs for the investment itself but also results in secondary costs. However, the historically high stock allows us to ensure and consolidate our delivery capability concerning bikes and trikes and not at least spare parts.
In addition, dramatically increased shipping costs put immense stress on us. This given, we are very proud that we managed to avoid price adaptions during the season. And the regular price list change brought only an increase on a level that didn’t differ much from regular years. This could mostly be made possible by optimization processes in all departments of our company, not the least production, purchasing and – very important – quality management to lower after-sales costs further.
Did you implement any improvements that will help you in the post-covid times?
As mentioned in the last question, we put effort in optimizing processes and professionalization on many levels. In fact, even some time before Covid appeared, we created the position of an operations manager for instance and the pandemic has hit us at a time when we already had begun to restructure our production in cooperation with a strategically enforced purchasing department. As soon as it showed up that the bicycle branch would likely be profiteering from the Covid-crisis we decided to invest further on a strategic and on an operative level. We are prepared for several future scenarios in this respect. Another positive aspect is the developed digitalization which allows us to react more flexible in many ways. In this respect, Corona speeded up processes that have been already initialized, but were initially mentioned to be implemented as long- or mid-term changes.
What do you expect from 2022?
We expect that the interest in bicycles and especially recumbents will stay on a high level even after the Covid-crisis will end. The bicycle provided freedom, independence and mobility in times of many restrictions – qualities that it always had and always will have. We are optimistic that the new awareness of these qualities will last and it will be more than just a hype. The change in mobility behavior has been discussed and fostered before Corona came up already, and although the pandemic created a momentum here, the transition is not momentarily in our opinion. Concerning the recumbent sector in particular, customers are not so much following trends moreover. They are usually making deliberate decisions after a certain phase of consideration – the renowned customer journey. A growth here is likely to be more stable than in the “trendy” sectors of the bicycle industry.
But most important, we expect life to come back to normal again – for all of us, all over the world. Let’s keep the spirits high!
Anything else you would like to tell readers?
No matter how the market will develop in 2022, the upcoming season already promises to become very exciting for us. With our new hand cycle module we fulfilled ourselves a long-wanted wish. One of HP Velotechnik’s main aims is to enable cycling also for people with handicaps. With the “Hands-On-Cycle” we are now able to share the qualities of our trikes, their riding experience as well as their everyday usability, with a broadened community. We are looking forward to the year and new experiences on a new market.
Stay safe and healthy and enjoy many happy miles on two or three wheels!
Thank you for this wonderful interview!