Every once in a while I like to share my plans for Velo Orange. Of course these plans don't always work out, but it's good to get feedback and it adds perspective. So here is what's underway or being considered:
As you may know, Velo Orange offers some of it's VO brand products to other bike shops at wholesale prices. It seems to me, however, that this is too limited an approach. Most bike shops don't have access to the sort of parts that VO sells and imports. The obvious solution is to have a proper wholesale company that's geared to rando, touring, and city bikes. Starting or buying another company is not something I undertake lightly, but it seems to be something that needs to be done. I've started three serious companies in the past and a few very small ones so I know what's involved. In a mature market, like cycling, starting a successful company is very tough, but by using the same approach that has worked with Velo Orange, keeping prices low and not worrying about short term profits; finding products other companies don't have, listening to what cyclists say they need, and stressing customer service; I think there is a good chance for making a go of it. The working name of this new company is VO Imports.
I am considering buying an existing bike wholesale company, starting a new one, or both. On the first front, I'll be touring an existing company that's for sale and starting the "due diligence" process very soon. On the second front I'm working with a web designer to create a VO Imports site and with our agents to increase contacts with Taiwanese and European manufacturers. I think it's time for a trip to Taiwan and Japan too.
Increasingly our orders are coming from overseas. We ship to customers in Europe and Asia almost every day and often get inquiries from European shops. I have no illusions that this is not largely due to the weak dollar, but over and over I am told that cyclists can't get VO-type parts in Sweden, Norway, Germany, Italy... Having an American wholesale company that could sell French-style parts to European shops would add depth to our business, not to mention a bit of irony.
We are considering the idea of a line of VO pedals. These would have traditional shapes, but incorporate high quality cassette bearings and replaceable cages. By having them made in Taiwan, I think they could sell for prices that are similar to Japanese pedals with ball bearings, non-replaceable cages, and similar finish quality.
VO Handlebars and Stems
Again, we are looking at traditional designs, such as those of the French bars and stems that we sell, but made in Taiwan. This idea depends on the future pricing and availability of Japanese and European products; there is no point in making our own products if we can buy them elsewhere. I'll write more about this in the future.
One underlying issue in my considering more products made specifically for VO is that we might soon see a significant rise in the long sluggish Japanese Yen. This would make Japanese parts more expensive, as has already happened with European parts. So it makes sense to look into having more high quality parts made in Taiwan and perhaps even in India and China. If the superb Thinkpad notebook I'm writing this on can be made in China, they should be able to produce a pretty good bike stem. The trick is stressing that we are looking for quality over price.
We are already outgrowing our Annapolis shop and have just signed a lease for more space that will be used for storage and shipping/receiving. We are also looking for a warehouse for VO Imports.
09 November, 2007
Posted by Velo Orange at 10:23:00 AM