Alan David, founder of Pushie Enterprises believes that close partnerships with bicycle retailers are the keys to his rapid growth and business success.
Bicycling Trade: Please give some background to Pushie Enterprises and yourself.
Alan David: I started the company in 2010. Prior to that I was head of investment operations for a number of superannuation and investment managers. For both my business partner Sam Russell and I, our experience really is corporate Australia.
We started really as a fallout of the GFC (global financial crisis) but I’d been dabbling in a number of smaller distributors, back yard operations doing direct sales. One was called Off The Brakes, the other was called Crankin’ Imports.
Having had a feel for what they were doing and seeing a shortfall in the industry, I started up Pushies. That was July 2010. Sam Russell who is my partner based in Perth, joined in about 2011.
We started off with $6,000. I think our first brand was Loaded Precision which is from the US. Then we got relatively lucky and got the suspension seat post brand called Kindshock or KS Suspension and from there it’s been growing.
It was mountain bike focused initially. Our prime brands really are KS, Spank, G-form and IXS in terms of the mountain biking side. We also brought in Morewood Bikes from South Africa.
We moved into a new warehouse In Leichhardt (Inner western Sydney) in July 2014 and we’ve already outgrown it so we’re looking for another place.
Since 2014 we’ve started pushing into that road side and we’ve added on Bombtrack bikes, which is the urban style brand from the makers of WeThePeople (BMX).
BT: Managing superannuation funds to bicycles is a fairly big jump! What attracted you to the bicycle industry in particular?
AD: I was an enthusiast. Mountain biking was where we started. A lot of our smaller brands were downhill focused, very high function, low volume type stuff.
I was looking for something else to do and having that operational background I thought starting up that business within the cycling industry was an opportunity.
That was when Chain Reaction Cycles was making more headway into the market and distributors weren’t able to be over competitive in terms of pricing and service. So that’s where we focus.
We focus on globally competitive pricing and also providing that service or partnership with our retailers.
BT: What made you decide to go down the dealer distribution path, rather than be a direct online importer / retailer as many new players are?
AD: I got exposure as to how retailers were doing business. It showed me a picture that as a consumer, I didn’t quite see.
As a consumer, I always thought pricing was a bit too high. I was an online shopper myself. When I first started Pushies and started meeting these retailers what I found was that they were very service orientated. Some of them were a little bit niche, but there was a melding of minds in terms of what we wanted to do in terms of value and customer service.
I quickly thought that there were some shortfalls in the distribution value chain and we thought that we could fill in that gap.
Part of our growth has been finding partners. Which is some of the things I was reading before I started Pushies. Retailers and distributors weren’t really working in partnership.
Our growth has been not so much being in every single store, but definitely finding that partner with similar values to us and then working with them as best we can, whether that’s a dealership program or some sort of rebate scheme or something along those lines.
BT: How often is your company confused with the mail order retailer Pushys?
AD: In the initial stages we used to get a lot of direct phone calls looking for Pushy’s Wharehouse.
Our business, Pushie Enterprises, really became a fully functioning business around 2012 and that’s when both consumers and retailers started to know us.
We spend a lot of time in 2013 and 2014 to really get that message out that we were different. I think now within the market knows there is a retailer Pushys and there’s also Pushie Enterprises the wholesaler.
BT: Now that you’re five years on from when you started are you still planning to continue down the wholesale route or are you planning to also sell direct online?
AD: No, definitely wholesale is where we think our future is.
We had a handful of retailers in 2010 and now we service over 400 stores across the nation. Our biggest market is actually Queensland. QLD, WA, Tasmania and Melbourne are our biggest markets. Strangely NSW we’ve found a little bit hard, given that it’s our backyard.
We’re relatively a lean business so we don’t focus on that direct face to face sale, every week going to the retailer sales approach. We use a lot of electronic mail to get our message out. We’re focused on telephone and email interaction versus face to face.
BT: So dealers won’t see a rep from you, they’ll get a phone call or an email?
AD: We do have three sales reps as well, but really it’s more follow up with a phone call first and if the store wants us to come in… but we’re conscious that we don’t want to waste their time either.
Two of our most valued employees are from retail industry, coming from Burwood Cycle World and City Bike Depot. That’s Nat Earl and Al Nairn. Both of those guys have got a wealth of retail experience. From their feedback, it validated that a lot of the sales face to face stuff was really a waste of time where people were just coming in and not really having a point of discussion as to a new product.
So we say, ‘We’ll come in if you need us to.’ We leave it up to the retailer.
BT: How have you been finding business of late?
AD: We’re booming. If anything the biggest struggle for us is keeping stock at the right level. I’ve got a bias towards having more stock than I should, but even with that, demand has been very strong. We’ve got a dealer program now with Bombtrack Bikes that has really opened my eyes. It just says to me that even though we started on the mountain bike side, demand is much stronger elsewhere on the road, urban and commuter side.
We go towards things that attract us. From there we try to find ‘high function, high value’. That’s what has set us up for our growth.
High value does not mean discounted, but ‘bang for buck.’
BT: It’s a pretty good effort to start from scratch in 2010 and to be growing so fast considering that it has been a tough industry and there’s a lot of players out there.
AL: Definitely. A lot of our retailers have been good. I guess that’s part of the partnership. They direct us towards what to look for, and some opportunities out there for some brands that aren’t distributed very well. That’s how we’ve been lucky. For example, Bombtrack, we got referred.
At the moment our focus is consolidation and making sure that we’ve got stock on hand, we’ve got spares on hand, that we can meet delivery as fast as we can, because we know that that’s what the retailers are facing on their side from online overseas sales.
We advertise pretty hard, considering our size. Really about communication, making sure people know that these brands we support are available locally and having it on hand so that retailers can go out and sell.
It’s simple stuff, but we seem to be doing it pretty well.