Giovanni Caporali has been living and breathing bicycle helmets since 1988. This is when he took over the then two year old start-up company, Limar.
Since then Limar has become one of the world’s leading helmet brands. But of all their global markets, per capita, our part of the world is best.
As his name would suggest, Giovanni is Italian, but speaks fluent English with a refined northern Italian accent.
Appropriately, Limar started its activity based on the eps (expanded polystyrene) moulding know-how of its mother company MPE, that has been manufacturing eps based products for the last 40 years.
Giovanni recently visited Australia with his International Sales Development Manager, Eric Cendral. Eric is French but also speaks fluent Italian and English as part of a total arsenal of five languages. They were down under to meet with their newly appointed Australian distributor, Cassons. Matthew Runciman of Cassons also joined them for a four way conversation at Cassons head office in Sydney.
Bicycling Trade: What is the key thing that any Australian bicycle dealer needs to do to sell more helmets?
Giovanni Caporali: I think the dealers are doing a good job with the helmets they sell. Especially in Australia, where the helmets are compulsory, there is really a good culture for our product. We spend quite a lot of time to visit customers here in different areas here in Australia because this is the most developed country for our product. And because we think that we need to listen to this market to be able to match rider needs.
We listen to every dealer comment. Positive or negative, it doesn’t matter because either way we want to take these into account when developing our next range, without any defect in terms of colours, in terms of fitting, in terms of ventilation. This is really very important.
BT: How many helmets do you sell worldwide in a year and where would the Australian market rank in your global markets?
GC: Globally we sell around 500,000 helmets per year and Australia currently represents 20% of these sales, but we hope with Cassons our market share can increase even more!
Eric Cendral: The company has grown extremely in the last five years, expanding really significantly our exports outside Europe that now represent more than 50% to 55% of the business. In the past five years Australia has become our number one market outside Europe.
BT: So Europe is number one and Australia is number two?
EC: In terms of market share to be honest the number one market for Limar: it’s not Australia, it’s not Europe, it is New Zealand.
BT: Who distributes for you in New Zealand?
EC: Bikes International. Generally speaking both Australia and New Zealand are extremely strong and have a very strong culture for the helmets and as Giovanni said for us it’s fantastic. I’m always happy to come here to visit for two weeks and ride with reps because talking to dealers you always learn something.
The days where you think that you could impose a product on the market, instead of developing a product according to the requirements of the consumer, are finished. You have to listen to the person first and try to give the right response according to what they say.
BT: How do you pick your helmet colours and how many colour options do you have for each model?
GC: As an Italian company we need to have a lot of colours! I have to say that one safe colour that every buyer likes to have is black, or matt black in mountain bike. This is also becoming a trend in the road biking because I see more and more road bikes with the matt colour, black, blue and so on. In my opinion this will be the next trend in road bikes, so we are launching matt colours also in the road product. We always have at least four to five different colours for every product.
BT: Are you bringing all the colours into Australia?
GC: 80% will be brought in. There is really a wide selection of colours.
BT: Dealers always want to know about the internet and they want to know what’s your policy about selling through Wiggle in particular?
GC: We are not selling through Wiggle or Chain Reaction, so we protect our distributors and our dealers worldwide.
EC: You have the AS (Australian Standard) also protecting your market to a degree. Technically it is for rider protection. Consumers don’t realise that they should ride an AS standard helmet in Australia. It’s about education. But of course if you are buying through Chain Reaction or Wiggle you don’t control anything.
BT: Limar does other product categories. You do some sunglasses, some clothing… are you doing those in Australia?
MR: Sunglasses yes. Clothing we’re still in discussions as to how that’s going to work out, but the plan is to do clothing as well.
BT: Giovanni, what are your thoughts about the Australian market, now that you’ve finally come here to see things first hand?
GC: As a helmet manufacturer, we are very proud to be one of the important players in the Australian market because there is a great culture for helmets.
Our partnership with Cassons is going to be even more important for the dealers in the Australian market because we are convinced that we have the right product for this market.