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Raleigh U.K. Director Puts Foot in Mouth

Published November 26, 2007

EASTWOOD, England (BRAIN)—The European Two-Wheel Retailers’ Association is shooting back at Raleigh U.K.’s managing director, Mark Gouldthorp, for his sardonic comments about U.K. bike retailers published last week in The Guardian newspaper.

“Independent retailing in the UK is a shambles. It is real Steptoe and Son stuff. Most of them will turn the lights off on a sunny day to save a bit of lecky. If you want to imagine the typical independent bike dealer, he is 50-60, highly cynical, miserable, moaning, scruffy. That’s my customer. It is great,” The Guardian quoted Gouldthorpe as saying. “Steptoe and Son” (pictured) is a British television comedy that inspired “Sanford and Son” in the United States.

While he was at it, Gouldthorp described Raleigh’s national chain store customers, such as Halfords, as “vipers” and his former employers as “classic British industries that couldn’t organize a piss-up in a brewery.”

Gouldthorpe later told BikeBiz.com, the U.K. trade magazine, that the remarks were partly tongue-in-cheek. He said he recognizes that many U.K. retailers don’t match the comedy version, and that the Guardian reporter had not included his remarks to that effect.

That was not enough for ETRA, which shot back with a letter to The Guardian saying the group read the interview “with amazement and disbelief.” The letter compared Raleigh’s assessment of retailers and the U.K. market with that of the Netherlands, where the bicycle market is “booming and blooming. The same goes for independent bike shops. Seventy-eight percent of all new bikes on that market are sold by 'old, cynical, miserable, moaning and scruffy’ gits. The average value of the bicycles they sell is € 678 ($1,000)” as opposed to Raleigh’s best seller, the Molly, a kids’ bike with glitter, pompoms and a doll basket that retails for $160-$200.

Although data for U.K. independents’ market share isn’t available, ETRA asserted that they’re surely doing as well as those in France, where IBDs have 24 percent share in units sold but take in 52 percent of the revenues.

Raleigh will do well to pursue its U.K. franchise initiative, Cyclelife, ETRA suggested, since it’s not likely to have much luck with independents after Gouldthorpe’s comments.

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