DAYTON, OH (BRAIN)—Huffy relaunched Airborne Bicycles at Sea Otter, where it directed consumers to the exclusive online sales channel for its new line of aluminum mountain bikes.
Airborne will offer six mountain bikes with retail prices ranging from $599 to $2,500. The aluminum frames come as hard-tails or with single-pivot suspension and cover the all-mountain, downhill, freeride and cross-country categories. The consumer-direct brand draws on its heritage with model names such as the Zeppelin, used on Airborne titanium road models a decade ago.
Airborne pioneered an Internet sales strategy in the late 90s. After a promising start, the model fizzled and Huffy pulled the brand from the market. But Huffy executives are betting that since then, consumers have become more comfortable with online shopping and are ready to embrace an Internet sales model.
“The business model was a little ahead of its time. Ultimately the brand went dormant. We think it’s the right time for Airborne to come back,” said Reed Pike, Airborne brand manager. Pike, a 30-year industry veteran who joined Airborne Bicycles in November, said he saw an opportunity for a bike brand to be sold and marketed strictly online.
Airborne is selling exclusively through two online retailers: Giantnerd Social Shopping (www.Giantnerd.com) and Randall Scott Cycle Company (www.RScycle.com). Randall Scott Cycle Company, based in Boulder, Colorado, provides order fulfillment for both Web sites. Randall Scott offers consumer-direct online sales while Giantnerd applies a loyalty program whereby shoppers collect points to apply toward future purchases on the site.
“We’ve partnered with them because they have a good reputation for customer service,” said Pike, adding that the former seller of Iron Horse Bicycles had a hole in its product assortment after the brand was auctioned in bankruptcy court last fall to Pacific Cycle.
Pike said consumers can buy bikes unassembled or pay a slight premium to receive their bike already assembled. Bikes are shipped direct to the customer in a clamshell box.
Airborne plans to tap heavily into social media, and use popular applications like Twitter and Facebook to listen to the needs of riders to help drive innovation and new product development.
“We are really pumped to get good information from the source. We will have the ability to spec a certain way or do a limited edition in certain colors. We will let the consumer develop ownership,” said Ray Thomson, vice president of marketing for Huffy.
To help launch the brand, Airborne ran an online contest to select ten brand ambassadors to form its Flight Crew. Members will hit the trails and report back on how their Airborne bikes perform through video and posts on the Airborne Facebook Fan page.
The Flight Crew also will be tasked with helping to spread IMBA’s trail conservation message on a local and national level as part of a partnership between Airborne and the mountain biking advocacy group.
In addition to supporting IMBA, Huffy recently joined Bikes Belong to help preserve and create new places to ride. Pike said he hopes that the industry will see its involvement as a positive contribution. “It’s hard to think of a competitor that way, but we hope they recognize the benefit,” Pike said.
Photo: Reed Pike at the Airborne booth the Sea Otter Classic