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Ridley Opens New Belgium Headquarters

Published November 21, 2010

PAAL, Belgium (BRAIN)—Ridley Bikes has moved its Flemish headquarters to a renovated 12,000-square-meter facility that unites its offices, warehouse, painting and assembly divisions under one roof.

The company inaugurated the upgrade with a black-tie grand opening in late September, and continues to host about a dozen tours a week as local dignitaries and press line up for a look inside the Ridley-owned building located in the cycling rich Flanders region of Belgium.

Ridley was previously based in offices less than half the size about 10 kilometers away and used an off-site third-party warehouse to store stock. Unable to find a large enough piece of land to build a new headquarters from the ground up, Ridley purchased a 20-year-old structure several years ago and renovated it to provide space for shipping and receiving, warehousing, customer service, front office operations, R&D and design.

One primary focus of the upgraded facility is the design and painting room where 10 percent of the company’s 27,000 annual Asian-imported frames are hand-sanded, carefully stenciled and meticulously painted, clear-coated and oven-dried. Lower end frames are either finished at the factory in Asia or a second Ridley paint and assembly facility in Moldova.

Although the company could trim labor costs by outsourcing all its paint and assembly, Ridley has chosen to stay local.

“The big answer is we want to keep the jobs here and we want to have that little bit of control too,” said Eric Wallace, marketing manager for Ridley, speaking to journalists in Ridley’s second floor showroom overlooking the paint and stencil room floor. “A lot of the woman in the paint area have been here for years and years and years. We don’t want to lose that.”

Wallace led a small group of North American endemic media through the building late last week as part of a marketing push to support the brand’s efforts to grow in the U.S. and Canada.

The building is powered by green energy and a solar panel array is currently being installed on the roof, as evidenced by the occasional pounding echoing from the building’s tin roof during our tour. The company has also set aside space to build its own wind tunnel in part of the warehouse, which it plans to open next year.

The 13-year-old, €20 million company has seen double digit growth nearly every year since it began, and now is looking to grow it’s U.S. dealer base, currently numbering at about 50. To read more about those plans and an interview with Ridley founder Jochim Aerts, read the January issue of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.

—Nicole Formosa

image: Workers place stencil on each frame before they in a two to three-hour process before the frames are painted. Ridley paints on all its logos instead of using stickers.

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