VERO BEACH, FL (BRAIN)—Ask Alex Allen how his rack business has fared in light of a down economy and you’ll sense a bit of hesitation. He timidly admits his company has “hung in there pretty well,” but he’s not one to boast, or let the competition in on the secrets of his success.
“We haven’t had a down year since 1993,” said Allen, president of Allen Sports, a company his father started in 1965 out of his garage. “We’re chugging along and we continue to focus on what we do.”
Allen said his company, whose line extends from hitch to trunk and even parking racks, has made its name at the value end of the spectrum. “There are rack makers that sell racks that retail at $200 and up. That’s not us,” Allen said. “We give dealers a product they can make a full margin on but that’s positioned at the $40 to $50 opening price point. Our objective is to give a dealer that opening price point that keeps a customer in the store.”
And while he said the trend in racks recently has been toward bigger and bulkier product, he’s taking a different tack. The newest trunk racks in his lineup, the MT1 and MT2, fold down and come packaged in a box smaller than a shoebox. They’re targeted toward bike commuters with a super compact design—.08 cubic feet—that allows them to carry it in a backpack or messenger bag—should they need to hitch a ride on a rainy day.
“We saw a need for something that’s really small,” Allen said. “It offers a lot of advantages in terms of freight and it gives dealers an opportunity to merchandise trunk racks in a much smaller space.”
The racks, which can carry one or two bikes, begin shipping in January from Allen Sports’ factory in China and are available through six U.S. distributors. The one-bike model will retail for $55 to $60; the two-bike model for $80.
Allen said initial reaction to the first samples has been strong with core customers.
“As someone who’s grown up in the bike rack segment, I’ve seen it all and this one’s different. It comes fully assembled and folds down into a tiny little package. That’s what makes this new,” he said.