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Guest editorial: Norman Semmling on A New Beginning

Published January 1, 2019

By Norman Semmling

Editorial note: Norman Semmling is general manager of ABUS Mobile Security Inc. in Chicago.

After a year filled with surprises and new challenges to our industry, I want to challenge each of us all to embrace new avenues and solutions in the new year. Over the last 20 years, I've seen the cycling industry from the floor of 19 Eurobikes, countless bike shops, both large and small, across Europe and for the last three years across North America. Three years ago, my wife and I left our home in Germany so I could become the general manger of ABUS Mobile Security Inc., overseeing our cycling and motorcycle division for North America. Besides the change in location, I've also had to adapt to a different marketing and sales structure. Interbike was nothing like Eurobike, where my team spent countless hours writing preseason orders. The American consumer is much more varied, and reaching them requires a different approach, especially for a new but growing brand. But I also found that there were new opportunities that we did not capitalize on in Europe, and with Interbike gone more routes open up to interact and support our retailers. It is my belief that the loss of the largest show in North America will allow suppliers, vendors, distributors and independent makers to support more local shows and shops.

We at ABUS understand that the industry is experiencing struggles but believe that the future is not all doom and gloom. The loss of Interbike was a shock to us all, but it was not the end for the industry. Over the last year I've spent almost 100 days on the road attending industry events and visiting shops. Only five of those days were for Interbike. The vast majority were smaller regional shows and dealer events that allowed me to meet with owners, employees and, in many cases, our customers. We've attended shows in large convention centers as well as events in the parking lot of a single shop, races that attract international athletes, and ones for complete amateurs. In 2019, we plan to expand the number of shows we attend and the events we support. My challenge to the industry is to embrace these smaller shows and look for other opportunities to support shops. Their success is all of our success.

Along with supporting events, we need to find new and expanded ways of supporting local shops. Over the last number of years we have done this through MAP protection in order to ensure that our quality products have a quality price across the board. This involved countless hours by my team and a large financial investment, not to mention the loss of some dealers that weren't willing to adhere to our policy. We did this because we know it is the right thing to do for the success of the industry. The IBD should embrace brands that truly focus on enforcing a MAP policy.

But this is also not a cure-all. We, like others, see training and education as a benefit for shops and employees. My team and I have provided in-depth training to shops both online and in person. Shops that have taken advantage of this have seen their sales increase, as they are able to sell better products to their customers. In the coming years this will only grow more important as new products are becoming more complex. With these new products and the continuing growth of e-bikes, completely new customers will come to each of your doors. These customers seek out experts, and it is our challenge to make sure every person is prepared to answer this call.

There are many groups and companies that already provide great options, but this should be the goal of every supplier. It is your knowledge and skills that make great products. Share that story. But it is also my challenge to owners and employees to reach out and take advantage of these opportunities. We at ABUS know that this information resonates with everyone: dealers, employees and all of our customers.

We believe that if we can as an industry implement these techniques, the industry as a whole can grow. We believe this so strongly that we are continuing to launch new products into the North American market, including a full line of road and mountain bike helmets. With plans for even more in the coming years, it is not the time to rest but a time to expand and improve. To take what we have learned from the past and plan new courses and routes. One of the joys of cycling is exploring. Let's all embrace that in the new year. By not tying ourselves to the past we can all see growth in the coming years.

With a hope for new events, products and customers we at ABUS wish you a secure and successful new year.

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