Evans Cycles faced an uphill battle last year as the UK cycling market endured a few wobbles.
The specialist retailer, which was acquired by private equity firm ECI in May last year, reported a 69% slide in earnings in its last full financial year to October 31.
“He’s high energy, he’s engaging, he’s enthusiastic, so he will mobilise people to deliver excellent customer service”
Fran Minogue, Clarity
All this means that new boss Andy King, a retail veteran who has spent the past three years running Dobbies Garden Centres, will have his work cut out to pump up profits across its 60 UK stores and website.
King, a replacement for Nick Wilkinson who left Evans in September, has had a long and varied retail career, including stints at The Body Shop, Mothercare, WHSmith and Boots.
And judging by one endorsement, King, who admits to being a “keen cyclist”, will be more than up to the challenge.
“He’s high energy, he’s engaging, he’s enthusiastic, so he will mobilise people to deliver excellent customer service,” says Fran Minogue, founder and managing partner of executive recruiter Clarity, which placed King.
“I think he’ll hit the ground running.”
Evans’ owners will no doubt have been attracted by King’s marketing acumen accrued from previous roles.
With the rapid growth of online specialist Wiggle and the dominance of market-leader Halfords, Evans has found itself in the middle ground of the market – a dangerous place to be.
“Evans needs to clarify and communicate where it sits in the sector,” says Minogue.
“Andy has a marketing background so he should be able to differentiate it and define the proposition more clearly.”
King should have some better news to report next time Evans updates, as the 95-year-old retailer says trading has been “consistently strong since July”.
However, much of this performance is likely to have been driven by the Olympics effect helped by another strong performance from Team GB.
The test will come next year when the retailer is faced with a tough comparable.
Web and mobile promise
King will also be able to build on Evans’ ecommerce offer. The retailer relaunched its website in the spring, which it says is “paying off”, while it is seeing “strong sales growth” through m-commerce.
“A specialist cycle store can be so immersive, it can be so engaging. I don’t think they are there by a long way”
Andrew Busby, retail commentator
However, retail commentator Andrew Busby is not convinced by Evans’ website, which he claims is “uninspiring”.
Busby also believes that Evans has some work to do on improving its stores. “A specialist cycle store can be so immersive, it can be so engaging. I don’t think they are there by a long way.”
But Busby is confident that King can translate the skills he used at Dobbies to Evans.
“There is a correlation between the two, they are both specialists,” he says. “When you go in-store, you don’t only want product, you want advice.”
With Evans promising more store openings for 2017, King will have the chance to put his stamp on the retailer’s physical offer.
Meanwhile, ECI Partners will be hoping that in King they have the right man to fight for the crown in the increasingly competitive cycling sector.