On your bike at the X-factory

Exporting is GREAT: Planet X

Sheffield-based bike maker and retailer Planet X is a 21st century British manufacturer.

2 men riding bicycles in the countryside

First it sources frames and other components from Taiwan and Italy. Then, it assembles bespoke road, mountain, triathlon, and cyclocross bikes to order in Yorkshire. Finally, it ships the finished bikes, at prices ranging from around £500 to £3,000, to customers in markets such as the US, Scandinavia, and Australia.

Capitalising on the growing popularity of cycling and the global demand for British-made goods, Planet X claims to be the second largest assembler of bikes in the UK, after folding bike maker Brompton.

It takes a leap of faith to buy a bike online

Though it has two stores, in Sheffield and Barnsley, it generates 80% of its turnover online. The 25-year old company sees its future in e-commerce, claiming that the money it saves from not paying rent on bricks-and-mortar stores, and other associated costs, allows it to sell its bikes at up to half the price of its high street rivals.

Planet X’s limited physical presence means it depends heavily on word of mouth and recommendations. Chief executive Chris Potter says Planet X is looking at alternative methods to raise awareness of its products. “A big part of the bike buying process is the physical side. It can be a leap of faith to buy online,” he says, adding that the company is considering partnerships to generate more exposure for its products.

Planet X’s exports hit £6.1m in 2014, accounting for nearly a third of total sales, with Europe being the company’s biggest overseas market.

Its focus now is on growing its US sales, making improvements behind the scenes and to its website. It now ships all US orders from a purpose-built warehouse in the UK. Previously it had held its US stock at its base in Portland, Oregon, which it acquired in 2010 when it bought US bike brand Titus Bikes. But the size of the warehouse limited the amount of stock it could hold.

If we get the model right in the US, it’ll be easy to adapt for other markets

Once the company has put the finishing touches on its proposition for the US market, it should be easier to expand further into other far-flung international markets. “If we can get the model right in the US, it will be relatively easy to adapt for other long-haul markets such as Australia and South Africa,” Potter said.

The company has further plans to develop its website, with potential for foreign language websites and a platform allowing online shoppers to build the exact bike they want, with prices modified accordingly. Potter says: “This is one of our unique selling points. Because our bikes are assembled to order, we offer a degree of customization that you wouldn’t get anywhere else.”