British bicycle maker lands in Bangkok

British bicycle maker lands in Bangkok
Managing Director William Butler-Adams poses with a wheel at the Brompton Bicycle factory in west London.

The boss of British folding bike manufacturer Brompton Bicycle hopes to encourage more people to enjoy the freedom, fun and fitness aspects of cycling after opening its first store in the Kingdom.

The bike market is expected to heat up after the official arrival of Brompton, which aims to see at least 15 per cent year-on-year growth here, on top of its current sales through local dealers.

"Brompton is not only an iconic hand-made folding bike from the UK, but we believe that it is a vehicle of freedom," managing director William Butler-Adams told The Nation last week after the grand opening of the eighth Brompton Junction store in the world.

The store is located strategically in the business district on Sukhumvit Soi 24.

Asked why Brompton wanted to add Bangkok in its portfolio, Butler-Adams - who was recently awarded a Member of the Order of the British Empire for his services to the manufacturing industry - described Thailand as a "young market with massive opportunity".

He said that Bangkok was similar to other big cities in Europe and Northern America - people were moving into the city for a better life and job opportunities - and unavoidably exacerbated traffic congestion and related problems.

As a result, he said, local governments were putting more focus on bicycle infrastructure in cities in a bid to ease traffic congestion, reduce fuel consumption and public health costs.

"Bikes are part of the long-term social solution for urban living," he said. "Therefore, we believe in the long run that bikes are going to make a big comeback in the city."

With more than 35 years of experience in folding bike manufacturing, he said that Brompton had been heavily investing in product innovation as well as research and development in order to create excellently designed products that met customers' needs.

But he said that despite the company's high-quality bikes, there were a number of direct and indirect rivals in the Thai market, particularly local second-hand bike manufacturers and budget manufacturers from China.

In response to this competition, Butler-Adams said that the company would make its products more affordable for Thai customers.

To maintain its innovation edge, he said that the company had for the past seven years being working on delivering an electric folding bike but he admitted the task was quite difficult.

Brompton employs 250 employees at his west London factory, where it produces 45,000 bikes a year - which make up 80 per cent of its total sales in 44 countries.

Asia Pacific contributes 40 per cent of its total sales.

After Bangkok, Butler-Adams said that within three month the ninth concept store would open in Chengdu, adding to the two stores currently operating in China.

Brompton also has stores in Milan, London, Shanghai, Beijing, Kobe, Hamburg and Amsterdam.

To hit the break-even point, Bulter-Adams said that there needed to be annual sales of at least 250 at each store.

For its operation in Thailand, Brompton has Singapore-based folding bike specialist Mighty Velo as the authorised distributor.

Steven Lim, director of Mighty Velo, said that his company had partnered with young entrepreneur Thitiwat Manoonpon to run the Bangkok store under the company name Brompton Bicycle (Thailand).

Before establishing the Bangkok store, Mighty Velo appointed seven local dealers in Bangkok and one in Chiang Mai to sell the bikes.

Last year, Lim said approximately 1,000 Brompton bikes were sold via local dealers.

With more collaboration between its dealers and the store, Lim expects that figure to exceed 1,600 this year.

He plans to recruit more dealers in Phuket and Hua Hin.

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