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Chinese demand puts Pashley back in the saddle

BY Rebecca | 1 April, 2014 | no comments

Britain’s oldest bicycle maker is enjoying a renaissance thanks to booming sales in China.

Pashley Cycles is finding that its commitment to domestic manufacturing is being rewarded by growing demand from China, which boasts an estimated 500 million bikes.

The company, founded in 1928 and based in Stratford-upon-Avon, is expanding into a second base in the town to serve new orders and it plans to increase its team from 50 to 60. The specialist in traditional cycles for consumers and businesses, exports to 50 countries, with China and India “leading the way”. Three quarters of its turnover comes from individual cyclists, but it also supplies delivery bikes to Royal Mail, TNT and Domino’s Pizza.

Adrian Williams, the managing director, is aware of the irony that the business is enjoying demand in China for bikes built by hand in Britain. In the 1990s, Pashley pedalled a bumpy path as its rivals cut costs by shifting manufacturing offshore and moving away from traditional cycles in favour of mountain bikes.

Mr Williams acquired the business in a management buyout in 1994. “At the time I came along, the bank’s attitude to the company was: ‘Why would you want to manufacture anything like that?’ I wanted to show a business like this could survive. It became a mission.

“We have stuck to our knitting while most other bicycle makers took the offshore manufacturing route.”

He was surprised by Chinese demand “because their own factories make something very similar — but they want authenticity. There is a resurgence in the market for the type of retro cycles we make, so it is fortunate that we stayed with our craft and invested in our people and products, rather than becoming a soulless importer, like so many others.”

The company is expecting overseas orders to overtake domestic demand soon, as it seek to increase sales from £4.5 million to £8 million within three years. It received help from UK Trade & Investment to boost its export sales and its bikes also sell in markets including Germany, Italy and Kazakhstan.

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