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Brompton profits up 35% despite bike industry's "challenging conditions" and "war of attrition" against rip-off rivals

The number of bikes sold dipped slightly but the folding bicycle manufacturer experienced significant success further afield, exports accounting for three quarters of bicycle sales and turnover from outside the UK and Europe up 46%

Brompton profits are up a third, the iconic folding bike brand enjoying a "positive year" thanks to a "shift towards more premium products" allowing the brand to maintain revenue growth despite flattening sales, ongoing challenges hitting the wider bicycle industry, inflation and concerns about copycat rivals.

In the company's latest accounts for the financial year to 31 March 2023, Brompton revealed that while the number of bikes sold (91,785) was marginally down on 2022 (when 93,460 were sold), turnover was up 21 per cent on the previous year as pre-tax profits increased by 46 per cent to £10,680,953, resulting in a post-tax profit of £8,685,432, up 35 per cent on 2022.

Brompton C Line Explore

Mirroring much of the industry's recent messaging about the slow European market — Shimano and Giant both noting low demand and inventory challenges in recent times — Brompton's most successful region for turnover remained outside of the UK and Europe, the rest of the world accounting for just over half of its turnover and experiencing a significant rise from £44,501,450 in 2022 to £64,844,749 in 2023.

The company also noted that exports remain responsible for 74 per cent of sales, the "ramp up of T Line and P Line products launched in the prior year" representing a "shift towards more premium products in the Brompton range" and "enabling the Group to maintain revenue growth in the face of flattening unit sales".

Brompton blamed the two per cent dip in sales on the "challenging conditions in the cycling industry, driven by the wider global economic uncertainty and the market normalising post Covid".

Elsewhere, operating costs were up 26 per cent due to increased staff costs related to the growth of the business, namely the number of employees rising to 805 from 708, while the brand also noted a 43 per cent increase in direct to consumer sales and pointed to its improved website and e-commerce capabilities.

> Brompton goes 12-Speed across most of its range, doubling the number of gears on the classic folding bike

Beyond the economic and industry challenges, Brompton also mentioned the risk of competitor brands selling similar products at lower prices, with the manufacturer stating it will utilise "wider design right protection on future products" and appoint a brand protection agency to identify and act upon intellectual property right breaches.

Last year, CEO Will Butler-Adams detailed the "war of attrition" that the brand was fighting against cheaper brands copying designs across China and Europe. He called the copycat problem "very serious" and explained it takes "four to five years to develop a product or evolve something" only for other manufacturers to move in once it goes to market.

Cyclist in London electric Brompton and winter clothing - copyright Simon MacMichael

"Whenever you innovate you take risks, you get things wrong, and then the moment you finally put it on the market, all of that innovation, all of that risk, someone comes along and says 'oh, thanks for telling me how to do it, I'm just going to rip you off'," he said.

The latest financial report also highlights the impact of inflation on Brompton, something that is "passed onto customers through price rises". 

> Brompton CEO bemoans "bloody Brexit" for ongoing problems within bike industry

Looking at the company's impact on the environment, Brompton reported its greenhouse gas emissions from operations and supply chain was 18,187 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent and suggested almost 98 per cent of carbon emissions take place in its supply chain. The brand also said it is "working to reduce the volume of plastic in customer-facing packaging".

Brompton Bike Hire is cited as one way, on top of customers who buy a bike permanently, its products are helping reduce carbon emissions of local travel, with an estimated 208 tonnes of carbon emissions said to have been avoided by hire bike users avoiding car journeys.

Cyclists in London brompton and lime hire bike - copyright Simon MacMichael

In February, we reported that Brompton's plans for an ambitious new eco-friendly factory and headquarters in Kent were facing further delays after the highways authority raised concerns about the scheme's impact on the local road network and the lack of any car parking facilities at the site.

In the same month, Brompton joined British Cycling and Rapha in urging more police action to prevent cyclists being "systematically targeted by criminals" in violent London bikejackings. Butler-Adams has also spoken out about the need for a crackdown on "poor quality" e-bike batteries before public perception "snowballs into a world of fear" following numerous fires.

Dan is the news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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mattw | 1 month ago

I think that's a good report.

One thing driving Brompton continued growth is EAPC sales - which have passed 50k in total on the most recent numbers I saw (from some time ago).

I think they have some really good things, including Brompton hire (I took one to Istanbul on a hairyplane), and is the kind of Mittelstand type company of which we need thousands, and would normally have a fate to be sold off and the UK-base destroyed.

I think the gear systems are peculiar and could be improved.

To illustrate Brompton reach, this video I saw of the "first Dutch style junction in Seattle" is a guy on a banana yellow Brompton. It's a good vid, and the junction is sort-of-CYCLOPS, but in Yankee-Doodle-Carbrain style it treats bicycles as if they were SUVs - with enormous kerbs and traffic lights for cycles to cross the footway.

open_roads | 1 month ago

What a change of fortune.

It was only 15 months ago Brompton's CEO was telling us that Brexit had decimated his business.

It's great to see that he turned out to be wrong - a great highly differentiated product made by great people will always do well. Well done Brompton.

jaymack replied to open_roads | 1 month ago

Brompton isn't a Brexit poster-child their "most successful region for turnover remained outside of the UK and Europe" as indeed it was before Brexit. The company has managed to return to business as usual. Now that's of course good news for Brompton but it's nothing radical.

Dnnnnnn replied to open_roads | 1 month ago
1 like

open_roads wrote:

It was only 15 months ago Brompton's CEO was telling us that Brexit had decimated his business.

Do you have a link for something like that? All I've seen him say was that it was one in a number of issues (e.g. energy price rises) that was making business more at the time. Which seems reasonable.

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