Cowboy, the Belgian manufacturer of city e-bikes, drops its online-only strategy. By the end of the year, the company wants a retail network of at least 300 independent bike shops in 60 Belgian and foreign cities.
In Belgium, contracts will be closed with “some ten retail partners”. Names will follow later when their personnel has been trained to maintain Cowboy bikes and the necessary service parts are available.
From online only to a retail network
Until now, the Cowboy owners had to buy online and contact the brand digitally to reserve a mobile service team when something was wrong or maintenance was due. In March already, Cowboy founder and CEO Adrien Roose were already hinting at changing course: “We want to give our clients the best service, in some cases that can be through the bike retailer. We’re looking into this.”
Retailers who have a contract with Cowboy will also be able to sell Cowboy bikes in their shops. Until now, sales were online or in the three dedicated brand stores in Brussels, Paris, and Berlin. By the end of the year, people will have the opportunity to test-drive a Cowboy bike in many more different locations. Cowboy is thus leaving its ‘Apple strategy’, which allows very close contact with the clients and maximum control of sales prices and profit margins.
“Most people testing a Cowboy bike actually buy one,” said co-founder Tanguy Goretti a few months ago. “Now, we have the scale to go offline, too, and create another selling channel.”
“This new retail model enlarges our presence throughout Europe and improves our client support. We can now offer service via retailers and our own mobile service teams,” adds Adrien Roose today. “We tested with 80 retailers throughout Europe, and the results were very promising. We are happy to switch to this omnichannel strategy at the right moment.”
Cowboy started in 2017 and sold some 50 000 electric city bikes since then. But parts shortages during the pandemic hit the company amidships and led to a loss of some €32 million last year. It made Cowboy change its strategy and postpone its ambitious growth plans to conquer the US.
The company is now completely focused on making money first and got an additional €10 million from its shareholders and €1,5 million from a crowdfunding initiative last April. According to CEO Roose, this should suffice to become beneficial already this year or certainly in 2024.
At Cowboy, they also learn from others’ mistakes. Dutch competitor VanMoof already went offline and into collaboration with bike retailers last year. VanMoof clients got extremely unhappy when waiting times for repair or maintenance grew far too long. Cowboy wanted to avoid this scenario and moved ahead.
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