Bihr is Europe’s largest supplier of spare parts, accessories and tires for motorbikes, quads, all-terrain vehicles and scooters and of motorcycle clothing and helmets. The company was established by motorbike racer Cyril Bihr in 1975.
“He couldn’t find the right piston for his bike, so he had to import it from Asia,” CEO Christophe Piron describes the beginnings. “When he stopped his racing career over 40 years ago, he set up his own wholesaling business for spare parts.”
Since 2011, Bihr has been a member of the Belgian Alcopa Group, a family-owned company with activities in import and distribution, parts, building materials, real estate, trading and retail, over 2,000 employees in 19 countries, and revenues of 2.3 billion EUR.
“We are part of the Group and have our own subsidiaries in six countries,” states Mr. Piron. “France, where we have a large distribution center, is one of our main markets. Another important market is Spain, where we have a logistics center, too. In addition, we have branch operations in Belgium, the home country of our parent company, the Netherlands and Switzerland. At present, we are opening a brand-new site in Germany that will focus solely on motorcycle and scooter clothing and helmets, unlike our other branch locations. Germany is one of the largest and most significant markets for rider gear and helmets, and we have exclusive agreements with major clothing brands and our own sales force that from now on are supporting the German motorbike dealers.”
Bihr employs 400 people, including 240 in France and 100 in Spain, and turns over 140 million EUR, of which the largest share of 120 million EUR is generated through the sale of spare parts and accessories, and 20 million through protective clothing and helmets. Operating in the B2B segment, the company supplies more than 14,000 dealers across Europe with over 200,000 brand-name articles.
“Besides the countries where we have our own branch operations, we have customers in Portugal, Italy, Austria, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and the Nordic countries,” says Mr. Piron. “Our strength is our first-class logistics. We have four logistics facilities with total storage of 40,000 m² and are able to supply almost all dealers in Europe within 24 hours.”
The new German operation will be supplied from the company’s spacious, modern warehousing complex located in Bartenheim in Alsace close to the German border. “All logistics facilities are managed by ourselves, whereas for transport we cooperate with reliable, external partners,” Mr. Piron describes the division of labour in logistics.
We are able to supply almost all dealers in Europe within 24 hours. Christophe PironCEO
In addition to providing swift logistics and excellent customer service, Bihr distinguishes itself through its advanced information technology. “For automotive spare parts, there is specific software available to find and order the right part,” explains Mr. Piron. “There is nothing like that for motorcycles. Therefore, we developed our own solution. This way, we ensure that every customer gets exactly the right spare part.” Bihr handles 90% of all orders through its website. “Digitalized, efficient ordering procedures are very important,” states Mr. Piron. “On peak days, we dispatch up to 8,000 parcels.”
Though the overall motorbike market is declining, Bihr is benefiting from sustained, strong growth. “New motorbike sales are not that important to us, because our focus is exclusively on the aftermarket,” Mr. Piron explains the apparent contradiction. “For us it is important that the motorcycles are being moved. In general, the season starts in spring when the bikes are taken out of the garage and prepared for the new driving season. That is our busiest time. With regard to clothing and helmets, the situation is a bit different. Here, the season starts earlier because the dealers want to have the new products.”
Due to its focus on the aftermarket, Bihr is continuing its positive development. “We experienced strong growth in the past, and we expect an increase of 20% this year,” says Mr. Piron. “Not by expanding geographically, apart from our current entry into Germany, but by further improving our delivery periods and adapting our product portfolio to our customers’ demands.”