“Urban mobility is increasingly characterized by cycling,” points out Corporate Communication Manager Monica Savio. “Bike sharing is becoming progressively more popular; in many European and Asian towns and cities you can hire bicycles on a short-term basis. Cycling has gradually developed a strong cultural component and large towns are taking advantage of this by portraying the image of cyclists as trend-setters. In Italy, for example, in the past only people that did not own a car commuted by bicycle; in the meantime cycling has undergone a revolution and today many people cycle to work every day. Our aim is to support cyclists by enhancing the biking experience.”
Selle Royal is world renowned as a maker of saddles – the company produces an astounding 12.000.0000 saddles every year.
Perhaps less well known is that the company also supplies many cycling products such as shoes, bags and rucksacks, clothing, wheels, pedals and helmets, with ranges to suit everyone including the professional cyclist, the hobby rider and the commuter, offering products which make life on a bicycle more attractive and comfortable for even the most reluctant cyclist.
The company’s route to success is a fascinating story of hard work and opportunity. Riccardo Bigolin was originally a chemist but gave up his job to someone who urgently needed the work.
After gaining experience in the world of felt production, he started making saddles in a small workshop owned by his uncle. He founded Selle Royal in 1956, and quickly decided that exporting his saddles was the way to go.
He learnt English and German, bought a car and drove to Germany and Holland to look for customers. Through his courageous approach, the export market grew quickly and became very important for the company, which initially focused on saddles for city cyclists.
“The Selle Royal brand existed from day one,” explains Ms. Savio. “Mr. Bigolin developed his saddles in partnership with numerous engineers. People are often captivated by the story of what he managed to achieve with what is effectively a piece of plastic.”
The portfolio broadened in 1996 with the introduction of a new brand, fi’zi:k, aimed at the racing market. “Under this brand we introduced other products such as shoes and clothing,” notes Ms. Savio.
Nevertheless, the company was not content with the status quo, and embarked on a quest for acquisitions that would expand and enhance the product range.First it bought the legendary English firm Brooks England, famous for its lifestyle urban saddles, bags and helmets, before going on to purchase the Crankbrothers brand, which develops and produces components such as pedals, seat posts and wheels for mountain bikes.
The company’s range of accessories was further extended by the takeover of Pedaled, a Japanese brand which supplies stylish clothing specifically designed for cyclists. Today the portfolio is broad and Selle Royal has production units and distribution channels around the world.
Headquartered in Vicenza with a manufacturing facility for Selle Royal and fi’zi:k branded saddles, the company also has a product, sales and marketing office for Crankbrothers in Laguna Beach, California that has a similar operation facility in Taiwan.
The Brooks England brand still has a production site in the UK, while goods bearing the private labels of Selle Royal’s customers are produced in China. “We have established a joint venture with Continental in the USA to sell our products there. In Italy and France we have our own distribution organization called A4 selection to support our bike dealers. Of course we also have a broad network of distributors around the world as well as selling direct to bike manufacturers,” underlines Ms Savio. “Marketing is important and each brand has its own strategy. For fi’zi:k for example, we focus very much on social media and sponsorship. Brooks is featured in fashion and lifestyle promotions. Naturally, stores and in-store advertising is important for all brands. Up to now we have not promoted ourselves as a cohesive group, so far we have communicated mainly at a B2C level and we would like to keep the brands differentiated.”
Research and development remains a priority for Selle Royal, and the company has formed a cooperation with the University of Cologne, one of the most important sports universities in Europe and with the University of Colorado in Boulder, one of the most important in the USA.
Last year, it also opened its own R&D facility in Utah in the USA. “Saddles will always remain our main business; they are what we are really well-known for and our saddles have enabled us to achieve a strong position on the international market. Design is our strength, beginning with the scientific research. The R&D facility and our partnerships with sporting specialists will allow us to develop and improve our saddles still further,” emphasizes the Corporate Communication Manager.
Besides innovative design, Selle Royal prides itself on its family values. Despite the fast and extensive expansion of the company, it remains true to its roots as a family concern. “A daughter of the founder is the President of the company,” points out Ms. Savio. “The company key factor is the sense of ‘family’ that is reflected in its employees. The board strongly believes that people can make the difference in the organization. That is why we are in a team of young managers with huge autonomy and responsability, creating a nice creative environment. All of our employees are extremely committed and work as if the company is their own. Our overarching mission is to support cyclists by understanding their needs and anticipating future cycling trends, and to promote cycling as a lifestyle. I see us developing into a slender and dynamic organization, leveraging new synergies as opportunities arise, to continue to meet the needs of cyclists across the world. The company has incredible energy; I have been involved in massive changes during my five years here and that is hugely motivating and satisfying.”
In this issue: Grey Mer S.r.l. - Luxury at your feet / Selle Royal Group Head Office - Facilitating the cycling lifestyle / Ospedale Pederzoli SpA - From nursing home to hospital / Foruminvest Italia Srl - Investing in Italian shopping
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