Interview: Adam Johnson Driving Australian Online Bike Sales for Wiggle

Adam Johnson Wiggle Australia CEO

Last week Wiggle announced that they are opening an office in Sydney, their first overseas office and a move which symbolises the value of online bike and accessories sales in Australia. Adam Johnson is leading Wiggle Australia as CEO and acknowledges the vastly different reactions; some welcomed the news with open arms while others have been vocal in their opposition. “Conflict makes headlines,” suggests Johnson, but for Wiggle it is a natural evolution of their business.

Wiggle and other overseas online retailers can’t please everybody. “In some ways we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t and I guess all that we can do is what we think is the right thing at the right time,” says Johnson. “There are people who are hostile that we are here now, but we used to have criticism that we weren’t here. I am employed here, we have an office here. We are here. It wasn’t like we were here and then set up off-shore”.

A big part of the decision to set up an Australian office was to support marketing activities with local organisations. “We made the investment to support the Amy Gillett Foundation and Bicycle Network Victoria. It is all very well doing those things from a distance, but that is only one small part of it. You need to be on the ground supporting them, listening to them, helping them. At the moment with Bicycle Network Victoria, we are helping them with the membership drive, so we have their flyers in all of our boxes.”

Simplifying the relationship with these organisations, Johnson explains, “Wiggle is a bike shop, and what good bikes shops do is sponsor events. We are lucky, we can do it on a big scale because of the scale of our business”

In a small but busy Italian cafe in the Sydney beach suburb of Dee Why, Adam Johnson delved into his credentials. As an Englishman he worked for a Swedish CNC firm in Memphis, USA, took a role in the legendary (and now defunct) Wang and then spent years in New Zealand with Sybase. As the digital boom continued he took management roles in online travel businesses including lastminute.com and most recently was recruited to lead Wiggle Australia.

Clarifying the exact role of the Wiggle team in Australia, Johnson continues “You can really describe us at the moment as a sales and marketing organisation. We are going to be adding customer service because we think there is opportunity there. It is about saying, Rather than doing things here for the sake of it, it is about what can only be done here, best be done here”.

When prompted about specific changes to Australianise Wiggle, Johnson says, “The first things we are doing is customising the website to suit the Australian market, thinking of seasonality, but also some brands are stronger here than they are in the UK.” Beyond just ‘picking seasons’ “it is the nuances.” For example when Australia is experiencing rain it affects purchasing habits (home trainers become popular) and the local knowledge will allow the online retailer to react.

Johnson discusses how the UK success of a small bike shop called Butlers Cycles has carried across into the Australian market. “Consumers have led behavior and the companies have followed. I am sitting here, doing what I am doing, because Aussies found Wiggle in the UK, and paid in pounds, from across the planet, because we had what they wanted. That is consumer sovereignty, consumers lead it”.

Adam Johnson was not prepared to provide details on the percentage of sales for Wiggle attributed to Australian customers or the number of monthly shipments except to say that 2011 figures of 10,000+ shipments a month have been vastly exceeded.

 

What is next for Wiggle?

Johnson provides a hint about the direction of online retail, “Interact with the consumer in the way that they want to interact, at that point in time.” This leaves a lot of room for speculation, though you can be certain that Wiggle are moving and adapting to be where they think consumers will be.

While Wiggle has strong competition from Chain Reaction Cycles (as well as smaller shops; Evans Cycles, Ribble Cycles, Merlin Cycles, Slane Cycles, ProBikeKit and US based Competitive Cyclist and Jenson USA), the local competition is also notable with Cell Bikes, Torpedo7, TBSM and Pushys enjoying a significant local following in Australia. Australian business, both traditional and online, can learn a lot from overseas online bike shops, but rest assured, Wiggle won’t be resting, and openly invite clubs or events to engage with them.

Though Johnson recognises that many clubs and events already have local industry sponsors and respects these relationships, there are gaps and Wiggle has their doors open. Partnership and sponsorship enquiries can be directed via AUContact@wiggle.com (note – order and product enquires should be directed via the website).

Online: www.wiggle.com.au

 

Disclaimer:
Wiggle advertise on Bicycles Network Australia. This interview was not funded and is not an advertorial (I paid for lunch).



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About The Author

Christopher Jones is a recreational cyclist and runs a professional design business, Signale. As the driving force behind Bicycles.net.au he has one of each 'types' of bicycles.

9 responses to “Interview: Adam Johnson Driving Australian Online Bike Sales for Wiggle”

  1. Sasha says:

    Good article Chris, but I am still none the wiser as to exactly what Wiggles Australian office will be doing or why it needs a local office. Can I infer from the interview that there will be no warehousing/distribution in Australia? I am sure Wiggles opponents (of which I am not one) would love to know as well.

  2. Dave newson says:

    We don’t want you here greedy little pigs

  3. Raymon says:

    Manufacturers should not be selling to discounters like wiggle. In fact if they insisted that everybody sold at the RRP, the whole industry would be a much better and logical place. My lbs and many others make about $5.00 on a Garmin because of the discounting. This happens across a whole gamut of products. It might make it cheaper in the short run, but has other more heinous effects in the long term. Kudos to companies like polar and Oakley who give everybody the same chance to bite at the cherry.

  4. That is a very good point Raymon. Yes, the brand has a role to play in this.

    Sasha, I am informed that each order is shipped individually so there is no bulk importing. The logistics centres receive and distribute. Different partners may be used which can explain why a delivery may appear to be shipped locally. I understand they they don’t stock locally and the role of the office is marketing and admin for the Australian market.

  5. Craig says:

    Good on you Wiggle for supporting users here in Australia. It’s the self-interest of monopoly Australian distributors who overprice their product to the LBS that is a prime factor in the LBS margin squeeze. Yes I am looking squarely at you David Mohr from FE Sports, you should be ashamed at yourself for preventing the LBS from being competitive. Wonder why you can’t buy Garmin from Wiggle in Australia? Ask FE Sports. Wonder why it’s so hard to see offshore pricing for Garmin products so you can see the extent of the Australian ripoff? Ask Mr Mohr.

    Wiggle helps define the ‘Australia tax’ for what it is – an unjustifiable money grab by monopoly distributors who take a bunch of margin without giving anything back to the retailers or end users.

  6. John Hawkins says:

    The answer to FE Sports’ money grab on Garmin is simple. Stop buying Garmin product.

    The local Mavic distributors did the same thing a few years ago, forcing a halt to Wiggle and CRC sale of Mavic product to Oz. The results are educational. Up until the change, Mavic used to be very strong here, an aspirational brand that people would upgrade to. Now, where are they? Rarely considered, even more rarely seen.

    Don’t like local Garmin prices? Buy a Magellan. Send a message.

    To the two local businesses having a whinge about Wiggle arriving here, I would say this: It’s not just about price. It is also about service.

    This is where the local supply chain falls down badly. Why does it take the local distributor longer to get a part into the hands of the local bike shop than it does to come here from the UK using non-express delivery? Why are local bike shops so universally poor at service? Why have they not figured out that people will pay more for a better service experience?

    Wiggle may be putting (overdue) price pressure on the fat and lazy Austrlaian distribution network, but i think the Aussie industry needs to learn – quickly – from how they service their customers too.

  7. Romo says:

    Wiggle maybe a jolt to the Oz industry but why is it more expensive to purchase at a LBS you ask?
    1)Import shipping
    2) Storage
    3) Wages
    4) GST

    and thats just the Distributor
    1) Product purchase
    2) Taxes
    3) shipping
    4) storage
    5) wages
    and thats the Local Shop

    Local shops will try to ride this out and will come back real soon when people get annoyed with trying to get a product either fixed or wanting to get it into their hands asap…. online shopping will have its limits

  8. Absolutely, the classical distribution process includes more overheads although I am observing as many new local bike shops opening as there are LBS’s closing. The local bike shop is still alive and well and recent episodes of closures have been a result of financial mismanagement.

    What has been happening for the last few years in Australia is an increase in bike workshops and mobile workshops that focus on service rather than sales. This files the gaps.

    The reality of online purchasing is that high-value purchases are still purchased instore. It is the parts and accessories segment that has been most affected, however clever local bike shops understand the market and provide their customers with a reason to return; excellent service, supporting local cycling events, actively advertising locally, concentrating on brands that provide more distributer and dealer support (i.e. minimise ‘under-cutting’).

    And keeping in mind the host of Australian online retailers who are priced competitively but still purchase from the distributer – so are in the same situation as the local bike shop with regard to cost-price.