Traditional Swiss brands launch direct sales

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After decades of dealer loyalty the Swiss brand Canyon changed its name to Cylan in 2019 and switched to click & collect distribution first and later to direct sales. Stähli AG took a different route and launched its new e-bike brand e-Framer on its own channel exclusively. “Why shouldn’t Tesla’s business model not be successful for bicycles: direct sales and delivery, without dealers?” said Cylan owner Jürg Schoch.


“If we are already take care of design and development, it makes sense that we also have the control over sales and distribution,” explains Jürg Schoch on his decision to switch to direct sales. Of course, the financial aspect also plays an important role: the brand and the customer both benefit from the lack of dealer margins. Schoch admits, however, that he underestimated the additional distribution and marketing expenses. The budget for advertising (Google Ads, explanatory videos), but also sales advice and delivery are at least ten times higher than expected. However, to his great surprise, it turned out that 70% of customers want to pick up their bikes directly at the company’s headquarters in Biel where the company opened a spacious factory store with the option for test rides.


Canyon Swiss changed its name as internet has no borders

Cylan has a long history. Since the forties, Bärtschi AG in Biel assembled Bär and later Alpina branded bicycles. Jürg Schoch joined the company in 1991 and took over the management in 1995. The ‘more modern’ brand name Canyon was launched for the sporty models. In the noughties, Jürg Schoch acquires the company and renames it Lizard Sport AG. As consumer behavior is undergoing major changes and the internet became increasingly important as a source of purchasing information, Lizard Sport in 2019 decided to transform its business model to click & collect. However, internet has no borders and in e-commerce the German competitor Canyon could no longer be neglected. Although the German company was founded much later, Lizard Sport AG still held trademark rights for Switzerland. The name Cylan is a creation of art, but Schoch knows at least a neat story to tell for it: “This is a combination of Cycling and Milan, the native bird of prey that circles over our headquarters each time.”

The brand Cylan is launched in August 2019 and the click & collect model introduced. Initially consumers indicate the dealer of their choice where they want to pick up their bike. The retailer remains on board, no bikes are sold directly. During the pandemic sales skyrocketed, accelerating a process that probably wouldn’t have been up for debate for a few years. Exactly one year later, the radical decision is taken and Cylan starts selling directly to consumers only and focuses entirely on e-bikes. After 30 years and 300,000 bikes sold via retailers Schoch decides to go his own way. And what was their reaction? “Practically nothing,” said Schoch who was surprised. “Not even a dozen reactions were received from his 200 dealers.” In any case, the Cylan owner thinks that this separation came at the right moment. The sales figures prove him right: despite limited availability between 5,000 - 6,000 bikes were sold and that’s about the same volume as were distributed via the retailers.

Traditional Swiss brands launch direct sales
The sales figures prove him right: between 5,000 - 6,000 bikes were sold and that’s about the same volume as were distributed via the retailers.



Newcomer with experience

E-Framer is probably the youngest Swiss brand, it was founded by one of the country’s traditional two-wheeler companies: Stähli AG. This bicycle parts company, founded in Thun during World War II, produced Staco branded bicycles from 1965 to 1997. Their mopeds are still in their product portfolio today. With this background it was obvious for the company to focus on the new trendy market of e-bikes. For Stähli online distribution was the obvious choice after a long absence from the bicycle industry. As a parts supplier with a long tradition, it was obvious that the e-framers should be assembled inhouse. German wholesaler Messingschlager was chosen as system provider, supplying tried-and-tested frame kits with Brose drives. e-Framer joins a number of well-known companies that also continue to assemble in Switzerland, such as Flyer, Stromer, Komenda, Tour de Suisse and Aarios. Managing Director Alexander Bär joined Stähli six years ago after a long career in sports trade. It was therefore clear to him that he wanted to participate with the retailers. But as an ‘absolute nobody’, the bicycle trade neglected him and with e-Framer he decide to go consumer direct. Probably many retailers would have made a different decision today in their search for anybody how can supply e-bikes.


Swiss finishing to the finish

e-Framer’s offer has been well received by the end consumer. According to Stähli a profitable number of bikes was sold already in the second year, and the 2,000 unit mark should be exceeded by 2023 at the latest. Alexander Bär attributes the success to several reasons. Of course a good price/performance ratio as with Cylan is important, certainly as a ‘no-name brand’. In addition to the company headquarters, all five e-bike models can still be tested in one of the three hubs of service partner Sports2go. Finally their claim of ‘Swiss Finishing’ which does not stop at the assembly but continues up to the delivery at the consumer. E-Framer hired well-trained and highly motivated former specialists, all passionate cyclists, to hand over the bike with a test certificate. They take care of the finetuning and instruction on site, which seems to be the main reason on why 96% of customers order online.    


Photos and text Peter Hummel



Tianchen - A-Forge

Traditional Swiss brands launch direct sales

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