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Warren Key has been surrounded by bikes all his life. His father, Geoff Key, ran Cycles Peugeot back in the 1970’s when they still made bikes in Australia and in 1978 started the large inner city shop Melbourne Bicycles at Clifton Hill, which Warren still oversees to this day.
Warren credits his father with teaching him a lot about the bicycle industry and giving him his start in business.
Kid’s Bike Co came about much later, like many new ventures, to solve an important problem close to home.
“My eldest son was diagnosed when he was five with a serious health issue relating to his bones,” Warren explained. “One of the few things he could do was ride a bike – theoretically. He couldn’t weight-bear.
“I bought him a race BMX bike – a nice lightweight one. He loved the idea and look, but couldn’t ride it because of the high bottom bracket, the long cranks and the awkward riding position. His mobility didn’t give him that flexibility.
“So I basically pulled the bike apart and rebuilt the frame into a shape that he could ride, which was ergonomically superior, light and easy to ride.
“He could ride it!
“Then I built one for his little brother. I saw a window of something that was new and different. I spoke to a few people with industry knowledge for some advice. Geoff Ward at Bikecorp was one of them. Then I went to Monash University and got a team of ergonomic experts to oversee my design.
“Eventually, I put my design into production. This was back in 2010. I thought to myself, ‘If I can’t sell any, I can at least sell them through my own bike shop
Warren called his new bicycles ByK (pronounced ‘bi-kay’) and the rest, as they say in the classics, is history.
“About two or three months later, somebody bought one and then another and another,” Warren recalled. “From there we’ve grown to about a hundred dealers around Australia and we also sell them in the USA and NZ. We cover everything from top age primary school and down. Our range covers all sizes and options with over 60 SKU’s, we even sell versions of our internal 3 speed models down to 4 years olds.”
Soon Warren had a booming manufacturing, importing and wholesaling business on his hands, but he stayed close to his roots and continued to run his family bike shop as well. Warren sees this as an advantage when dealing with his wholesale customers because he can see things from their perspective.
“We only sell through IBD’s,” Warren stated. “I am a bike dealer so I support my like-minded businesses. I understand how it works. I’ve supported them in the traditional style where I actually carry stock and don’t oblige big pre-orders, in the old school way that I was taught by my father.
“I’m not a major player so I have to be extremely understanding of the dealer’s situation and very appreciative of the good support I get.
“We keep it fairly simple and more or less advise dealers of models and colors that work and not to over commit. It’s more about building a foundation for the shop to build on and a healthy relationship with the shop.
One of the cool things about ByK is that the brand loyalty is amazing. Once the end customer is on board and they see the merit, they tend to stay with the brand and to that shop. It’s that strong word of mouth and referral system that builds new customers and best of all it’s at the junior level that may ultimately lead to a lifetime customer. And Mums have a very big influence on ByK purchases, so another door opener category of customers to our stores
ByK’s models are named in accordance with their wheel size in metric sizing. So instead of the usual kids’ bike wheel size designations of 12 inch, 16 inch, 20 inch and so on, ByK’s range run through 250, 350, 450, 540 and 620. Retail pricing starts at $209 for the smallest balance bikes and runs all the way through to $829 for a disc brake, front suspension mountain bikes and even a cyclocross model. The best selling E-250, E-350 and E-450 models range from $319 to $699, depending upon the specification.
Warren says that repeat business from happy customers has been the driver of ByK’s steady growth over the past decade.
“If they bought an E-250 they’d almost certainly buy an E-350 then an E-450 as their child grows,” he explained. “Once the shops see that strength, then they see the merit of selling our brand.”
“I understand that the dealers aren’t going to be with us unless we offer really good margins. But the one hidden detail is the real margin. By and large, many kids bike brand names are discounted, particularly after Christmas.
“ByK Bikes is one of those few brand names in the marketplace, where the true margin is what you get at the cash register. Our price points hold up really well. And we are fairly Covid proof so stock is in and more on schedule for Christmas.
“Technically we have many advantages, like our weight savings, unique ergonomics, added safety elements, child-specific features, attention to the small detail and ultimately ease of rideability that makes us appealing,” Warren said.
“Most people walk in the door asking for ByK by name. Many often know the size and model and even the colour. That’s unique in the kids’ bike market.”
Designing, building and distributing high quality, lightweight, ergonomically designed kids bikes is the core of ByK. But with the brand-building such a following, the logical extension was to offer accessories, that give dealers the opportunity for great upsells with each bike sale, at higher margins.
ByK now offers about 15 accessory lines with everything from racks, locks, gloves, and more. “Our accessory range continues to grow. Helmets are particularly popular and at the right price and margin for an obvious add on. We are discovering that strong ByK brand allegiance with accessories as well,” Warren continued.
“As we don’t seasonally change bike models, dealers don’t get stuck with stock. We evolve colours and styling at a rate that allows dealers not to be stressed. Which means that if something hasn’t sold immediately, dealers can still get full margin for it when they do.”