David Hofner is retiring from his current role at GPI Apollo after over four decades of unbroken service to the Australian bicycle industry. During this time, he worked for just three companies, only moving when each of the first two businesses closed.
“I started in the bicycle industry in 1979 with Cycles Australia,” David recalled. “They were based originally at Dulwich Hill (in inner city Sydney) and I was there when they moved the warehouse out to Condell Park (further out in Sydney).
“They were Peugeot and Madison. Some of the Peugeot’s were coming in from France and if my memory serves me correctly, some of them were made in Geebung (a suburb of Brisbane) up in Queensland.
“My time at Cycles Australia lasted for three years up until 1982 when they basically wound up business. I was left in the warehouse, last man standing, selling off the remaining inventory to some of the local wholesalers.
“One of the wholesalers who came along was Graeme Southcott. We were talking about things and he said, ‘Where are you going to?’
“I said, ‘I’ve got something lined up at Repco but I’m not really excited.’ He said, ‘Leave it with me, I’ll talk to my brother.’”
The Southcott family were in the bicycle industry for over 100 years, best known as the importer of GT Bicycles but also involved in a wide range of other bike and P&A brands.
“I was at Southcott from 1982 right through to 2017,” David continued. “I was there while the business grew through ProTour, GT, Electra…
“I still kept in contact with some key accounts in NSW and I had a Sales Manager role for other states.”
For those reading this who are more recent entrants to the Australian bicycle industry, you might struggle to comprehend how dominant the Southcott sponsored and managed GT teams were in both the Australian BMX and mountain biking scenes, particularly through the first half of the 1990’s. They invested heavily in the best riders, management and bike technology.
David continued, “We were top of the charts really. We were putting on events. The MTB team was competing nationally and we had the BMX team that was supervised by Brian Pearse.
“From 1990 though to 1998 when the World BMX championships were held in Melbourne, there were some great days.
“I keep in touch with Graeme Southcott and I spoke with him about it only a few months ago. We were winning races on the weekend and selling bikes through the week, it was fantastic.”
However as the 1990’s rolled into the 2000’s, the competition both on the race courses and in the showrooms intensified as Giant, Trek and Specialized all made big investments into their newly established Australian subsidiaries.
On a global level, when GT founder Gary Turner and his business partner sold GT to venture capital firm Bain Capital in 1993 it began a long and turbulent decade for the brand which only stabilised in 2004 when current owner, Dorel Industries, took over. During this troubled decade, GT had lost both market share and its previous technological edge.
“Southcott’s decided that the bike game was getting a little bit more difficult to make a good return on their investment,” David recalled. “They’re still very active in the hydraulic industry.
“But by then all of the global bike brands were here, with global buying power. Southcott didn’t have that global buying power so they decided it was time to exit.
“Discussions took place between GPI Apollo and Southcott and I was involved in some of that process in transitioning some of the Southcott brands.
“An opportunity was there was there for me to move across to GPI Apollo in a representation role in the market that I was already very familiar with (northern Sydney suburbs and parts of NSW north of Sydney.) So I took up that opportunity in October 2017.”
David has remained at GPI Apollo since then but has now decided to hang up his wheels.
“Both my wife Kerrie and myself have decided to retire within a couple of weeks of each other,” he explained. “For us it’s time to move on and be focussed more on the family aspect and enjoy life a little bit more without the situation where we’re both working five days per week. We can look after the grandkids and be there to do family things.”
Join the Conversation: The Latz Report team would like to wish David all the best in his retirement. If you would like to leave a message for David, please use the comments box below.