Materiel-Velo.com is on course to generate revenues of 15 million euros this year, and offers more than 300 brands and almost 50,000 references.
Could you tell us about the key stages that led to this wonderful success story?
The development of the website in 2004 took place within a very different environment to the current one. There was less competition back then, and it was easier to get a foothold in the market. Materiel-Velo.com thus saw its development grow from 2005, and by end-2006 / early 2007 its revenues rapidly exceeded a million euros.
2008 was a pivotal and historic year for Materiel-Velo.com, with the opening of our first store (north of Lyon). It was also the year in which my first partner came onboard. In 2010, we opened a second store in Clermont-Ferrand. The website continued to be the driving force behind our growth and pursued its buoyant development. In 2012, we reached a watershed in Materiel-Velo.com’s development: we generated revenues of 4 million euros, but the competition was taking shape with the emergence of major players. Materiel-Velo.com was reaching the limits of its growth.
That’s when Societe Generale Capital Partenaires (SGCP) acquired a stake, enabling us to structure the company. We notably put in place more accurate and computerised inventory management, a more extensive listing of our products and competitive intelligence, which enabled us to record periods of annual growth of between 10% and 30%. In 2018, we decided to accelerate the development of our network of stores. I felt it was more pertinent to invest financial resources in our physical network, online competition having intensified with the arrival of global and highly-structured players. SGCP reinvested alongside us in late 2017 to enable us to implement this new strategy. Since then, we have opened four more sales outlets in La Motte-Servolex (Chambéry), Aix-en-Provence, Sainte-Luce-sur-Loire (Nantes) and Artigues-près-Bordeaux. Two more outlets are scheduled to open in the Val d’Oise department and Lille in 2019.
For the last year or so, following essential digital development work, Materiel-Velo.com has been focusing its development on cross-channel activity, with the opening of these new stores. What is this strategy’s objective?
The opening of 6 stores in 2 years has allowed us to get closer to our customers and therefore expand the number of potential customers. Our strategy centres on the premium and sports sector of cycling. We want to provide a response for a clientele that prefers to see and try a product before purchasing it. This also boosts sales of bicycles, and more generally of high-quality products. Having physical sales outlets enables us to accompany the client through the purchasing process regarding issues such as the guarantee, upkeep, and to answer all kinds of technical questions about the products.
SGCP reinvested alongside us in late 2017 to enable us to implement this new strategy.
Denis Montard, founder of Materiel-Velo.com
In practice, what are you putting in place to ensure that there is genuine interaction between your stores and your website? What place do new technologies have in this set-up?
Regarding the product offer, I think that it’s enjoyable to be able to look through and choose products comfortably from home and then go to a store and see the same products with the same sales conditions. Today, our competitors’ physical networks are very disparate and use a franchise model, so prices and references may vary from store to store. Materiel-Velo.com has a global and harmonised product offer with prices the same throughout the network and a shared workshop offer. We are proud to be able to tell our customers that we cover the entire range of cycling equipment and accessories from the sales offer to the workshop offer. Few stores can boast of having 50,000 products listed.
From a commercial perspective, there is a single customer base. A customer who purchases a product online is known in stores and can choose between home delivery and picking up the product from a sales outlet. This encourages our clientele to come into contact with our teams and helps improve the customer experience. Moreover, our newsletters serve both our stores and our website. Indeed, when we talk about a new article and/or a promotion in a newsletter, this is valid for all our stores. This allows us to forge a connection between the website and our physical outlets. This harmonisation helps us make the 25,000 daily visits to our website a real strength, thus generating traffic in our stores.
Societe Generale Capital Partenaires has been working with Materiel-Velo.com since 2012, and put additional investment into the company in 2017. What sort of relationship do you have with this investor, and what have you gained from SGCP’s support?
On a human level, we have a very good relationship. Since 2012, we have had just two contacts, Marc Andrieu and then Fabien Gilbert. We appreciate this stability, as well as the fact that we have contacts who understand our activity’s challenges and stakes. We operate in a market that is constantly evolving, and we often have our noses to the grindstone. We therefore particularly appreciate being understood and being followed over the long term.
SGCP’s stake in Materiel-Velo.com provided us with a medium-term vision enabling us to see further ahead and contemplate our next step. It has also allowed us to structure our organisation. Lastly, having SGCP there by our side helped us during the debt financing phase. This reassured the other banking players and bolstered their decision to come onboard this adventure.