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Kiwi e-bike company launches own brand Black Bikes into the UK after home success

New Zealand-owned e-bike supplier Electrify NZ has launched their own e-bike brand into the United Kingdom, following success in the New Zealand market.

With a recent survey by Bosch eBike Systems showing 55 per cent of British people are considering purchasing an e-bike following last year’s lockdown, the opportunities are clear for the Kiwi company.

Electrify NZ is New Zealand’s only nationwide specialist electric bike retailer, with a franchise retail operation of eight stores around the country and supply agreements with around 30 independent stores.

The popularity of e-bikes has also exploded here in New Zealand. The value of e-bike imports increased over 300% between April 2018 and April 2021, according to Statistics NZ, skyrocketing from just $27m to $84m over that period. 

Electrify NZ has grown in proportion to this demand, with founder Michael Tritt building the business, together with business partners Ron Minkhorst and James Munro, from its first ‘shoe-box’ size shop in Freeman’s Bay in 2015, to the nationwide business it is today.

“I’ve been a commuter cyclist for most of my adult life, and when I learned about e-bikes I had an epiphany of sorts; I could see how they could get more people into bike riding, and how the technology has the opportunity to be transformative in terms of how people move within their communities and beyond.”

After getting to know the New Zealand market and what consumers want and need in an e-bike, Electrify NZ launched their own e-bike brand in 2019, Black Bikes, designed and developed here in New Zealand.

“After several years in business importing and selling e-bikes, we felt we knew what the New Zealand customer wanted; a versatile bike that can go from cycling on the road around town to dirt trails on the weekend with ease,” explains Tritt.

“Many overseas brands don’t offer this adaptability, more suited to the cobblestones of Amsterdam. With Black Bikes, we are able to create bikes according to our specifications to meet the needs of New Zealanders, and also deliver an affordable price point to make them accessible for more people.”

With Black Bikes now the top selling brand across Electrify NZ’s network and one of the biggest across all retailers, they have decided to launch into the UK.

“While we love the New Zealand market, it is small – five million people, whereas the UK is sixty-five million. So the market potential is a game-changer,” says Tritt.

“Doing international business has also been tricky since the pandemic; with supply chain issues we will be lucky to get 30% of what we ordered from our European suppliers this season. We had a partner (also a New Zealander) on the ground in the UK we trusted, so it seemed like the ideal first stop in expansion.

“We’ve used the e-bikes’ attributes and its Kiwi origins to make them attractive to UK consumers, who often have an affinity for all things New Zealand.”

Launching into the UK does bring its own challenges, with Black Bikes needing to overcome EU and UK trade barriers. While Black Bikes are designed here, they are usually manufactured in Asia and both the EU and UK have prohibitive trade restrictions in place, especially on product from China.

“To get the initial shipment to the UK, we’ve had the parts shipped to New Zealand where we assembled them in our Hamilton warehouse, before shipping them the UK. For future shipments, we’ll be looking to do it more efficiently possibly through a sub-assembly facility in Europe,” says Tritt.

To introduce the brand in the UK, the Black Bikes team recently attended a major electric bike expo at Alexandra Palace in London, where Black Bikes were exhibited alongside major British and international brands.

“We were very busy as Londoners turned out to the expo to try a range of e-bikes. We received positive feedback from those who tested our bikes, with many favourable comparisons to the more expensive European bikes on show. As we’d hoped, the New Zealand-focused branding also went down well,” says Tritt.

“Following on from the expo, we have a container of Black Bikes on its way to support our foray into the UK market, but we hope to scale this up to several thousand bikes over the next two years. Since the expo, we’ve already had several sales come through, so the future is promising.”

Electrify NZ, Michael Tritt