D’Ieteren has a national ambition in the electric bicycle

D’Ieteren bought a first bicycle shop. Its ambition is to have a national network of bicycle shops, mainly electric, within five years.

It was written at the bottom of the page since Karl Lechat left his post as Skoda Belgium boss at D’Ieteren to develop a bicycle business last May. D’Ieteren Auto wants to tackle the Belgian bicycle market. A market that sticks with its vision towards a greener business, but also synonymous with great growth and still very weak consolidation.

In fact, “of the 1,500 to 1,700 bicycle operators in Belgium, barely 60 to 70 are part of chains “, details Lechat. Since the ambition was mapped out, a small bike division has been struggling to make this ambition a reality. Karl Lechat has just laid an important stone in his building by buying the Goodbikes store, next to the historic headquarters of D’Ieteren.

Giovanni Franzi, the boss of Goodbikes, is a supporter of “quality bikes and service”. His adventure of recent years resembles that of many bicycle operators. The bicycle boom has grown his business, but took a tremendous amount of time and energy. The covid has further accelerated growth. Today, Goodbikes, which has been in existence for four years, has a turnover “between 1 and 2 million euros”.

Specializing in all types of bikes with a strong emphasis on cargo bikes, Goodbikes was not a salesperson. But the philosophy of Karl Lechat’s team stuck with that of Giovanni Franzi who will be able to abandon accounting and pay slips to focus on what he likes in his job and free up time for his family.

Hunting for m²

With the lack of bicycles and parts, the dynamics of the sector changed a lot during the pandemic.

“All stores are asking themselves questions and whether they should grow or join forces.”

Karl lechat

Managing Director Bikes Projet D’Ieteren

Bicycle vendors must now pre-order and store their bikes, whereas before, they could rely more on the stock of suppliers. Combine this with big growth, and the risk to bicycle operators becomes greater. “All bicycle shops are asking themselves questions and whether they should grow up or join forces,” says Lechat.

It also results from this growth that most urban bicycle operators are running out of space, especially since the work in the workshop accumulates. Goodbikes and its team of 8 people (FTE) had already taken the plunge and placed their workshop in m² of D’Ieteren that they were renting. The store will therefore naturally move to the D’Ieteren headquarters and the showroom will at the same time increase from 100 to 1,100 m² in March / April. In all, Goodbikes should occupy 3,000 m² and even have a test track on site.

Acquisitions hunt

For D’Ieteren Auto, this is just the start of a new adventure. “Our ambition is national, but we are go step by step“, reveals Karl Lechat. The idea is to have a complete network in five years. He is in discussion with other stores to buy them and would like to have at least four points of sale well distributed in Brussels. Contrary to what has been written, D’Ieteren should not not start directly in Antwerp, but would like to have fully implemented its activities in Brussels within a year and have attacked another city in the country by then, depending on the opportunities, Antwerp or elsewhere.

D’Ieteren does not intend to set up a franchise system, but on the contrary to be entirely the owner of the activity. “Our basic job is to be a network manager, to have a local impact through a network”, points out Jean-Marc Ponteville, communications director of D’Ieteren Auto. “Running a network” was also Karl Lechat’s primary function at Skoda. In his previous functions, he launched the Skoda mobility store at Docks Brussels, which he already saw as a laboratory.

At D’Ieteren, we also work developing a name for this new chain of stores who wants to capitalize on the strength of local stores while bringing in strengths such as financing, marketing, network, etc. Goodbikes is a rating of 4.9 / 5 on Google to which Karl Lechat is very keen.

D’Ieteren’s strategy will also naturally go online. A CTO has just been hired and the online sales platform aims to be launched in the second quarter of 2022.

“According to D’Ieteren’s Polaris mobility study, 40% of Belgian users say they want to use the bicycle in their daily trips, its share of trips would drop from 11% to 15% by 2030, often in addition to the car “, recalls D’Ieteren.” Still according to Polaris, 2 out of 3 bicycles would be electric in 2030 “, adds the company A business for more expensive and therefore not insignificant bicycles.

Ieteren a également the B2B market in the viewfinder, whether in the bicycle in a mobility package or in the professional cargo bike. Commercial synergies between the company’s mobility initiatives (Lab Box) and traditional business must be identified.

In any case, the historic importer of Volkswagen group brands does not want to let this cycling adventure, as an essential means of mobility, escape him.

The summary

  • D’Ieteren has just bought Goodbikes, a bicycle store near its headquarters
  • D’Ieteren’s cycling ambition is national.
  • As a first step, the company will work to establish a good offer in Brussels and look for another city simultaneously.
  • Other acquisitions are planned in a bicycle dealer market that is still very poorly consolidated.
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