2 Looking to the future
Accell Group’s ambition is to be a trendsetter in the development and sale of sustainable consumer goods for short-distance mobility and active recreation and sports.
Accell Group’s strategy is built on the following premises:
- Safeguarding and strengthening its market positions
- The launch of appealing and distinctive bicycle collections
- Focus on R&D know-how and innovative strength
- Protection of intellectual property
- Active support for the specialist retail trade
- Maintaining its number one position in the growing e-bike market
- Active cost and inventories management
- Realising organic growth and growth through profitable acquisitions
- Utilising synergies and benefits of scale
- Recruiting and retaining talented employees
- Actively responding to sustainable trends such as ‘more exercise and healthier living’ and sustainable mobility and stay mobile longer
- To build the production and processes in the most friendly way for humanity and the environment.
2.2.1 Safeguarding and strengthening the market positions of Accell Group’s strong national brands and international expansion of the position of its sports brands
Consumers are willing to invest in high-quality products and this makes recognisable and well-positioned nationally strong brands important. A focused and consistent brand policy enhances our ability to constantly provide added value to both consumers and the specialist retail trade.
Accell Group’s international top sports brands create excellent opportunities for growth in the countries in which they are active and for expansion to new countries. Continuous investments with a strong focus on innovation and design is crucial on this front.
Accell Group’s country organisations operate close to the market and this means they can respond quickly to the specific demands of consumers, for instance in the production of small(er) series and custom-made bicycles.
We continue to innovate and adapt our products to the tastes and preferences of consumers to ensure the Accell Group brands remains attractive to their specific target groups. Innovative strength and consumer-focus are the tools we use to continuously strengthen the market positions of our brands nationally and internationally on an organic basis.
2.2.2 Continuous introduction of appealing and distinctive bicycle collections and increasing added value
The delivery of innovative bicycles is the underlying theme of Accell Group’s brand strategy. Products that appeal to consumers. Although consumers are keeping a close eye on their disposable income, there is still a huge demand for quality and added value. Delivering added value and maintaining differentiating potential are very likely to become even more important. Ease of use, design and safety, together with complementary parts and accessories, play a significant role on this front. Accell Group focuses on active support, intensive cooperation with the bicycle and sports retail trade and targeted marketing at the points of sale in the retail sector, plus direct marketing targeting consumers.
Innovations appeal to consumers. Accell Group invests relatively large amounts in (technical) innovation and aims to be a leader in this field. The company therefore invests more in product development than the average company in the bicycle sector. These innovations are increasingly focused on electric bikes and high-grade sports bikes, the market sectors with attractive growth potential.
Over the years, the group has built up a strong track record when it comes to innovative potential. The R&D teams of the country organisations introduce new innovations and product improvements every single year. And every year, Accell Group’s strong brands successfully launch bicycle collections with various innovations.
These innovations include spoke patterns, the integration of batteries in frames, the detachable battery in the frame and various frame suspension systems, such as the new E:I system, all confirming the leading position Accell Group and its brands occupy on this front. Another example is the development of the new Speed Pedelec (up to 45 km/h).
The name recognition and strong brand image Accell group has developed over the years, together with the development of recognisable bicycle designs within the collections, represent considerable value and Accell Group protects this value against potential misuse and infringements. In case of misuse by third parties the company will take action.
Accell Group has contracted a consultant who specialises in this field to combat both fakes and trademark infringements using state-of-the-art methods. The protection of intellectual property also extends beyond brand and model protection to cover specific innovations and product improvements, for which Accell Group holds more than 40 international patents.
2.2.5 Actively helping specialist retailers to provide quality in service and sales to consumers and increasing complementary sales
Close cooperation with the retail trade is essential if you want to make a real difference in the bicycle market. Consumers attach enormous importance to the service provided, especially since they are making a relatively expensive purchase. Specialist bicycle and sports retailers are in a prime position to guarantee end-users of bicycles the very best possible service, specifically during the purchase process, with professional advice, and in after sales, with services such as inspection, final assembly and ready-to-ride delivery.
The use of internet and e-commerce plays a significant role in our cooperation with the specialist retail trade. The online functionalities Accell Group offers via the websites of its brands and via social media make it easier for consumers to make well-informed choices when they purchase bicycles and bicycle-related products. We can use these channels to provide consumers with all the relevant information they need and offer additional services to increase the ease of purchase in the store.
Accell Group continues to provide the option of assembling and ordering custom-made bikes online. An advanced application offers the consumer and/or dealer the opportunity to design a bike according to their own specifications. The company uses data linking to record the information and ordering requirements of the specialist retailer and the bicycle details.
Accell Group is also actively working to make the back-end of the distribution chain more effective and more efficient. The company is actively developing new digital solutions and functionalities that help retailers to optimise and simplify their store management.
2.2.6 Realising growth by maintaining Accell Group’s number one position in the growing market for electric bicycles, plus strengthening the company’s market position in bicycle parts and accessories
The electric bike is popular for both leisure activities and for short and medium distance travel. It is a popular mode of transport in major cycling nations like the Netherlands and Germany. On an international level, demand for electric bikes is still limited, but that also means there is considerable potential for growth.
This is a market with a relatively high level of technology, which makes it an excellent fit with Accell Group’s innovation-driven approach. The company is well prepared to maintain and expand its leading position in this high growth market.
Accell Group is also focusing on growth in the market for bicycle parts and accessories. The company has been active in this steadily growing market for many years. This is a market driven by the growing demand for parts for maintenance and repairs, plus increasing demand for accessories aimed at increasing comfort and functionality. The market for bicycle parts and accessories is complementary to the market for bicycles, but less brand dominated and very strongly service-oriented. Key service aspects are availability, delivery time, a broad product range and technical support from the specialist bicycle and sports retail trade.
Accell Group has built up strong market positions in various countries and exports parts and accessories across the world. Additional increases in scale and an efficiently structured supply chain are crucial to maintaining the company’s differentiating potential and gaining a competitive edge in this market. This makes a Europe-wide – for the time being - network indispensable.
Accell Group wants to be a highly attractive player for suppliers of parts and accessories and aims to supply them across Europe, as much as it can via a single point of contact.
Active cost management is a key tool in Accell Group’s aim to improve its operating margins and competitive position. The company aims not only for moderate increases in wage costs, for instance, but also actively works to realise structural cost savings within the group by:
- increasing the efficiency of its purchasing and logistical process;
- combining activities;
- creating more integrated country organisations;
- relocating production and assembly when this is considered worthwhile;
- increasing the flexibility of our cost base, so we are in a better position to anticipate shifts in demand across each season.
The seasonal nature of Accell Group’s activities makes effective inventories management a major priority. Inventories management is the most important tool Accell Group has to optimise its working capital utilisation and by doing so reduce costs and improve profitability. Inventory levels vary greatly across the bicycle season and Accell Group aims to create the best possible balance between sufficient availability during the season and limiting the discounts given to retailers at the end of the season to reduce inventory levels in the run-up to the next season.
The global bicycle market and related complementary market for parts and accessories are relatively fragmented, with very few major international players and numerous smaller players in each country. Market consolidation has accelerated in recent years.
In terms of bicycles, Accell Group targets not only organic growth with its existing brands, but is also explicitly looking to generate growth through acquisitions. These may be acquisitions in markets where Accell Group is already active or in attractive new markets.
Accell Group is also actively looking for suitable acquisition candidates to boost its network in the field of parts and accessories in terms of returns and synergies. This means that Accell Group assesses potential acquisitions in terms of value and it does not believe in making acquisitions at any price.
Its scale in the global bicycle market gives Accell Group more commercial power than most of the competitors in its markets. Accell Group realises scale and synergy benefits in a variety of ways across the group and between the country organisations. These include:
- integration of back office systems;
- centrally coordinated sourcing;
- continued intensification of cooperation with suppliers;
- combining or outsourcing production activities;
- exchange of best practices and know-how in the field of product development, innovations and marketing.
Initiatives in all of these areas have already resulted in tangible efficiency improvements, but there is still room for improvement.
Talented and motivated employees are important to the realisation of Accell Group’s ambitions. Accell Group wants to offer its staff a challenging working environment that suits their personal abilities and ambitions. Our employees experience an open and professional corporate culture. The company attaches a great deal of importance to the health of the employees, by offering them a safe workplace, training and good career prospects. Many of the employees are entitled to a share in the profits.
2.2.11 Actively responding to sustainable trends such as ‘more exercise and healthier living’ and sustainable mobility and stay mobile longer
The bicycle market is benefiting from a number of key demographic and sustainable social trends that also affect consumers’ lifestyles. Sustainable mobility solutions also play a role on this front and the purpose of Accell Group’s products makes them a perfect fit for these trends.
Consumers are increasingly aware of their environment and more and more of them are consciously choosing environment-friendly modes of transport as an alternative to cars or scooters. Consumers are also more health conscious and are therefore also choosing to use bikes as a way to keep fit, get regular exercise or get into sports. Urbanisation is boosting the demand for alternative short-distance mobility solutions, which is in turn increasing demand for bicycles. Electric bikes also make medium distances easier to bridge for consumers. The ageing of the population and the fact that people are living longer, stay active for longer and remain healthy until later in life are also key factors on this front. Numerous national and local governments have been encouraging bicycle use for one or more of the above reasons for many years.
2.2.12 To build the production and processes in the most friendly way for humanity and the environment
Accell Group’s ambition is to integrate sustainability and corporate social responsibility in the company’s strategy and operating processes as much as possible. For Accell Group’s strategy on corporate social responsibility, we refer you to chapter 5 of this annual report.
In the context of its mission and strategy, Accell Group has set itself the following targets:
- an improvement in operating margins;
- a healthy and sustainable return for its shareholders;
- a stimulating working environment for its employees;
- an increase in market share for its existing brands;
- a further strengthening of its leading positions in various countries;
- a greater geographical reach and the acquisition of complementary business;
- a complete range of choices for consumers;
- a healthy financial position;
- responsible and sustainable production.
Stakeholders are important to Accell Group and have an impact on the company’s policies. We are in constant dialogue with our stakeholders and we ensure that dialogue is followed-up on. For instance, once a year we assess whether we need to amend our material themes. In addition to the regular contacts, Accell Group holds a dialogue session with its stakeholders or a consultation on a specific theme once a year.
Local and regional importance
In 2015, Accell Group companies initiated a dialogue with local authorities and advocacy groups about the importance of Accell Group to the region. These contacts revealed that Accell companies are valued greatly because of their economic contribution to the region. This is especially important to smaller cities, in particular because of the employment created. There was also appreciation for the fact that Accell Group companies hire young people and provide jobs for people with low-level education and those who have difficulty accessing the labour market. Local authorities experience their relationship with Accell Group as pleasant and without exception hope that the companies will remain in their city or region for a long time. They consider Accell Group’s innovation strategy as crucial to safeguarding a long-term perspective for the companies in question. Accell Group added one material theme in 2015: (local) employment.
Below is an overview of Accell Group’s main stakeholders. We describe each group and outline how often and the methods we use to communicate with them on a regular basis. You will find a description of the material themes our stakeholders find important in the chapter 5 - 'Society and the Environment' (page 61 onwards).
People with a fixed, temporary or flexible contract at Accell Group or one of Accell Group’s companies.
Regular contacts supported by internal newsletters. Accell Group publishes a special CSR newsletter twice a year.
The newsletters and the annual report are the most important sources of information for employees to follow the developments within the group.
Specialist bicycle and sports retailers that sell Accell Group’s bicycles and parts and accessories.
Accell companies are in contact almost daily with the dealers in their network, via the visits of their sales staff. They organise events for their dealers and meet at (inter)national bicycle trade fairs.
Consumers – bicycles
People who own or will in future own an Accell Group bike.
In addition to online channels, we target consumers primarily via specialist bike and sports retailers. They receive information in the form of brochures, for instance. We take stock of the information and product requirements of this target group by means of dealer visits and through dealer and consumer panels.
Shareholders – analysts – regulators
Current and potential shareholders, analysts, and regulators such AFM and DNB.
Accell Group organises regular contact moments for this target group, such as sessions for analysts and investors and the annual shareholders meeting. We are also present at conferences and road shows. In addition, we publish interim and annual results, trading updates, other relevant messages and obviously the annual report itself.
Public sector bodies in charge of (inter)national legislation and the governing bodies or provinces and municipalities where Accell Group is located.
Accell Group actively seeks a dialogue with the various public sector bodies if there is reason to do so, either directly or indirectly.
Trade organisations – advocacy groups
National and international industry organisations such as WFSGI, EBMA, CONEBI, RAI (NL) and Univelo (FR).
National and international organisations that have a connection with the products of Accell Group, such as ECF, the Dutch Cyclists Union, and the ADAC in Germany.
Accell Group and its companies are represented on the boards of various organisations. In addition, we make contact at various bicycle-related events and trade fairs.
Companies that supply Accell Group, either directly or indirectly, with bicycles, parts and accessories or services.
Accell Group companies are in daily contact with their suppliers via their purchasing organisation. Accell Group also has regular contacts with the main suppliers. (Inter)national trade fairs also provide good contacts.
Accell Group companies
Companies that are currently part of Accell Group, or will be in the future.
In addition to the daily regular contacts, Accell Group has specific group consultations with its companies two or three times a year for each focus area. These are meetings such as the General Managers Meeting (GMM), R&D, and meetings related to marketing, after-market, production and controllers (finance).
Accell Group companies’ main activity is the development and marketing of bicycles, parts and accessories. A number of companies also carry out production activities, such as the assembly and painting of bicycles.
Aside from the group’s own production activities, we also purchase a major proportion. These are mainly designs we have developed ourselves, but also standard parts. Transport is almost entirely outsourced to logistics partners and takes place by truck, boat and train. Bicycles are sold to consumers primarily via the specialist retail trade.
The material themes for Accell Group have been determined in consultation with our stakeholders, taking into account the entire value chain. The following steps were taken in this process:
- The selection of possibly relevant aspects through a study of current literature, GRI indicators, ISO 26000 and talks with stakeholders.
- The assessment of the importance of every aspect through stakeholder consultations and dialogue.
- The prioritisation of aspects by Accell Group management, taking into consideration the interests of stakeholders, as well as the extent to which Accell Group can influence an aspect.
- The determination of the indicators for reporting.
“Accell Group manufactures a sustainable product in a socially and environmentally responsible manner, based on the premise that a responsible organisation is transparent about its operating methods”
Corporate social responsibility to us means keeping an open mind to developments in society and incorporating those in our products and activities. Accell Group supports the principles laid down in the OECD directives for multinational companies.
Accell Group produces a sustainable product that contributes to a healthy lifestyle and a reduction in CO2 emissions. We constantly work on the continued development of this sustainable product. A second key priority is ensuring that production is as friendly as possible in terms of its impact on people and the environment.
Working on sustainability
We have made enormous progress in the field of sustainability and the environment. The policy for the coming period has a number of focal points:
- creating a stimulating working environment for employees, with a focus on enjoyment in their work, safety, health and development. People are the heart of the organisation.
- contributing to more sustainable mobility with our products
- boosting our contribution by supporting initiatives that promote sustainable mobility, sports and exercise
- be innovative in making our own activities more sustainable and thus be a trendsetter in the sector
- encouraging suppliers, dealers and customers to operate sustainably
- this is aided by Accell Group’s key position in the value chain and its pivotal function between the various groups
We consider some aspects of CSR pre-competitive. A joint approach is the most effective in significant collective aspects. We often take the lead in those instances. For instance, in promoting CSR in the supply chain.
Accell Group has a horizontal organisational structure. The size of the subsidiaries varies from 20 to more than 500 employees. Subsidiaries have considerable operational responsibility, which focuses primarily on the position of their brand(s) in the markets. They determine the company strategy and related CSR strategy together with the holding.
In each of the Accell Group companies, one of the managers is responsible for CSR. These managers are all part of the ACSI network (Accell Corporate Sustainability Network) and are supported by the holding. The Chief Operations Officer of Accell Group has final responsibility for the CSR policy.
Membership of industry bodies
Accell Group is a member of various national and international industry organisations and initiatives. A number of these focus specifically on CSR. Accell Group has a seat on a large number of boards, such as that of the WFSGI (World Federation of Sporting Goods Industry), in national organisations such as the Dutch RAI association and Univelo in France, plus the European umbrella organisation CONEBI. Accell Group also has a seat on various committees that draw up safety standards at a European and global level.