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Pete Swatkins

Pete Swatkins

An interview with a Marketeer – we chat with Emma Pilkington of Velochampion

We learn how health and fitness industry professionals have been spending lockdown.

If you’ve been following our Instagram for the last few weeks, you’ll no doubt have seen our “Lockdown Live” series of videos, where we’ve been catching up with professionals from across the health, fitness and wellbeing industries. We’ve learnt how they got into the their current roles, the journeys they’ve taken and we’ve even heard how they’re coping with lockdown – whether they’re simply surviving, or feel like they’re thriving through this highly unusual time – they’ve shared with us their highs, lows, and all the in-betweens. We’re continuing our series with this latest blog post, catching up with Emma Pilkington, who is the Marketing Manager at Maxgear Ltd, who own cycling brand, VeloChampion

TFT: Emma, thanks for your time today. Firstly, tell us a bit about Maxgear – what are they known for?

EP: Maxgear Limited has been established for 11 years. We sell various cycling products under the brand name VeloChampion. We supply almost everything in cycling apart from the bike! We have previously had our own Maxgear Racing Team that have helped top riders like Adam and Simon Yates get known in the professional cycling scene. We are also sunglasses sponsor of the Tour of Britain for the 4th year running.

TFT: You’re the Marketing Manager there, how did you get into this role?

EP: I previously worked in the outdoor product market and wanted to get back into this. I started cycling around 6 years ago, so combining my love for cycling and marketing became my ideal role.

TFT: What’s a typical day for you, and how has the recent lockdown affected your day-to-day?

EP: Day-to-day it has meant a lot more working from home, but we have still been able to operate in order to equip commuters and cyclists to ensure key workers can get to work and other cyclists can keep up their daily exercise.

TFT: Have you noticed your customers’ behaviour change too – for example, are there some products where you’ve seen an increase in demand due to people having to stay home?

EP: We have seen an increase in our pump and bike maintenance sales. I think a people have been getting their old bikes out of the garage and fixing them up so they can stay active!

TFT: One of the challenges we’ve found has been striking the right balance between being sensitive to the current climate, but also trying to keep business going – how have you managed this as Marketing Manager?

EP: We want to be able to equip customers with the right tools for their exercise or commute to keep the customers cycling, yet we have had some challenges with our international customers due to border closures.

TFT: What shifts do you think we’ll see in brands and marketing over the next 12 months?

EP: I am hoping that lockdown will enable people to put their health and lifestyle choices first. It would be great to see more people active (not just on the bike but other sports too). Exercise also helps boost your immune system and mental health. I am hoping that mental health also becomes a bigger focus than it has been in the past and I am sure we will be seeing more of this in marketing in the future.

TFT: With the vast majority of bricks & mortar stores shut, we’ve seen a surge in online spending of late – how has Maxgear been positioned to cope with increased demand?

EP: Maxgear is a purely online company with a main base locally, but we are also aware this has affected physical stores, yet bike shops have been open most of the time through lockdown.

TFT: Obviously we’ve seen lots of the big summer sporting events either cancelled or postponed – what challenges does this now pose for you?

EP: We are a sponsor of a few events; Tour De Manc, Tour of Britain, Womens Tour, Tour Series and more. These have now been cancelled and will be re-run next year. We still want to support these events next year and I enjoy attending the events, talking to customers and experiencing the atmosphere too. It is a shame for the events industry, but I am hopeful we will see it pick up again next year. The cycling season (professional cycling races) is usually March – September, but this year they are looking at starting the season from July – November. Like a lot of things in lockdown, this has never happened before, so we will see how that pans out.

TFT: From a personal perspective, what have you been doing to keep healthy and active (both physically and mentally) over the last couple of months?

EP: I am cycling 2-3 times a week which is keeping me active. I also do a bit of yoga for injury prevention.

TFT: And finally, what have you enjoyed about this time? Is there anything (eg. New habits / hobbies) you’ll be continuing once we head back towards “normal” life?

EP:I have made a conscious effort to commute more on the bike and this is my new ‘normal’ commute to work now. I quite like it.

I have also been sewing protective face masks for family and friends during lockdown. I am new to sewing, so this has been a great challenge for me to pick up a new hobby.

We’re very grateful to Emma for taking the time to share her insights with us. If you’d like to hear from more of our industry professionals (we’ve spoken to ex-international rugby players, professional cricketers, those working in the NHS, and coaches working at the top of their game) head over to our Instagram @thefitnesstruck.

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