July 10, 2018
Recently we sold the 300th Airdrop Edit. As milestones go, it's not massive but it did cause me to think and take stock a little bit. I did some analysis on who's bought them and where, so I thought I'd share that.
To put this article together, I did a bit of research and what I found most interesting is how few companies are either willing or able to share this kind of information. It made me pause a little bit, to think about whether it would be wise for me to be so transparent about everything. But why not? What have we got to lose? Honesty and transparency has always been key to how Airdrop is run so f**k it, this is the raw data.
To me, 300 bikes (combined bikes, frames and bundles) is a lot. When I quit my job to set Airdrop up a few years ago, I had no idea if it would work or not and when I eventually ordered the first batch of 100 frames, it was a huge commitment. I used to think of it a bit like climbing Everest: it's hard but you know it's possible, in theory you just take one step after another and eventually you'll get there. Or die in the attempt! Thankfully that hasn't happened, we've summited three times so far and we're still plodding along.
300 Airdrop Edits seems like a lot - to me at least. Considering until a year ago the business was just me and I was building them all in my garage, that's a lot of bikes. But in the grand scheme of things, it's nothing. Airdrop is a minnow, and hopefully always will be. Santa Cruz bikes describes itself as a small bike brand, but Pon Holdings (Santa Cruz owner) sells 800,000 bikes a year:
In this graphic, each square represents 100 bikes sold. We get 3 squares, Pon get 8000. Bear in mind we've sold 300 bikes all time, and Pon are selling that many each year. Admittedly it's a slightly dodgy comparison (sales figures are very hard to find), but the point is to put our relative success into perspective. You could substitute Specialised or Trek in for Pon and the result would be much the same.
At this point I want to point out that I don't ever want Airdrop to be that big; I'm actively trying not to grow Airdrop too quickly. I've worked at 'fast growth' companies before and to me, the sacrifices you make in the service of growth are not worth it. I'd rather focus on great product, great service and if we get that right, we'll be OK. Enjoying work every day is much more important than working towards some future goal - especially if that's just about money. So to me, Airdrop's minnow status is something that I'm not ashamed of at all and our size is not a measure of our success. I'd much rather Airdrop be the best than the biggest.
So who is buying these bikes then? Let's take a look at some demographics:
It's pretty obvious straight away that the bulk of our customers are young(ish) men. No surprises there perhaps. But what's cool to me is that we have riders as young as 15 and as old as 70 out riding on the same bikes.
What has surprised me a little bit though is how few women have bought the bikes - only 3.5% of the total, and mostly in the last few months. I don't have a benchmark for what the gender split is on the sport generally, so this may or may not be the norm. But I've never considered Airdrop to be a 'male' brand and we're not designing bikes specifically for men. So this is something that we may need to do differently or work harder on. We'll see - on the current trend, I'd expect the gender split to even out a little over the next year.
Yes, we have two Airdrop riding power couples; one double-edit combo and one Edit-Bitmap combo. So far nobody's gone for the ultimate matching his-n-hers bike combo but it's bound to happen at some point.
So that's who's buying the bikes, but what about where they're going? One thing that I didn't expect (but possibly should have) is the extent to which Airdrop became known internationally so quickly. It's probably a function of the fact that we're so present on social media; it doesn't really matter to a lot of people where we're based, especially young people. They can still follow us and get involved. But I've been impressed by the number of people willing to have a bike shipped internationally.
As you can see, our plans for total world domination aren't going that well. So far we've shipped bikes to 20 of the world's 195 countries. What we've found is that people get stoked on the idea that they might be the first person in their country to have an Airdrop bike, so if you're in one of the other 175 countries and you want a bike that nobody else has got, give us a shout!
Not surprisingly, most of our sales are in the EU:
As you can see we've got bikes in most western European countries now but could do with someone Portugal stepping up; there's an opportunity for someone to be número um. And of course as things stand right now, we're operating in the European Single Market so it's incredibly easy for us to ship bikes to Europe, as it is to buy things in. That looks set to change soon, so it'll be interesting (to say the least) to see how that pans out.
Ultimately though, Airdrop is a British Bike brand. That's something we talk about a lot, and it's something we're proud of. All our bikes are designed and developed here, tested here, and built to order in Sheffield. And therefore the appeal of what we have to offer is strongest to UK riders. Plus the fact that although we're often lumped in with the "online only" kinds of companies, we do actually welcome a lot of customers to our workshop for demos etc, and we're selling a fair few of these bikes face-to-face.
Here you can see where they're ending up. Pretty much everywhere that people live, with Sheffield, the Peak and Bristol roaring ahead.
I reckon the Northernmost bike is in Elgin, and the Southernmost in St Ives. I had expected there to be a bit of a North/South divide, but that's not evident when the postcodes are plotted on the map.
Colour has been an interesting one. It's kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy because we've always sold every frame we've had in stock, so the sales figures just reflect what I've chosen to order in. Raw has been consistently popular since we first did it in 2016, and although it never truly went away it's very much back in fashion these days. In a way it's become our thing, so when we launched the Bitmap hardtail we had to do that in Raw too.
The first Edit v1 shipment came in Raw, Grey and Orange, and I did the Grey because that's the colour I wanted. But it was less popular than Raw and Orange. All the time people asked for a black frame so they could do a stealth build, so when the Edit v2 came around I dropped Grey in favour of Black. But every time customers came in for a demo, they'd see my Grey bike and love the colour... As it turns out, much like Raw, Grey is on trend now, so we decided to do a Grey Bitmap.
As with colours, the sizing stats reflect what I've chosen to buy, but to a greater extent I've been able to use the sales figures to guide what I've ordered. The first couple of shipments were probably a bit heavy on size Small and light on size Large, so recently I've put more stock into the bigger sizes. The other issue here is that we were initially unable to do a four-size range with a genuine X-Large size. I've always been honest about that; it was because I couldn't afford to do it. As a result the Large is quite big, and maybe that's distorting the sales figures a bit. The Bitmap has an X-Large, as will all future bikes, so we'll see how that plays out.
When I set Airdrop up a couple of years ago, I was determined that we wouldn't keep customers waiting. Other (bigger) bike brands are notorious for long waiting lists, and that's not what I wanted to do. On the whole we've been able to turn orders around quickly, and the average waiting time is around 5 days. But if you've been following us closely you'll know that in recent months, we've struggled to keep enough stock coming in to meet demand. I'm told its a "good problem to have" because it means people want our bikes. And it's true that demand is growing all the time.
To be fully honest about it, we never have enough cash to order enough frames to meet the demand. And I've been quite vocal before now about my unwillingness to sell my soul to fund business growth. So even now, every penny earned goes back in to the business, and we've been working our asses off for months to put all the things in place to make sure stock availability is better from now on.
Within a week or so the next batch of Edits will be available to preorder and we have a full range of Bitmaps here ready to go. We've got more orders programmed in after that, so we're in good shape. It looks like the next 300 bikes will be at least as interesting as the first.
A special thank you to those 300 customers who've trusted us with their hard earned cash. Hopefully we've repaid that trust with some good times on the bikes. Cheers!
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Ed is the owner of Airdrop Bikes. A former web and graphic designer, he sacked off his job one day and decided to start up a bike brand.
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