Our Thoughts on the WiggleCRC Takeover

Our Thoughts on the WiggleCRC Takeover

by Jake Wright on Mar 09, 2024

Everyone in the cycling trade seems to be talking about a certain Sports Direct owner taking over Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles, and it’s not hard to see why. I read in a recent Cycling Weekly article that Mike Rice said the “industry has had more turbulence than I’ve seen in the 30 plus years I’ve been involved in it”. So, I met with John for a coffee, who has successfully navigated Lusso through the last 4 decades of the bike trade from our inception in 1982 to when I took over the reins in 2021, and asked him a few questions to get his thoughts on what’s going on.

John Cutting Manually

Can you remember any other hard times in Lusso’s history where the cycling industry has struggled?

“Covid was definitely the biggest high and the biggest low,” John recalls. Lusso thrived during the pandemic as we had plenty of raw rolls of fabric in stock so we could continue to manufacture clothing without relying on external suppliers, but it seems to be the winding down after the pandemic that has unfortunately been the tipping point for a lot of companies. Overstocking for forecasted growth paired with the cost of living crisis has put financial strain on businesses, as all their cash is held in stock of finished goods that aren’t moving fast enough. Because our money is mainly held in raw materials, we managed to dodge the brunt of the fallout as we could be more flexible with what products we manufactured these fabrics into when the demand arose. The 2008 financial crash didn’t affect us too badly, but John did have some interesting memories of the Mad Cow disease in the late 80s, remember that? He described it as a “mini covid with people being quarantined and not going out on their bikes as much”.


“We've been forced to be innovative” 

Supplying our kit directly to end users has enabled us to develop close relationships with our customers. John recalls an encounter with a chap in a bike show 15 years ago with arthritis in his knees who asked if we had anything really warm he could use in the winter. Long story short, we came up with a prototype bib tight with double thickness panels on the knees and sent it to him within a few weeks. This prototype went on to become our best selling Termico bib tights (The current version of our double skinned bibs are called the Traditional). This customer was about to pack in cycling outdoors and stick to the turbo instead, but because we listened to his problems and found a solution, he continued to ride outdoors and remains a loyal customer to this day. This is one of the differences between us and some of the big companies that have to outsource production overseas. The brief might not be understood properly or ignored altogether, as it's too small of an order. 

from the archives Lusso in cycling weekly article

It’s been pretty hectic for me these last few years, how did you survive the last 40?

“Listening to our customers has been the key to our success” John recalls, and he is completely right. Even though we’ve been trading for 40 years, and you’d think we’d know what we’re doing by now, we still listen to our customers who give us valuable feedback. This helps us further understand and refine our products which benefits everyone else. “Lusso doesn’t just buy and sell finished goods, we batch produce from raw rolls of fabric so we can be more flexible and inclusive of what we choose to make”. I remember an instagram comment we received under a post about our women’s comfort break bib shorts. The commenter was disappointed that we only made up to size XXL and we didn’t have anything available for larger cyclists. By the end of the week we had 3XL on the website and we let the customer know who bought a pair right away, thanking us for listening to her.

Jake cutting on digital autocutter
“We’ve not been perfect” 

Although we seem to have got a lot of things right, we’ve not been perfect either. John remembers being a bit late to jump on the whole internet thing. Mail order was supposed to be the future in those days! For the last two decades we have been focused on selling directly to customers, cutting out the middlemen and passing those savings on. But we still supply local bike shops and we are actively removing barriers so we can continue to support them. For example, we no longer have a minimum order value and we can be flexible with payment terms to help with cash flow. 

If you are a retailer reading this and would like to stock our stuff please get in touch and we will be happy to help. 

paragon chamois pad

“When Wiggle launches an 80% off sale we can’t compete, and buying British goes out the window”

It's important to understand how Lusso operates is different from other brands, and how ultimately this has kept us stable in uncertain times.

For those that don’t know, Lusso was founded in 1982 by John and Dorothy Harrison and we have been manufacturing cycling clothing in Manchester ever since- yes that’s right- actually making stuff! We design, develop and sell all our own kit directly to our customers, meaning we bypass the middle men often involved in larger supply chains. It's a simple case of ordering premium fabric from Italy, cutting and sewing it in Manchester and shipping it all over the world, reducing overheads and passing that saving onto our customers. We don’t skimp on quality either. We buy our fabric from the same mills as the big brands.

We don’t over produce and discount our stock massively to get rid of it at the end of the season. We certainly don’t artificially inflate our prices so our kit always appears to be on sale either. We batch produce our gear. Unlike other brands who are forced to commit to extensive stock purchases from their manufacturers, we are our own manufacturer and only make what we need. That’s why we can offer premium garments at reasonable prices. We are also looking to move some of our products onto a pre-order model, minimising waste. But when Wiggle launches an 80% off sale we can’t compete, and buying British goes out the window. We have seen a slight drop in sales this quarter compared to last year, but speaking to other brands this seems to be normal. The Wiggle closing down sale might have something to do with it, but it would be unfair to hold it fully accountable.

Final Thoughts

Although we have been lucky enough to remain relatively stable through recent times, and we are so grateful for our customers' support, it has been such a shame to see other small independent clothing companies disappear. In the last year the UK has lost 3 great British kit brands in Milltag, Presca and Velovixen and if current trends continue, we’ll only be left with big corporations running the show. I would encourage everyone to support local bike shops and local businesses if they can. And although recent times have been tough, the future looks promising.

Thanks for reading.

Jake Wright