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Q&A: Juliet Scott-Croxford, Brompton North American president

Published November 29, 2021

A version of this article ran in the November issue of Bicycle Retailer & Industry News.

NEW YORK (BRAIN) — Juliet Scott-Croxford recently was hired by London-based Brompton folding bikes to be president of North America amid the company's 50% U.S. growth in unit sales in the past year during the bike boom and 76% over 2019.

The brand now sells over 70,000 bikes globally each year.

Brompton is expanding its footprint in North America after increased demand at its New York City store and regional retailers that include REI Co-op and the launch of an e-commerce storefront. According to Brompton, the majority of overall new ridership since the COVID-19 pandemic is female.

Scott-Croxford, formerly the CEO of Worth magazine, will focus on building a team and company culture that supports the company's purpose of "urban freedom for happier lives." She took time in October to answer questions from BRAIN about her plans for Brompton's expanding U.S. market.

BRAIN: Do you feel like you're coming on board at a good time, what with the industry amid a buying boom and building political momentum in the U.S. to get more people on bikes?

Juliet Scott-Croxford: Absolutely! It's an extraordinary time for the industry and also for cities across America as they rethink the role they play in sustainable living and mobility. We are seeing the bike boom continue, and we still expect new riders to stick with bicycling post pandemic.

BRAIN: On the flip side, does that lead to more pressure to seize the moment and less time to ease into your role?

JSC: It definitely makes it more interesting! Fortunately, we have a brilliant product, which, we know through many years of engineering and development, is high quality and people want it as a tool to live a happier life. It means I need to listen and learn fast, but I am fortunate to be surrounded by lots of people — employees, dealers, customers, and ambassadors that have lots of knowledge, know the brand well and that can help me.

BRAIN: How has your background as CEO at Worth magazine prepared you for this latest endeavor?

JSC: Building an engaged community around a brand and how to build and motivate a team in a virtual world, as well as learning how to roll with the punches. Worth also gave me a good understanding of the U.S. market as well as a brilliant network of people across the U.S. from civic leaders, to corporations, to social entrepreneurs, which I know will be invaluable to our growth.

BRAIN: It was written in the release announcing your hire that you will be tasked with leading the next phase of growth in North America? Can you say what that will entail?

JSC: North America is a strategic market for Brompton, so my primary focus is on growth, and with that, building greater awareness of the brand, engaging our community and having the right capability and infrastructure to operate as an omnichannel distributor.

BRAIN: How long were you at Worth, and what was it about the opportunity at Brompton that piqued your interest?

JSC: I was at Worth for three years and it was my second turnaround and digital transformation that I had done — the first being with the Guardian News and Media. I was keen to take the learning from both those roles and apply it in a growth industry for a purpose-led brand. The Brompton community is incredibly engaged, and they have a deep sense of connection to our product. How we build and deepen our relationship with the community definitely piqued my interest as well as the fact it's a cool product focused on sustainable living.

BRAIN: You are a woman executive now in an industry dominated by white men. Within the past year, the bike industry has made DEI a major focus. What are your thoughts about where the industry stands now on this issue?

JSC: I think there is a long way to go, but it's great that the industry recognizes the importance and the gap and is making DEI a priority. Sadly, the pandemic set back women and minorities — especially women of color. More than two million women left the workforce since the start of the pandemic; yet, we have talent shortage, which is both a national and corporate emergency that needs action, collaboration, and leadership across all industries. Leaders and "advocates" for parity need to recognize and act on the challenges. (They need) to adjust things like company policies, address biases — conscious or unconscious based on things like visibility — oversteer and adjust company work and family leave policies or flexible work arrangements, and connect with the talent in your company, create hiring policies and practices that bring women and underrepresented groups back.

BRAIN: Brompton has had increasing demand at its NYC store and from retail partners like REI Co-op. Have you been able to keep up? If not, what can you do to help?

JSC: Demand has certainly outstripped supply across all our sales channels, but we've been in a better position than some thanks to our in-house manufacturing based in London and a large stockpile of parts, which was built up prior to Brexit. Each of these points has meant we've been able to weather short-term shortages in supply and keep production running despite a variety of challenges posed by COVID-19.

BRAIN: How much have supply-chain issues and freight delays impacted Brompton?

JSC: A huge amount! Everything from ordering parts to production plans to cash flow to how quickly and what we can get to our consumers and dealers has been impacted. We've adapted our processes as a result and continue to monitor it on a daily basis. Supply chain remains our No. 1 challenge.

BRAIN: Brompton recently launched an e-commerce storefront. How successful has that been?

JSC: We've seen tremendous growth through the launch of e-commerce and learned a lot in the process. We also offer the ability for consumers to click and collect from their local dealer. Optimising our e-commerce channel will continue to be one of our main priorities and we are forecasting further growth next year along with growth across all of our sales channels.

BRAIN: Brompton plans to launch its second U.S. brand store later this year, with two others set for next year. Do you envision these stores and your e-commerce presence eventually severing retailer relationships?

JSC: In short, no. Our focus is on omnichannel, and dealers are an important part of that by providing the best local knowledge and service. We do need to follow the purchasing behavior and habits of our consumers, which are increasingly online and brand-centric. We know full well that many existing and prospective Brompton riders will have a favorite local retailer just as some will want the convenience of ordering online and some will want the experience of getting close to the bike and the brand and community through our flagship stores.

BRAIN: Sustainability is a hot topic among many brands. What has Brompton done or plans to do in order to operate in a more sustainable fashion?

JSC: Our focus is not just on selling bikes but on how we support transforming urban America over the next 10-20 years. Sustainability and our role in micromobility to reduce carbon emissions is a huge part of that. Change within the firm to operate more sustainably has included the start of a battery recycling program as well as a return to base program for warranty parts in our electric bicycles, and there is much more work to do here. However, on the whole, Brompton has always taken a buy-less, buy-better approach to our product by focusing on producing a bicycle that provides a lifetime of value.

BRAIN: Are you a cyclist, and if so, what's your favorite discipline, i.e., road, mountain, commuter, other?

JSC: Commuter for convenience and road for relaxation, freedom and to spend time with my brother when I'm back in the UK.

Topics associated with this article: Electric bike, From the Magazine

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