You are here

GT returning to its roots as an IBD brand

Published February 20, 2024

ALISO VIEJO, Calif. (BRAIN) — GT Bicycles is amid a transformation back to its IBD and off-road roots, the company says, and longtime industry pro Jason Schiers has had a lot to say about it.

Speaking from the UK's COREbike show on Tuesday, Schiers, the brand's managing director, told BRAIN he's been spreading the word about GT's renaissance at the B2B show, held by local distributors who invite brands they service for dealer facetime.

"This year is a year of storytelling for us," said Schiers, hired in 2022 after leading R&D for Selle Royal brands and focusing on Crank Brothers product development and quality. "It's us trying to educate everybody about the changes."

Chief among them is GT's separation from Cycling Sports Group/Cannondale and to a stand-alone business under Pon Holdings. "We're making our own decisions and have our own team, designing our own products. And this is all new for GT. I don't think they've had this level of attention for over 10 years."

A year ago, GT announced its move from Wilton, Connecticut, to Aliso Viejo, not far from the brand's original Southern California headquarters. It was one of the first changes for GT after Pon Holdings completed its purchase of the brand's former parent company Dorel Industries in 2022.

Schiers said he's expanded the GT team from eight to 23 employees, including Mike Giese, former Evil Bikes creative and design director, to head of product. By the middle of next year, Schiers hopes to have the first new bikes in the market from the new team, including an upgraded e-bike line.

"Our big initial push is for new and competitive full-suspension mountain e-bikes," said Schiers, who founded Enve Composites in Utah. "It's where full-suspension bikes are going. The full-suspension market will be defined by electric bikes."

GT also will focus on other mountain bike, gravel, and BMX — race and freestyle — models going forward.

Acknowledging "huge holes" in its IBD network, Schiers and his team have a goal of expanding it to 300 to 400 dealers by the end of this year, with work toward that end already underway last year.

"We have a record of a lot of GT dealers, but how many are active dealers is a much smaller number than we have in our computer system showing as GT dealers. For now, we are re-introducing the brand into the market. It's gone fairly quiet over the last 10 years as far as an IBD brand."

Schiers said he's not relying on gimmicks to reach dealers.

"Good old-school sales: Walking in doors and picking up phones," he said. "I guess I'm kind of old school in the sense there's nothing better than having a talk with the guy that owns the shop. I'm an entrepreneur. Most of my life, I've run my own companies. At the end of the day, (dealers) are chasing their own dream and running their own company. Just simply respecting their sacrifice, their risk, and their relationship with their fragile small business is the only way to do it."

Returning to GT's IBD roots corresponded with the end of an agreement with Dick's Sporting Goods' specialty stores at the end of 2023. (Those stores continue to sell GT residual inventory.)

"After I took the position, I made the decision to move out of Dick's," Schiers said. "I felt like it was bad brand positioning for where GT should be in the market. GT should be an IBD brand; it shouldn't have been a mass-market brand."

While the IBD remains an integral part of GT's new strategy, it won't end direct-to-consumer sales, Schiers said, adding omni-channel is a reality of the industry. "We have huge holes in our IBD network where we can't service parts of the country and regions, so for us to have the option to make sure somebody can get a GT regardless of whether we have a dealer or not, the direct thing is very important. That being said, our intention and the conversations we're having with dealers when it comes up is that we will never put something on sale or discount something without them being included in the process. Our intention is to never be in competition with our dealers."

He said GT will be making some changes in its overseas factories. "I'm doing my best to stay out of China," Schiers said.

Clive Gosling, GT head of marketing and another Schiers' hire, said the company has discussed U.S. manufacturing of some BMX models.

"Products have been made under the GT brand that might not have been made under other brands in the Dorel portfolio to fit a place in the market," Gosling said. "And we're kind of correcting that now by taking GT back to its roots in the dirt. We're not saying GT is broken. GT has some bikes that were made by the previous team that we would put up against anything on the market. Our Fury downhill bike, our Grade gravel bike, and the Sensor trail bike are all up to date. But there's not enough bikes across the GT range that we feel are best-in-class contenders."

"It's honoring where GT should have been the whole time," Schiers said.

GT Managing Director Jason Schiers.
Topics associated with this article: Electric bike

Join the Conversation