Message from the CEO
Accell Group had a turbulent year in 2017, with sharply varying performances in various countries. As a group, we ultimately booked slightly higher turnover of € 1,069 million in 2017. However, a decline in gross margin and higher one-off charges resulted in a considerable drop in our operating result to € 38 million.
The trend in e-bike turnover remained positive. In 2017, e-bikes accounted for 63% of total bicycle turnover, an increase of 19% compared to 2016. We noted particular growth in the e-bike sports segment, which is important to us, and booked good results on this front in Germany and France, especially with the Lapierre, Haibike and Winora brands. Our activities in the field of bicycle parts and accessories in Europe also recorded healthy growth in turnover and a considerable improvement in the result last year.
The results of our bicycle activities in North America were disappointing. Following the loss of a key customer, we were forced to take an extra write-down on surplus bicycle inventories stocks in the fourth quarter. This resulted in additional pressure on turnover and margin and a heavy operating loss for the region. In the course of 2017, we replaced the management team in North America.
The results were also disappointing in the Netherlands, due to clear pressure on our position with the specialist retail trade. Following the implementation of our refined strategy, a new margin structure and the introduction of a selective distribution system, we made significant progress towards creating a level playing field for all dealers, and this will help to improve our relationship and cooperation with specialist retailers. We are determined to continue on this path in the Benelux.
The negative developments in North America in particular put continued pressure on the total number of bicycles sold. This pertains primarily to bicycles positioned at the lower end of the mid-segment of the market. Together with a one-off charge for the reorganisation and normalisation of the working capital, and the correction for the incorrect customs classification over the past five years, this resulted in a strong decline in the result in 2017. Excluding the impact of the developments in North America, group turnover increased by 4% to € 968 million and the segment result remained stable.
In late 2017 and early 2018, we worked on an update and further refinement of our strategy. One key change is that we will be making Accell Group even more consumer-centric by opting for a strong focus on e-bikes and a direct relationship with consumers via experience centres, e-commerce platforms and mobile bike services. We will always work on these developments via and together with our dealer network to avoid a conflict in channels.
A second significant change was the decision to coordinate and manage corporate policy more centrally, while retaining the strong local ‘passion for winning’ and roots. Reducing complexity, rationalisation, standardisation and innovation geared to trends such as smart technology and urban mobility will play key roles in the continued strengthening of our competitive position for the future.
The economic developments in the countries in which we are active seem positive. For Accell Group, 2018 will primarily be a year of transition. The roll-out of the refined strategy and new group structure will dominate the year. We expect to be in a position to show the initial results of the proposed reduction in complexity, together with rationalisation and standardisation this year. In addition, we will focus our efforts on the realisation of turnover recovery in the Netherlands and the turnaround in North America. We expect an increase in group turnover and a higher underlying operating result for 2018, barring unforeseen circumstances.
Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to our employees for their commitment and their considerable efforts on behalf of the company in 2017. I have complete faith in the expertise and enthusiasm of the employees I have had the pleasure of meeting since my appointment in November 2017. Together we will continue to prepare the company for the next phase of its development and growth.
Chairman of the Board of Directors Accell Group