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Profinpar focuses on electric bikes with Barracuda

By 08/10/2021November 29th, 2023News

L’Echo, le 8 octobre 2021. Michel Lauwers.

Profinpar has acquired a majority stake in The Barracuda Company, a company that operates two brands of shops specialising in electric bikes, Barracuda and The Belgian fund, launched by 45 investor-entrepreneurs to support the development of SMEs and family businesses, never discloses the amounts invested, but we do know that it injects between €1 and €6 million per equity investment. It takes both minority and majority stakes; in the case of The Barrracuda Company, it subscribed for 70% of the capital while leaving the reins of the company to its founder and CEO, Frédéric Verbeeck. Two of the fund’s retail entrepreneurs have been appointed to support the company in the future: Denis Knoops, ex-CEO of Delhaize, and Thierry Quertinmont (GIB, Trafic).

Today, with its 5 shops and website, The Barracuda Company is the only exclusively electric bicycle retailer in Wallonia and Brussels. In Flanders, where it does not yet have a presence, there are competitors with a similar positioning. “We are already the reference and leader in the south of the country”, emphasises Frédéric Verbeeck, who makes no secret of his ambition to become the leader in Belgium too. His company will be opening a sixth shop in two months’ time in Zemst, between Brussels and Mechelen.

Phygital” model

At the same time, it is introducing a hybrid distribution model, which its boss has dubbed “Phygital”, for “physical and digital”. A large proportion of our customers are over 65,” explains Frédéric Verbeeck. Not all of them are comfortable in bike shops, partly because they don’t know much about them and partly because they can’t always load their bike into their car. We suggest that they choose their bike on our website, pre-order it, and then we’ll deliver it to their home, giving them the chance to test it before buying and paying for it”.

The formula seems to be catching on, with a very high conversion rate into firm purchases. As a result, the company wants to extend the concept. “We will continue to open physical shops in Brussels and Walloon Brabant, but we will serve the rest of the Region via this hybrid system. And if the results are satisfactory, we’ll do the same thing in Flanders and France.”

After selling accessories, spare parts and classic bikes for years and developing a specialist website, Vé, Frédéric Verbeeck sold it four years ago to specialise in electric bikes. Today, he has no regrets about this strategic move. Last year, his company sold 4,000 bikes, generating sales of over €13 million. And this year, the only thing that is likely to prevent him from doing as well is supply problems.

As in other affected sectors, such as construction and automotive, this imbalance between supply and demand is likely to persist for another 18 months, while manufacturers adjust their capacities”, says Dimitri de Failly, partner at Profinpar. “We probably entered The Barracuda Company at the top of the wave,” he continues, “but it remains a fine sector with good fundamentals. We’re in the soft mobility sector, with a strong social role, and Frédéric and his team are passionate about what they do. They all have bicycle chain marks on their calves…”.

After an exceptional 2020, Dimitri de Failly is looking forward to a good 2021. And in the medium to long term, experts are predicting annual growth of 15 to 30%, he adds. On the ground, Frédéric Verbeeck is already preparing for the future. He has just obtained planning permission to build a 2,500 m2 logistics centre. “It will house storage, a bike assembly workshop, after-sales services, delivery organisation and the back office. All of which will support the hybrid model currently being implemented.