Business

The wheels come off as Chain Reaction Cycles makes more redundancies

More redundancies are taking place at Wiggle Chain Reaction Cycles, according to a report in Cycling Weekly
More redundancies are taking place at Wiggle Chain Reaction Cycles, according to a report in Cycling Weekly More redundancies are taking place at Wiggle Chain Reaction Cycles, according to a report in Cycling Weekly

MORE jobs have been axed at the struggling owner company of Ballyclare-founded Chain Reaction Cycles.

English firm Wiggle, which merged with Chain Reaction in 2016 to create what was then a £300 million company, plunged into administration in October and initially laid off 105 workers.

But according to a breaking report in Cycling Weekly, nine more people lost their jobs on Thursday - six from Wiggle in Portsmouth, two from Chain Reaction Cycles and one from Hotlines, the group’s distribution arm in Edinburgh.

At the time of the merger six years ago, Chain Reaction Cycles was the world's largest online bike shop while Wiggle was a market leader in cycling, running, swimming and triathlon products and accessories.

But Wiggle Chain Reaction Cycles (WiggleCRC) has struggled in recent years, and the latest round of redundancies is connected to the company’s decision to close its international web shops, the joint administrators at FRP Advisory told Cycling Weekly.

It is understood that WiggleCRC is planning to “pivot the business” to focus solely on the UK domestic market.

A statement from the joint administrators said the international Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles sites will be closed “over the coming weeks”.

The statement read: “To ensure that WiggleCRC is in the best possible position to build on its core strengths and market leading position, the decision has been taken to pivot the business model to solely focus on the UK domestic market which currently accounts for 85% of the group’s revenues.

“The international part of the business has been impacted by a range of economic factors including rising international air freight costs and Brexit.”

Until now, the group has sold products across the EU and the rest of the world, with customers as far away as Australia. International sales, however, declined by 26% in the year to September 2022, the period covered by the company's latest accounts.

WiggleCRC made its first round of redundancies a week after entering administration in October.

The lay-offs came in different parts of the business, including merchandising, marketing, and design, and were made with immediate effect, with no consultation period.

In a statement shared at the time, the administrators said the decision “was not taken lightly”.

“Regrettably, the financial position of the business means that it has been necessary to make a number of redundancies to allow the business to continue to trade in readiness of the proposed sales process,” they said.

Around 500 members of staff were retained to support the business as it was prepared for sale.

The administrators have since said that the search for a buyer is “progressing swiftly”, with up to nine parties understood to have expressed interest, according to the Cycling Weekly report.

Chain Reaction Cycles started as Ballynure Cycles in 1984 by George and Janice Watson with a bank loan of £1,500.

Within five years, they rebranded the firm Chain Reaction Cycles and in 1998 changed the focus to mail order.

The online offering was launched in 2000 and after significant growth, the firm opened its own 50,000 sq ft warehouse in 2005 and followed this up with a 10,000 sq ft flagship retail premises in Belfast in 2011.

Wiggle was founded in 1999 as a sister firm to Portsmouth bike shop Butlers Cycles.