Designed for people – Cyclists on rue de Rivoli and direction sign one of the many cycle paths of the French capital.
Photo: Oliverouge 3 / Shutterstock.com
“All the pundits said that no one would vote for her because they were listening to the vocal minority,” says Butler-Adams. “They weren’t aware of the quiet majority and guess what, she was voted in for a second term. 650km of cycle lanes, 80,000 car parking spaces taken out; most people [in Paris] want a city designed for people.”
Butler-Adams joined Brompton in 2002 after chatting to then-chair Tim Guinness on a bus. By 2008 he had led a management buyout and now holds a stake of around 8 per cent (Ritchie, who is no longer involved in the day-to-day business, owns 15% while growth fund BFG has an 8 per cent stake following a £19m investment in May 2023. The rest is owned by family, friends and staff).
The pandemic saw a surge in demand and hastened the brand’s online debut as it sought to get bikes into the hands of desperate commuters when stores were closed. But that demand slumped last year: as restrictions eased, people started using public transport again and spare cash was spent on long overdue holidays (Bromptons start at £899, with the most advanced models costing over £4,000).
“We went into that fiscal year thinking we were going to absolutely knock the lights out,” recalls Butler-Adams. “But then we saw quite a significant decrease in demand, and of course, we’d placed the order for materials and recruited and trained staff. So, we had to restructure and borrow from the bank.”
Market demand has since stabilised. “We’ve grown at nearly 20% a year for 20 years compound, and that’s what we’ll aim to do. It might be less year-on-year – profits might get a bit of a kick – but we’re not a listed company; we’re a private company interested in making the world a better place. We just want to create a bit of urban freedom and make people happier.”
Butler-Adams strongly dismisses any suggestion that Brompton is an iconic brand, however. “We haven’t even started – you think people know about us because you live in London,” he retorts.
As he says, banana consumed, bike replaced and interview at an end, “There is nothing trendy or iconic about Brompton. All we’re trying to do is make a useful product – there’s already too much crap out there that the world doesn’t need.”