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Is it easy being Dainese?

Dainese announced Angel Sanchez as its new CEO at the end of last summer. Alan Dowds spoke to Sanchez to hear about his background and plans for the future, including AGV helmets and TCX boots which are included in Dainese’s portfolio.

I started by asking about Sanchez’s biography and how he got here. “I am Spanish, and my background is economics. I worked at Procter & Gamble and did consultancy, but I have been in the food business for most of my life. I ended up running a €1bn company in Italy, which is why I speak decent Italian! But then I started working with private equity, and I’ve been doing that for the past nine years.”

And it’s this background in private equity, rather than a motorcycling background, that led to his role at Dainese – which is majority-owned by Carlyle, the American private equity group.

“In July, I got a call from Carlyle, which I respect as a company. I had some people on the inside who told me about Dainese, and I could not believe it because I’d been a fan for more than 15 years. One of the first things I did when I came here and met Lino Dainese was to bring him my 20-year-old back protector for him to sign for me!”

However, Sanchez knew the brand not from two wheels but from “sticks and poles”. “My background is from the skiing side. I always used to go to the slopes with full protection.” How big is Dainese in the skiing world? “It is tiny, but it is growing. We grew 20% last year, and I think some strong opportunities exist. We also do things with cycling, so there are other sports, but motorcycling is the most important.”

Does Sanchez ride a bike then? “Absolutely, I ride a motorcycle, though only a 125. But I am taking lessons, and at Dainese, we do what you call experiences, and we have a whole team that takes clients on amazing trips. And now we are pushing what we call Dainese safety, guided safety riding lessons. I will be one of the first learners; I’m already involved with that.”

One big question is how Dainese plans to adapt to the changing market, with sports bikes declining in importance relative to touring and adventure bikes. Will the firm stick to its MotoGP roots, for example? “MotoGP for us is very important for several reasons,” said Sanchez. “There is one obvious one: advertising where you see the name of Dainese. But what’s also significant for us is the learning experience and all the innovations in the sector. So we are working with the riders for the new generation of innovation, and MotoGP is key for us to learn to do these things and then bring it to the public. MotoGP is where you have the maximum limits, and that is where we will try and help people reach their limits safely.”

So, is there no big direction change for the brand? “We are not changing direction. The company is doing well, so I don’t need to change the direction. We need to double down in some areas, and Carlyle and I want to double down on innovation.”

Does that mean new products in areas like airbags? “I wish I could talk to you about the new airbag developments! Things are coming relatively soon. We are trying to make airbags more accessible, and that can be done in two areas. The first is pricing, and the second is coming up with a better product to make it more accessible and easier to wear for everyone. This is something that is coming soon this year, and it is not a subtle change. It is a step change.” Does Sanchez have any visions for changing the company’s structure, with the AGV and TCX brands? Perhaps, seems the answer. “Multi-brand works. We have total protection from the helmet down, so Dainese has full protection. AGV is the helmet. TCX is for the boots/shoes, so it works. We are private equity, and we do what private equity does. So, there may be more action, there may not be.”

And for the UK, the firm also has big plans. “The UK market size is not where we want it to be. It’s a very important market, but our presence there is not up to the level we wish: not that we are doing bad, but there are clear opportunities, and we are working with [UK distributor] Nevis.”

Sanchez also re-iterates an increasingly common complaint about Brexit. “After Brexit, there has been a very strange situation, not only for our brands but for many others in terms of importer pricing and different taxes that are creating a little bit of chaos, which needs to settle down.

“We are working on that but must listen more to our dealers. Dainese is a great company, full of people with a lot of passion who are very proud to be in this company. But one of the areas that we can do better is listening to our dealers and helping them to do better business with us. So yes, we are committed to better business with Dainese UK.”

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