‘This is going to keep happening to small brands’ - bosses of closing company call for support

Bristol-based Presca, founded a decade ago, is the latest cycling brand to have to close down

Person wearing Presca clothing
(Image credit: Presca)

The directors of British cycling kit company Presca, which is closing its online store, have urged consumers to “vote with their money” to save small brands. 

On Wednesday, the Bristol-based company announced that it would be shutting down its website, following a difficult economic period for the business. The brand’s closure followed those of two other British kit companies, Velovixen and Milltag, which both entered liquidation this calendar year. 

Speaking to Cycling Weekly, Presca’s creative director Lily Rice explained the factors that led to her company's demise. “Last summer, we were on a really good trajectory,” she said. “We were heading into September feeling positive, and then it just became quite obvious that the appetite for investment had changed. People were kind of sitting tight on making investments and waiting to see what was happening.

"It wasn't as good a Christmas as we would have liked, and I think that was really common for a lot of independent brands." 

As a result of the ongoing cost of living squeeze, consumers were forced to prioritise other areas of their spending, such as energy and food bills. Presca, too, had to cut costs, laying off staff in their already small team, which counted just nine people at its largest. 

“I really think it’s an economic problem, and something that a lot of brands are seeing,” Rice said. “My feeds daily are smaller brands closing because of this situation. I think it was a case of the right brand at the wrong time. 

“We’re competing against things like Aldi these days, who will run cycling kit in the middle aisle every now and then. Let alone kind of Decathlons and things like that. I can fully understand why people shop there.”

For Presca CEO and co-founder Rob Webbon, the drop in sales came at a challenging time for the business, with outgoings increasing across the board. “We had a crazy situation where some of our fabric manufacturers were essentially saying: ‘Energy prices are changing so rapidly, we can offer you this price for a month. After that, we can’t tell you what the price is going to be,'" he explained. 

Likewise, new Brexit trade rules were beginning to put a strain on international orders, which accounted for around 15% of the brand’s retail sales. “Well, Brexit was fun, wasn’t it?” Webbon joked. “It’s just a lot more red tape. It’s made shipping retail stuff to the EU very difficult, a lot more costly, taking a lot longer, and more logistics. A lot more admin, as well.”

Woman cycling wearing Presca kit

(Image credit: Presca)

In conjunction with Presca's online closure, the brand is running a closing down sale, with 75% off all items. On Wednesday alone, more than 900 customers placed orders - “way more than 10 times [the number placed on a usual day]," according to Webbon. 

For Rice, the popularity of the closing down sale has brought about a harsh realisation. “I’m glad that the designs are something people want,” the creative director said, “but on the other side, it’s really sad to see that there’s clearly so many people who can’t afford to buy at the level that you would need to pay to sustain a business.

“The demand is there, but I just don’t think the spending power is.” 

Sales on cycling gear have become more common since the Covid lockdowns, due primarily to overstocking during the pandemic’s cycling boom. Last year, many big brands offered extended Black Friday reductions, something that Presca, and a number of other smaller kit companies, couldn’t compete with. 

In January, Presca staged an exclusive ‘pay what you feel’ sale, removing all the prices from their website and inviting customers to decide the worth of products. “We had a massive percentage who were buying in what I would say was a kind way,” Rice said. “They were getting a bargain for themselves, but they were doing it respectfully.” 

Others, she added, offered as little as 50p for a jersey, which retailed at the time at over £100. 

Still, Rice is keen to stress, whether people buy clothing in a sale or at full price, supporting small brands is crucial to keeping them afloat in the current economic climate. “If there’s anything that we take away from these brands closing, which is very sad, it’s that we have to start making an impact with our shopping,” she said. “That’s not to say shop more and buy things you don’t need. It’s just when you make those choices, make the best ones.

“This is going to keep happening to small brands. We have to, all of us as consumers, start voting with our money, because that’s the only way to create change.” 

Although the online store is shutting down, Presca is currently looking for investors, in the hope of continuing to create its eco-friendly sportswear range. 

"If there are people or companies out there with that bigger existing community" co-founder Webbon said, "I think what we’ve got could be massively valuable to them.

“We’ve done all the hard work to build a really, genuinely sustainable and exciting brand, and tapping in directly to the bigger community can make it work so much better than we’ve been able to.” 

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Tom Davidson
News and Features Writer

Tom joined Cycling Weekly as a news and features writer in the summer of 2022, having previously contributed as a freelancer. He is the host of The TT Podcast, which covers both the men's and women's pelotons and has featured a number of prominent British riders. 

An enthusiastic cyclist himself, Tom likes it most when the road goes uphill and actively seeks out double-figure gradients on his rides. 

He's also fluent in French and Spanish and holds a master's degree in International Journalism.