Popular British triathlon brand Zone3 has landed in the US – with inventory now in California and ready for distribution to retailers nationwide.
Almost 20 years ago, Zone3 founder and CEO James Lock and the company’s new US Marketing Manager Alasdair Pullan were team mates in a small but highly successful swimming club just outside London. Zone3 was founded in 2007 by James Lock, then aged 21, to help support his career as an elite triathlete. After becoming World Aquathlon and World Biathle Champion in 2006, Lock started to race on the European circuit and was regularly first out of the water.
Lock developed the Zone3 brand whilst studying and training at Loughborough, having won a prize in the Loughborough Student Business Plan competition. After juggling product development and negotiations with Chinese manufacturers, Lock achieved a first in engineering and launched a brand that quickly earned the respect of a number of the world’s top triathletes.
Commenting on the evolution from student athlete to successful businessman, Vice Chancellor and President of Loughborough University Professor Robert Allison said, “We excel at developing elite performers such as James into high performing business leaders who deliver value on the global stage. Zone3’s remarkable achievements are underpinned by a focus on research which was nurtured in our world-class sports training facilities.”
James Lock is now joined by Alasdair Pullan as the company continues to expand internationally. The first part of Pullan’s international career was mostly spent as a sprinter, powering through a lap of the pool for the Scottish national swim team; however, he recently demonstrated his endurance by swimming 10,000m to raise awareness about drowning prevention for the non-profit Colin’s Hope organisation based in Austin, Texas.
The sprinter turned distance swimmer arrived in the US a decade ago and graduated in 2005 with an MBA from Rice University in Houston, Texas. As Zone3’s US Marketing Manager, Pullan is now based in the Pacific Northwest and is responsible for the brand’s US expansion.
The Zone3 team is partnering with established, successful, performance-oriented local experts including Cycles Brixton International (CBI), manufacturer of the Brixton road racing and time trial frames as well as a US distributor of products such as Bonk Breaker, the official bar of Ironman.
CBI, led by former competitive cyclist David Sobel, is handling Zone3’s US distribution and is also responsible for sales in California. Commenting on the partnership, Sobel said, “I was drawn to Zone3 by the quality of its products; but, as I have come to know the people behind the company, I am also impressed by their professional approach to both the sport and their business.”
Fortunately, Zone3’s ‘solid corporate credentials were backed up by excellent reports from some off-season product due diligence conducted by Sobel.’ “We have had a wide range of professional and amateur triathletes swim in the wetsuits who all say that they are the best they’ve ever worn so we’re extremely excited about the potential for Zone3,” Sobel added.
An engineered focus on R&D
Fittingly for a fast growing company founded by an engineer, Zone3 owes much of its success to an unwavering focus on extensive research and development. “Our aim is to make the best fitting wetsuit with the best user features for the sport,” said Lock.
“The process starts and ends by listening to triathletes who provide the qualitative input for our design team’s application of advanced sports technologies and on-going laboratory testing. Subsequent testing and feedback from ‘real’ athletes helps us to further refine our products. We firmly believe our design philosophy sets us apart from the competition.”
Lock notes that the result of Zone3’s dual purpose design philosophy is evident in the quality of its products. He continued, “The mid-level Aspire wetsuit combines extreme flexibility with perfectly balanced buoyancy to create an environment that facilitates fast swimming. It also incorporates premium, comfortable fabrics to enable lightning fast transitions.”
It is this attention to detail that has earned Zone3 healthy reviews and numerous awards from the triathlon media. Quality design is the foundation of Zone3’s business. “It all takes place in our Innovation Centre and is guided by our ST1 principal: simply put, every suit we make needs to excel in both the swim and the first transition,” said Lock.
Rigorous testing against numerous metrics ensures that finished products exceed challenging internal benchmarks. Performance does not come at the expense of comfort. As Lock noted, “Our products are engineered to perform, but designed for the user.”
Comfort, flexibility and buoyancy are blended to create wetsuits that are fast both in water and transition. Features such as spring-loaded shoulder design, V-shape neck and air bubbles inserted between fabric layers, all help triathletes swim fast while retaining as much energy as possible for the bike and run phases.
The unique silicone coated Pro Speed cuffs were designed by Lock to ensure that he was always out in the front pack when racing at an elite level. As a result, over the last few years, triathletes of all abilities have benefited from this Zone 3 innovation, which can help make up time on rivals.
“How fast can you get out of your wetsuit?” asked Lock. “Next time you’re practicing, see if you can beat my best which is shown on our YouTube channel.”
Marketed in 2012, Zone3’s limited-run premium MMXII high performance wetsuit was sold through Harrods, the famous London department store. Customers were treated to an exceptional buying experience that included tailored fitting, personalization (with each suit individually numbered and named), and an invitation to an open water swim clinic with top coaches and elite athletes.
“Customer feedback was tremendous,” said Lock. “We plan to roll out a similar service in America to give committed triathletes the opportunity to look great while wearing one of the best performing wetsuits ever made.”
Pullan set out Zone3’s development plans… “To grow the brand in America, we intend to replicate the approach used in Europe where knowledgeable, passionate dealers are an integral part of our success. These valued partners are supported by several marketing channels including our fun, informative YouTube channel.
“Zone3 will be at Interbike in September where we look forward to seeing many old friends and establishing new relationships.”
Since inception, Zone3’s team has believed in the importance of listening to and working with grass roots elements in the sport of triathlon. “From the outset, our products have been designed around the input of elite and age group triathletes,” said Lock.
US tri ambassador in the pipeline
Lock added, “We expect to announce our lead US triathlete soon who we will support in their efforts to win races and who will work closely with us to develop great products. We are also looking to support upcoming talent and exciting events providing us with opportunities to become ever more closely involved with the dedicated triathlon community in America.”
For 2013, Zone3’s US dealers have access to three models of wetsuits, including the award-winning mid-level Aspire, and two ranges of tri suits. This will be followed in 2014 by the full range of Zone3 triathlon products.
Lock, enthusiastic about the opportunities facing his company, added, “We have been thrilled by the early, positive response from key tri stores such as Tri Village and Just Wetsuits and would like to hear from any like-minded triathletes interested in a test swim.”
US retailers interested in the Zone3 brand should contact Alasdair Pullan, US Marketing Manager, via e-mail Alasdair[at]RaceZone3.com; or phone +1 503 446 6036.