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Chain Reaction cycle of rising sales goes on increasing to £153m

By Margaret Canning

The continued popularity of cycling pushed Co Antrim online retailer Chain Reaction to sales of well over £150m during 2014, the company said. Sales at the family business - which has expanded from a small bike shop into the world's biggest cycling accessories online retailer - were up 6% to £153.4m.

But the firm, which is based in Ballyclare, said investing in the future led to a small dip in profits of 0.6% during 2014 from £4.833m to £4.807m.

The family business profited from a surge in popularity of the sport as world-famous cycling race the Giro d'Italia held its first stage in the province during 2014, followed by its Grand Fondo earlier this year.

Chain Reaction Cycling said it has benefited from "increased media exposure from high-profile global events".

It added: "This resilience supports indications that suggest the market will continue to expand over the next five years."

It was also benefiting from "fundamentals" such as technological advances and a political drive to improve public health and reduce congestion on the roads.

Sales to the EU claimed the lion's share of turnover, at £102.7m, up 6.5% from £96.4m. And sales to the rest of the world also increased by 4%, from £48.5m to £50.6m.

A strategic report accompanying the accounts said the sales had been achieved "despite challenging economic conditions".

It said spending more on overheads such as technology had eaten into its profits. But the directors believe the performance was still acceptable as they needed to spend more "to build foundations for future growth".

However, job numbers at the firm dropped from 612 to 540. The company's six directors - all members of the Watson family - were paid a total of £1.1m, with the highest paid director receiving £301,000.

And it also shared in a £15m dividend payment - the same sum was paid in 2013.

There are three subsidiaries of the firm, retail business Chain Reaction Cycles Retail, payments processing firm Chain Reaction Cycles Ireland, and Ruption Limited, a wholesaler.

The company was founded by George and Janice Watson as a small bike shop in Ballynure in 1984 - and their four children, three girls and a boy, are running the company, with son Chris managing director.

As well as warehouses, the company also has a flagship store on Boucher Road.

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