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Wiggle ChainreactionCycles is turning off its international online stores and will focus exclusively on the UK domestic market as the impact of Brexit bites

Wiggle Chainreaction Cycles is closing its international online stores as the impact of Brexit crystalises amid a financial crisis for the company and its parent group. In a move that would have been unthinkable just months ago, the company is contracting in a bid to survive.

However, there is hope it will continue as a UK-based online retailer as several parties have expressed an interest in buying the troubled company. It had expanded for many years – after starting as a small shop and catalogue business in Northern Ireland in the 1980s – with operations through Europe and the US, among other countries.

However, its international stores will close in coming weeks as the company’s ability to trade overseas, from a United Kingdom base, has been made more difficult and expensive due to Brexit. Those long-standing issues have been exacerbated by the trading difficulties caused by the slow-down in trading after the cycling boom during Covid-19.

“To ensure that Wiggle CRC is in the best possible position to build on its core strengths and market leading position, the decision has been taken to pivot the business model to solely focus on the UK domestic market which currently accounts for 85 per cent of the group’s revenues,” administrators FRP said in a statement on Thursday.

“This part of the business has been impacted by a range of economic factors including rising international air freight costs and Brexit. The business is committed to honouring all outstanding sales, returns and warranty obligations for international customers through the usual processes.”

Chain Reaction Cycles began as a bike shop in 1984 in Ballynure, Co Antrim. It initially offered goods for sale via catalogues and adverts. It started a website in 1999 to expand and streamline that part of its business, which grew into a massive ecommerce entity, before being bought by Wiggle and the merged entity being acquired by Signa Sports United.

In October it became clear Signa Sports United (SSU) was in financial trouble. It cited its cycling businesses as a specific problem, saying they were performing far behind expectations. It announced a “restructuring” programme and mooted “the termination or winding down” of those assets that were not performing amid serious “liquidity and profitability” problems.

FRP, now the administrators, are still trying to sell the business, saying in recent weeks considerable interest had been expressed by possible buyers. While no deal has yet been reached, FRP said on Thursday the sale process was gathering pace.

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