Cult transport from Krefeld
In "Roman Holiday" Hollywood made the Italian Vespa scooter a star of the silver screen. Audrey Hepburn as a run-away princess and Gregory Peck as a journalist swerved round the streets of Rome on a Vespa in this love story from 1953. The scooter, developed in 1946 near Piaggio in the Toscana, very quickly became a bestseller. The biggest seller of Vespa parts today is Niemann and Frey in Krefeld. In a newly built warehouse in Uerdingen, where Siemens manufactures ICE trains next door, there are large quantities of fittings and replacement parts on the shelves. They can be delivered all over Germany, but also to France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Austria a day after being ordered.
The specialist began as a simple bicycle dealer. Richard Niemann founded a bicycle store in Krefeld before the war. After the war he expanded his two-wheeler business upon his release as a prisoner of war. The people of the Rhineland were made mobile again thanks to small engines. Niemann also sold Rex auxiliary engines and small mopeds. His son Richard Niemann junior took over the business in 1964 and also expanded it to become a Vespa distributor. In 1988 Gerd Frey bought the company and renamed it Niemann + Frey GmbH. Now the sole proprietor, the 57-year-old came from the car industry, and motorbikes are his hobby. Frey knew the firm Niemann as a supplier via his motorcycle shop in Neuss. At the beginning of the 1990's Frey himself moved to Krefeld. The business was situated in the middle of the town in Leyentalstraße. In 1995 Frey moved with the business to Oppum, where the business grew constantly, and the building with it. 3.5 staff quickly became 70. In 2010 they moved into new quarters in Adolf-Dembach-Straße in Uerdingen. The hall provides 5,000 square meters of storage space on three floors. The price per square meter would have been much lower in Rheinberg in the district of Wesel, but Frey decided in favor of Krefeld, and thus for his staff.
Today he is one of the largest specialist wholesalers for motorcycle parts in Europe. He has long since outgrown the Rhine-Ruhr region. But Gerd Frey is a firm believer in Krefeld's appeal as a place of business. In the 60's, the industrious years, the region had strong purchasing power. And there are still many people living in the Krefeld surrounding area today. Yet in the era of the Internet and overnight delivery service, the nearby population is not the most important factor. What is important for Frey is the "huge advantage" of the nearby Düsseldorf airport. From Krefeld he only needs quarter of an hour to Lohausen. He often has to fly to Pisa, to the home of the Vespa in the Toscana. But Bergamo and Venice can also be reached from Weeze.
What is his recipe for success? A trade journalist once described the company as "driven by service". Frey has 60,000 parts in the warehouse. And they have to reach the customer fast and without mishap. What do you have to offer that the competition can't? Frey has a simple answer to this question: "We are faster and more reliable." His staff are taught to be particularly friendly and service-oriented. They also have the necessary expertise and do their job with enthusiasm, fun and determination. Then there is the technology factor. Early on a lot of money was invested in IT communication for the dealers. Today there is the Internet with its search engines. As a result 76 percent of the orders come via the Internet, and 94 to 97 percent of these orders are delivered overnight. Various forces are responsible for this. The producers don't have distributing warehouses anymore. That makes wholesalers like Niemann + Frey, which now delivers to Marseille and Corsica by air freight, all the more important. In the old days orders were placed with a form, the delivery then took three to four days. Today a whole fleet of sprinters ensures delivery over night.
The Vespa business still accounts for 50 of revenues. Many competitors have now entered the scooter market. The Japanese, Koreans and Chinese are all in on the act now. Gerd Frey is not at all worried about the two-wheeler market. Although the Vespa was invented as a cheap transportation means, the scooter has never gone out of fashion. The more the metropolitan cities are engulfed by gridlock, the more appealing the nifty scooters become. London and Paris are just as much El Dorados for scooters as Madrid and Barcelona. The scooter drivers have no desire to get caught in never-ending traffic jams and can find parking spaces anywhere. Even business people there use the two-wheelers for a fast and convenient means of transport. For Gerd Frey that sounds like further growth: "The business is not geared toward my own life plans." It's a good job he enjoys it so much – and that more and more people are enjoying driving Vespas.
Niemann & Frey GmbH
Tel.: +49 (0) 2151 – 5554-0
Fax: +49 (0) 2151 – 5554-25