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Posts Tagged ‘retail’

Do You Remember Bike Shops?

Monday, January 10th, 2011 by Mick Allan

The siting of your local cycle shops and their geographic relation to each other follows the same principles which govern the relative locations of ants nests in the Amazonian jungle. Bear with me. If you look at a map of ant nests they follow a loose hexagonal grid. Each nest sits in the middle of an area which shares it’s borders with several other territories. To survive each nest must defend its territory to protect its food source. A loss of area to an aggressive neighbour represents a loss of valuable resources and threatens the very survival of the nest.

Cycle shops are sited to optimise their exposure to cyclists. If sited too close together they risk competing directly for the same resources (customers), so they space themselves out. But they can’t be too far apart – if they locate themselves too far from centres of population they risk having no customers at all. It’s a fine balancing act – they want to be close to lots of people but not too close to each other. Very specialist (recumbents, cargo bikes etc) shops can survive further out because their wares are so rare that those wanting them are prepared to travel. This works if they can retain control of their niche but if the things they sell suddenly become mainstream and sold in every other bike shop they can find themselves out on a limb.

cycle_heathen

Cycling has seen a massive spike in popularity over the last few years. This is great news for anyone who loves cycling. What’s interesting about the latest figures is that this rise in cycling has been matched by a corresponding rise in the success of web based retailers. A lot of new ‘food’ has appeared on our forest floor but it hasn’t really benefited the ants.

I love bike shops. I’ll never miss the opportunity to visit a new bike shop in a new town. I love the smell of them and spotting the things which make each shop unique – how the layout and the choice of stock define each shop’s character.

Without exception good bike shops are staffed by actual cyclists, people who believe passionately in cycling. Whether it’s BMXing or track racing or just pedaling to the shops – they work in bike shops all their lives for less than the national average wages because they are bike geeks. They work in bike shops because they want to share their enthusiasm, to make a difference. To get bums on seats. They don’t do it for the money but perhaps they dreamed all along that one day – when cycling eventually hit the mainstream – that they would start earning a decent wage. Well cycling has finally hit the mainstream but not very much has changed for most independent cycle shop employees.

As fast as we are attracting new people to cycling we are losing them to internet based retailers and corporate chains. I know it’s a-dog-eat-dog-survival-of-the-fittest deal out there in the retail business jungle. But what has happened is that the success and growth in the cycle sector has been noticed by some big players and they want some of the action. The long term result of this is likely to be that, starved of resources, our local bike shops will simply go under. One by one. We could simply shrug our shoulders and say ‘c’est la vie, that’s business’.

But there’s a problem. When they disappear they probably wont come back. If they are replaced on the high street they’ll be replaced with high volume faceless chains with poorly trained staff. Your traditional independent cycle shop simply cannot compete on price with the www.retailers  but they are an invaluable addition to our high streets. They employ local people. They usually have a wealth of knowledge and experience, and they have a mechanic who knows what she’s doing.

People cannot be blamed for being attracted to the best deal but they should be aware that their choices can have repercussions: if you want your local bike shop to go out of business just keep buying your bikes and equipment on-line.

Cyclorama believes in bike shops, we urge you to support your local bike shop before it disappears.

Read about cycle shops in Cyclorama’s Bike Culture section

Full price?!

Thursday, April 1st, 2010 by Mick Allan

I worked in cycle shops for over twenty years. Preparations for the Cyclorama Retailers section had me reminiscing about working at the sharp end of the cycle industry. It’s not easy running a bike shop, customer expectations are high and margins are low. Finding and retaining experienced staff at lower than average wages is never easy. And as an employee it was often quite a challenge to retain ones sense of humour when dealing with the general cycling public. Whenever I meet up with my old bike shop mates the talk soon turns to particularly memorable episodes involving certain ‘clients’. ‘Client’ being the code word we used for difficult customers.

pretty bikes all in a row

Pretty bikes all in a row

Picture the scene, an early season sunny Saturday afternoon, a busy shop and a client who seems genuinely interested. I’ve walked him up the price-points, explaining the fundamental differences between £300, £400, £500, £600 and £700 bikes. He seems a friendly guy. He’s with his wife who waits patiently nearby. He keeps asking questions and I feel like I’m on track for a sale. After an hour or more I approach the close, it seems like he’s struggling to find questions to ask and my shop is getting really busy around us. He has already stated that he definitely wants to purchase a bike today.

Eventually I say; ‘Which bike are you particularly interested in? If you’d like me to have it checked over now it can be ready to go in half an hour’.

He wanders back down the shop, points to a bike and says: ‘What’s your best price?’

‘£300′ says I, ‘Just as it says on the price label Sir’.

You’re not understanding me’, says he. ‘What. Is. Your. Best. Price?’

To which I reply, as politely as is humanly possible, words to the effect that; ‘The price is on the sticker Sir, that’s how much we charge because we are a small but nonetheless full-service cycle shop with a carefully selected range of fine products, knowledgeable staff and a hard earned reputation for the quality of our assembly. That is a brand-new-bike inasmuch as it is not this year’s model but next year’s and has just arrived in store. It represents such great value for money that I do not anticipate having any difficulty selling each and every one that we order. At the suggested retail price. In fact there is a very high likelihood that our supplier will run out of stock half way through the year leaving us crying out for more. Just like they did last year. And the year before that.  I’ve been happy to stand here for all this time providing you with all the information you need to make an informed decision on the purchase of a machine which you may likely own for the next decade. That’s the price, right there on the sticker. It represents a gross profit to us of £X, much of which has been absorbed by my wages standing here talking to you. But if it makes the difference between you buying the bike and walking out of here empty handed I am prepared to offer you a discount on any components and accessories you purchase with the bike today.

To which he responded; ‘I don’t want any accessories, just the bike. And let me tell you, (drawing nearer, his eyes fixed to mine) I never. Ever. Pay full price. For anything.

I’ll ask you again; What is your best price?

I said; ‘I’m sorry that we can’t do business today,’ smiled, and walked away.

He stormed out.

Two days later he came back into the shop (without his wife), avoided my gaze, approached another member of staff and bought the bike straight off the shop floor.

I often wondered how on earth he was able to get through life ‘not paying full price for anything’. Supermarkets and petrol stations must have been challenging!

The bottom line is, if we want high quality, enthusiastic, knowledgeable, full-service high-street bicycle retailers to survive in good health we cannot expect them to charge high-volume, low-service, internet retailer prices. We are right to expect high levels of competence and professionalism but we can’t simultaneously beat them up over price.

Bicycle shops, use them or lose them! The world will surely be a poorer place when they’ve gone.

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Bad Ass.

We’re very excited about the new Cyclorama Retailers section which will launch shortly after Easter. With Bike Culture and Cyclorama Exhibitors  sections already in place Cyclorama Retailers becomes the long awaited third ‘corner stone’ of the Cyclorama site. One of the first retailers to sign up was B*A*B, located a few miles outside of Bristol. B*A*B is owned and run by Box, a very old friend of mine, and the finest mechanic I have ever worked with. Now I consider myself a good mechanic, I was trained by a pro-team mechanic. But when people, and they have, say to me that I’m the best mechanic that they know I wince inside. Because whilst Box is alive I’ll never be the best mechanic I know. There is only one person to whom I would entrust my Rocky Mountain; Box. All day long. Great guy, awesome mechanic, gorgeous wife, beautiful kids. I hate his guts.

Click here to visit Cyclorama Retailers, our listing of outstanding bike shops.