Questions about purchasing bicycles and parts
Hello BNA Members,
I have been investigating the possibility of launching a very different type of bricks-and-mortar retail cycling business within the Sydney metro area. The concept is very much people oriented, and focuses on cyclists that are looking to expand their interest in cycling, as well as expecting the most from their bikes and being part of the cycling culture.
Whilst undertaking my initial research, I sat down with Christopher Jones (BNA admin and publisher) to discuss the best approach to involve the community and with his permission would like to table a few questions to this forum members surrounding the following topic.
WHAT FEATURES WOULD MAKE A RETAIL BIKE SHOP ‘PIVOTAL’ TO YOUR CYCLING EXPERIENCE?
I don't mean how can we improve existing Local Bike Shops (LBS), but what would you ideally want to see from a uniquely different bicycle shop experience. Generally LBS are somewhat generic. There are a few standouts, that look to break the mould in selling you a bike, offering an ongoing cycling experience and provide a community centric hub.
I can hear chatter welling in this direction 'well isn’t that what a bike shop is for - selling bikes and related accessories'.
To this I would agree, but the bike and all that goes with it, is a lot different from other retail products that are sold. Retail cycling is a mature business and has a number of cultural and sub cultural attachments, which make it much more then just a ‘product’. It can be seen as a primary mode of transport, an explorer of single track, the roadie brigade, urban commuter or a fashion accessory for the younger hip crew.
What I am hoping for is the insight that would make the bike shop a place that would inspire a greater participation in cycling, as well as tapping into the benefits and culture that surround the cycling experience.
With thanks, Paul V.
1) site yourself on a main bike commuter or Fred route
2) sell coffee. And beer.
3) sell parts cheaper than anywhere on line in the world
4) fit any parts that people have bought elsewhere on line (free of charge). Half seriously though, maybe team up with the big online places as a drop-shipment point so customers can buy stuff, send it to you and then you do the installation (for a fee)
5) Organise some events that are all inclusive - to athletes, families, and people after some fun (eg a costume CX or Melburn roobaix type event, been done I know).
Two shops that I like.
Crank’n Cycles ‘n Toys They also have a very cool shop cat.
Over the Edge Melrose
Another shop I like regularly runs "courses" on riding and maintenance.
have a look at www.cycleskills.com.au
sells bike stuff, but it's more about the service.
you can go in and use their tools, or just get them to service your bike
they will install parts purchased OS
They are the qld wiggle agent.
+1 to coffee shop/location as suggested by Matty K
My Vision would be a shop/cafe set up in an old small warehouse where half the shop is dedicated to the modern world of cycling and equipment including modern decor (posters / memorabilia of cycling greats in the past 10/15 years) then as you step further in you are taken back in history with an area dedicated to what once was cycling where a prospective buyer can browse old frames, bikes and parts both old and NOS. This area would be decorated in old cycling memorabilia / posters / newspaper articles etc.
The cafe area would serve coffee, beer and single malt scotch while giving the customer a chance to sit amongst some of the greatest bikes of all times...
Of course customer service and fulfilling expectation should be your number 1 priority, followed equally with competitive pricing as determined by you.
Maybe this is a better description for a mueseum rather than a LBS!!!! One can dream though!!
I would think that it needs to be somewhere that people who ride bikes want to hang around, for a chat, for a drink etc. have lounges, chairs, easy and safe bike parking, open at the right times, closed when everyone is at work maybe.
once they turn up regularly, then you need to encourage them to part with cash to keep you going. Frequent flier points for servicing, discounts on bike related gear after x beverages maybe. Prices that are competitive with online. Options to service/install anything including purchased elsewhere.
Make it a service business, not a retail business.
I'm not sure about cycles kills.com as a name, but then reading it wrong is easy
bychosis (bahy-koh-sis): A mental disorder of delusions indicating impaired contact with a reality of no bicycles.
If you offer a bike mechanic course, I'll be your first customer.
Giant XTC 2
DIY bike mechanic training already exists. Youtube and the rest of the internet took care of that years ago. Why would you pay to attend such a course?
What type of customers are you hoping to attract?
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i can answer that:
ones that spend a lot of money all the time
Cycling is quite diverse. There are so many different types of cyclists and bikes. There are commuters, tourers, recreational, road racers, tiathletes, BMX, MTBers, CX just to name a few and then sub-sections within these disciplines. And each group has different wants and needs so it's very hard for one shop to cater for all these. Perhaps a warehouse type shop divided into different rooms/sections where each area concentrates on one cycling discipline.
You could also say buying bikes and parts can be done on the internet and has been for years. Why would you go to a LBS?
What would make an interesting bike shop is a place that does group rides properly. I'm talking about when you buy a bike, they specifically tell you 'hey we have MTB rides every Wednesday and Saturdays'. Too many times people buy a bike and leave it there destined for scumtree or feebay. If you could get people to build up their mileage, they will buy into the game. If bikes get used more that means more revenue for the shop. Not a lot of shops do this well. Given the amount of bikes they sell, I'm sure they could muster up something. Look at it this way:
- If you are encouraging riding regularly, stuff wears faster = more servicing (they can still buy parts online if they want)
- More riding means upgraditis = new bike or upgrade parts. It doesn't matter that the shop owner has been riding in the international scene for the past 5 years, consumers will point to the gear.
- If regular riding is on the calendar, you are less willing to wait to parts to be shipped. Don't be an ass and use this chance to extort. You will never be as cheap as online but price fairly. Someone who needs a new chain might be happy to pay a little more if they can ride the next 'group ride'.
- Have really good coffee shop to boost revenue. A few shops are already doing this - the key is get a real good coffee machine and some who can work the thing. The more hipster looknig the better.
- Keep in contact and this does not mean spam the same old 'sales' over and over again, let the consumers know what they can do with their new purchase not how you can scam more cash out of them.
- Offer a workshop option for those who want to DIY. You could sell tool kits on the side .
Specialized Secteur Expert
Kona Hei Hei DL
Cannondale Synapse 3
What is it about cycling in the city that you lot seem to require a place to go cycling when you aren't actually cycling? I prefer to ride rather than shop.
A better bike shop to my mind would simply have a service bay on one side, a wall of spare parts on the other and a register by the door. It would be run by knowledgeable people who are happy to put up with and help the Great Unwashed. It probably wouldn't sell bikes or the broad gamut of accessories (though it would stock the basic stuff to make a bike functional - helmets, pumps, bottles, tools). It would however have access/capacity to supply & assemble bikes from frame sets and group sets and may even do a few a year for display and custom purposes. It would be a bike service shop not a bicycle lifestyle outlet.
Ours is not to reason why...merely to point and giggle
Indeed. But a shop is there for the people who don't want to build/repair their own bike. It also allows to to see, feel and test in the flesh those products, which as yet is an experience that the internet can't quite match.
Someone said it above and I agree, you need to be open at hours that the customer wants - eg saturday AND Sunday, and early morning and evenings. You can probably close for a mid-day siesta and/or have your days off in the middle of the working week.
The bike mechanic that I go to is like that. He works from home, used to have a shop but sold it, does repairs/maintenace only, doesn't sell parts (except for small consumabale stuff like headset bearings, spacers, cables etc). He generally gets up at lunchtime and goes for a ride for a few hours then comes back and starts work and finishes up early the next morning. He doesn't advertise, just gets repeat business and new business from word of mouth, has more than enough work to keep him busy 7 days. He mainly works on road bikes, but he has a mate who recently closed up a LBS who comes and helps him out with servicing MTBs and BSOs.
Thank you for your responses thus far to my opening address. I do welcome your collective thoughts on what elements would go into creating the Ideal Cycling Shop and the community that would extend form this business.
As far as the customers and market goes, I'm really looking at feedback I obtain here as well as the business strategies I currently have to forge the end concept. Ideally I'm looking to develop a bike business that is uniquely different to most shops that are currently out there.
Fundamentally it will be about (over the course of time) delivering customers a unique range of quality cycling brands (ideally ones that aren't heavily discounted online), as well as developing a core service offering that builds a cycling culture and grows a strong cycling community not matter your level of experience. We will be there to provide our customers with the tools for their ongoing cycling journey.
I'll continue to welcome your thoughts and feedback on this topic. In the coming weeks I will look to raise a couple further questions on the topic.
I will jump in, I think staff personality and competence is crucial. Staff need to have people skills and understand this component. While I like an attractive bike shop - the prettiest or coolest shop wont cut it if the staff don't look after customers and this will directly influence my own decision what brand to purchase and referrals.
As I like technology - the idea of being there while the mechanic works is a plus. Also if the opportunity was provided dor DIY with all the tools and a skilled mechanic on hand (for tips and just-in-case), that would be a plus.
Location is key - there is a limit how far away it can be.
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Some really great points being made here.
IMO, I think the three biggest indicators to hit are
Their knowledge about products being sold along with sound cycling knowledge - in as many disciplines as possible/feasible.
Be forth-coming with quality advice and suggest alternatives (and the pros & cons for each) so the customer can make the final decision....don't just say buy X because its better than Y.
If a time is given to a customer, meet the deadline. If the deadline cannot be met, contact the customer ASAP and let them know - and offer "something" as way of saying thanks for your patience.
A discount, a free coffee (if they are onsite waiting), an in-store voucher, something to let the customer know they are valued and not just a number.
These need to make riders want to travel to this store - and I'm not just talking about the locals who live nearby.
Perhaps offer an express-service where riders can pay a little extra but have their bike serviced at short notice or during peak times.
Or perhaps even mobile servicing, or even just mobile pick-up & delivery (where the servicing is done in-store but someone drives around and picks up the bikes and delivers them back to the customer?)
I like the frequent rider points, for people that purchase goods from the store, even attend shop rides could receive Frequent rider points that could be used to obtain in-store discounts on goods or servicing.
I agree it is unlikely a bricks n mortar store could compete with the likes of the big online sellers, but as long as the prices are competitive then people will pay that "little bit" more for the convenience of having it now.
Demo days/nights and presentations from company reps (talking about their products and answering any questions) would also be a good way to attract people from afar to travel - if they were interested in coming to a presentation from say a SRAM rep talking about their new gear, or even just a particular product....with an option for those attending the session to purchase said goods at a discounted rate.
Sports dieticians talking about diet.
Training advice from relevant people in the industry, etc...
Quality bike fitting I think would also be high on the list - making sure that everyone buying a bike or anyone who owns a bike and is looking for a bike fit can get a decent fitting done at a reasonable price.
I'll leave it at that for now...
Good luck with the venture!
2012 Felt F75 | 105 | ProLite Braccianos | GP4000S
For my own selfish point of view.... Being open when I am not at work so I can actually get to the shop without taking up my precious weekend free time which I'd rather spend actually riding and/or with my family. That would help. Seriously, just some kid who can book in my bike for a service at 19:00 on weekdays, or lockers or something would be good. We can discuss the details via phone, email etc.
A business is only as good as the people in it.
Anocdote :- Recently a 40 something lady friend of mine visited a 'boutique' bike shop looking for both something to gain confidence on as she renewed her life on wheels after a long hiatus and a local bike shop she could forge a long term customer relationship with. After expressing interest in a well appointed, pricey flat bar hybrid type bike on the shop floor the racer boy salesman said words to the effect "oh, you only want one of those" Needless to say she will not set foot in the place again, despite it being 400m down the road from her 5 day per week workplace......... this is a shame and a loss to the bike shop involved.
Wrong attitude. As a bloke who has stepped into every bike shop I've ever passed in AU /NZ / USA I too have been all too often disappointed in the pushy salesmen who only want to sell you a full blown road bike, even to someone who is learning to ride or renewing acquaintances with two wheels after a couple of decades out of the saddle. My point is that women are potentially 50% of the market and can be just as passionate about thier riding experience as blokes. The male dominated racer boy type staff up front of such shops is a real problem in my experience for those wishing to break into or return to cycling, too much push to the pointy end of the bicycle spectrum and not enough listening. How about employing some female sales staff for those who seek a quieter attitude to matching bike with rider.......
A couple of technical observations :-
Test rides - Experienced riders often will know what size and spec thay want right off the shelf and will build it up themselves. But if a sit and fit on a turbo trainer on the shop floor is as close to a test ride as you get then I say bicycle sellers are cutting thier market well short. There is not enough flexibility and choice in test models to ride in some bike stores. Sure having a comprehensive test fleet is a big cost but a business has to spend money to earn money. Far too many bikes purchased without option to test ride folowed by a good dose of buyers remorse later on.
Also saddles - my experience with re acquanting myself to riding after decades away from riding was that the saddle is possibly the most important and the most problematic part of any bike Ii rode. I believe that a bicycle shop large or small that offers a decent range of try before you buy saddle shapes and brands will win over many first time buyers who have similar experiences to me.
3rd class cycling is always better than 1st class walking
This is spot on. Some of my LBSs (I like to spread the spend lol) open stupid times like from 10pm to 6pm. It has the be a really specific issue with a bike they sold me to actually use them - maybe they are not targeting service, who knows.
There are ways you could make this work
- Just have some kid there who will take in bikes, label them and then return them at times that are appropriate to you. That means opening from about 7am and closing at about 9pm.
- Rotate shifts so that some staff start early and some late.
Weekends are a biggie for me too. I can understand why hours would be limited but I find that closing early on Sunday is a lost opportunity. Sundays are usually the day when I realise I've stuffed something up on my bike and want to fix it asap. If there is a LBS open sunday afternoon, they will get my business 9/10 times. Otherwise it's easier to order online, get it Friday and DIY next the weekend.
Specialized Secteur Expert
Kona Hei Hei DL
Cannondale Synapse 3
i reckon a good idea would be a DIY section, where you 'rent' some space to do repairs , get use of tools and consumables, and are allowed a bit of a hand where needed.
a lot of riders do their own work but some are scared just in case they screw up ( hydro brakes maybe?, or just dont have the tools. this gets them in the shop, forms a relationship with the staff, and is another income stream.
Giant XTC 2
Further to this you could have something like project week/month where newbies or 1st time DIY'ers can buy the things they need from the shop and then spend time building their project under group-style supervision/guidance, using tools that the shop have (bottom bracket tools, etc - the things most riders don't have at home).
Alot of riders I know would love to build their own bike (to say they put it together) but many would be too scared or don't have the tools or the money to outlay to get them....or the guidance (other than watching videos on Youtube - which work for some people, but not everyone).
2012 Felt F75 | 105 | ProLite Braccianos | GP4000S
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