Retail is retail, whatever sector you are in. There are items that will be sold to a range of people also known as customers! The way in which this is done will vary, products may sell themselves, if it’s the right price, displayed in the most appealing way or highlighted from a sales person. Whatever way at the end of the day, if there is cash in the till and customers go home satisfied is the best outcome right? This seems to be getting harder to fulfil as demands and expectations of customers has got far greater in terms of what they can get for as little as they can, courtesy of the help of Google and those blasted smart phones! The way people shop has changed and this has been hitting the bike shops too, possibly not in a good way.
The bike industry is a very bizarre, interesting and evolving beast, that is constantly advancing and changing. If you got into cycling in your teens and then left it for a couple of years and rediscovered your love for life on 2 wheels, you would have to have a re-education of what is going on in every area in biking, unless you’ve kept one ear to the ground as to the latest trends. Even being within the belly of the beast you have to be on the ball and ahead of the game somehow, to be ahead of the customers. It’s turning out to be particularly hard to achieve this in these modern times, nothing is a surprise, bit of a shame really.
What happened to the grand reveal?
No longer do you (well I don’t) eagerly anticipate heading to a bike show to see the latest shiny bicycles and toys. They have already either officially been launched online or leaked out by some rogue to spoil the fun if they had an embargo. This means that retailers and customers alike are seeing products at the same time. This also has the knock on effect of why bother going to a bike shop, you’ve already seen it right? Thank goodness that we humans love the physical, to see things up close and personal is still in our blood (just about). This means that they may have seen that new Troy Lee Design Specialized Turbo Levo Expert for example, but they haven’t SEEN it in the flesh, there’s something about it.
If it wasn’t for this need to get up close and personal with the next purchase, bike shops would just be bike service centres and a row of screens or catalogs (like Argos) to peruse a order the kit to your house. I hope it doesn’t go this way as there is still a need to try on the new kits, helmets and sit on bikes alongside experienced (hopefully) staff who can guide you in what to purchase.
Shop Cycle – Just Another Shop?
I’ve not come from a biking background and not grown up around the life of bike shops, but they are different to other shops in retail. It’s more of an experience where not only can you buy some shiny bike bits that you really really need, you can also get to know the team, whilst they tinker with your bike. There are over 2,500 bikes shops all over the UK and they are not staying open just to sell bikes (little do you know). Yes ultimately they only survive if bikes and stuff are sold, but it’s more than that. It’s the culture that surrounds it, the loyal core customers who week after week come back in, for maintenance on the bike, the next bike build or just a chat about where they have been riding recently.
It’s turning more from a shop that sells stuff, to a meeting point, community hub for those with shared passions and a place to be ahead of the game with the latest kit. The development of coffee shops/bike shop is simply genius. To be honest I’m surprised there isn’t a bike shop pub open yet as that would be hugely popular in my eyes. Apparently beer, pies and bikes is a rather good combo or maybe a dangerous combination. I can picture many drunk bike purchases (more than there already is!).
4 years in one bike shop, I certainly didn’t see that coming! I’ve come from leading biking at an outdoor activity to stepping into retail and the bike industry. I never honestly saw myself in a shop environment, but hey life can take you in all sort of directions. At first it was very much an eye opener (actually it still is) into a whole new world full of lively characters, colourful language and imaginations (staff and customers alike) and a whole load to learn. Even though I was involved with biking, selling it and really knowing about the ins and outs is a different kettle of fish and I’m no where near bike geek level and not sure I ever will be. You meet some people who just absorb and obtain knowledge (I am not one of these unfortunately). I know my knowledge limits and turn to the guys around me when someone needs a bit more detail, I don’t see the point of trying to blag my way through, seems very dishonest, I want people to get the right information in the first place and hopefully I will gain more info in the process.
It’s an interesting place of work. Taking your hobby and turning it into a job is sometimes not a the best mix, like my previous job where after work the last thing I wanted to do was go biking. Here, I get to share my love of biking, research the latest bikes and treat myself (too many times) to some of the bike stuff that I never thought I could get! As our customers say it’s like walking into a sweet shop! You can have as many sweets as you can afford…then there’s finance!
Don’t get me wrong it’s got its perks, but the day to day can sometimes wear a little thin, particularly in the winter. Just like the sun they only make an appearance now and then, there’s not so many hardy riders out there. This means in the quieter, colder (no heating makes for a cold shop), darker months there’s only so much research on bikes and kit you can afford to buy (of course not for yourself) after you’ve perused every distributors b2b. I am someone who can’t just sit around, so I turn to tidying, cleaning and rearranging (this keeps the shop fresh, but also confuses the other staff, which I find highly amusing!). It’s all good really, although I may not get weekends off (open 7 days a week) unless I book them, on days off I can get out and ride or do whatever I like, which is pretty sweet and trails are usually quieter on weekdays anyway! When the clocks go forward and there’s more daylight hours, bikes get brought out of the sheds and the sun makes people smiles between the showers, the days seem to just disappear, then another year of bikes comes round again, the cycle spirals up again!
I’m sure you’ve read posts and articles like this before, but thought I would give my brief 2 pence as well…
My bike shop whinges
- Price Matching – if you’ve found it cheaper, buy it there don’t think you are doing us a favour by coming to us so we can lose profits. If not come in, chat to us, get to know us and we’ll see what we can do. It’s all in the approach to price
- Gain the knowledge, buy online – just rude really!
- No reason discounting – You wouldn’t go into a supermarket and ask to have the your weekly food shop cheaper for no reason, so why should we? Again, get to know us!
- Waiting for you to open or coming in at closing time – just why, check the store opening times – you use the internet for price matching and buying, so why not check this too!
- Expecting instant fixes – We are not magicians, we can’t carry every single part you may have broken and in fact the service centre is generally the busiest part of a shop, so don’t expect to just jump the queue.
- Click & Collect – It’s a great service and is very successful and popular, but it loses that rapport with the local shop, conversation is lost, good advice is missed and the shop is left with the unwanted goods, whilst customers leave underwhelmed by the experience.
- Price Changing – Simply can’t keep up, increases and sales – it’s just to keep up with everyone, just go through endless amount of labels!
Am I talking myself out of the job here?
There are some perks too…
- There are the advantages of getting to check out the latest bike stuff and sometimes get some treats as staff.
- You get the bikes you’ve always wanted and never knew you needed, that word ‘trade’ opens many doors.
- Bike shop brews play a very important role in the day to day smooth running of the shop.
- There are some lovely customers who also bring ‘healthy’ treats now and then…ok, they may be bribes, but hey it all works!
- You get to meet and ride with some very talented riders and hear some very interesting and amusing stories, which is pretty cool.
You get out of the job what you put in, if you want to get an event going, you make it happen. If there are things to be changed get the ball rolling, it’s all about your attitude towards it and keeping that passion for what you love alive.
The rise of the E-Bike (lovers and haters)
The delivery guys are getting shocked at the weight and size of the recent boxes they are delivering more often to us. This is the landing of many e-bikes and they are going out the door just as quick as they are coming in! There are mixed feelings about these beasts. On the one hand they are taking away some of the challenge and skill of climbing, adding weight to shift on the descent. The flip side is that it’s getting the less fit off the couch and hitting the trails, those who are short of time can still do a good ride in a shorter amount of time. Whatever camp you are in they are here and advancing with every new release that comes through. It has broadened our customer base, increased sales as these bikes don’t come cheap and changed the conversations we have. What will be next? I have mixed opinions of them, I personally don’t want one, but I understand the massive benefits to many others.
What will be next?
The future of the bike industry is unknown, but it certainly is bright if the technology and opportunities keep coming. What will be then next big craze? Electric bikes are here to stay, electric shifting is here, who knows, but as long as people still want to go biking, the shops will keep selling and trying to compete with the online giants. This may become more of a struggle because an increasing number of bike manufacturers are selling direct, cutting out the retailers. The shops just have to provide the up most in terms of service to prove they are worthy of going to, so this relies on the staff to be on there game each day. Every day is a school day, then! Whether I stay within this game of biking retail who knows, but just for now it’s all working out rather nicely, getting the bikes and being free to ride the bikes, what’s not to love!
Let’s end with some classic brands that some people just can’t crack the pronunciation of…
- Schwalbe – Swobble, Salb, Salbe
- Schrader – Shradder, Shredder, car valve
- Presta – Pesto, Pristo, the thin one
- Specialized – Specialist
- Haibike – Hey bike
- Lezyne – Lezeen, Lezayne, Lenzin
- Endura – Enduro
- SRAM – S-Ram, Serram, Schram, Skram, Srame
- Mavic – May-vic
If you have any more, please do share!
There’s also all the words that are technically correct, but with most of the minds of bikers and staff they manage to find something rude in it, hmm. I will leave that one for you, no need to take it any further. There’s also the ‘I can’t believe they asked for that…’ in the form of a fake receipt with a different price for a bike so his missus wouldn’t find out how much he actually spent!!! SHOCKING!
Bit of a random one, but just wanted to get some thoughts down!