I’ve read numerous posts on why you should support your local bike shop. As both a bike shop owner and consumer I thought I’d put my two pence worth on paper on why they need you now more than ever.
Some of you may already be aware but the cycle industry is struggling at the moment, a lot is of its own doing (I won’t get into that now!) but there are a significant number of brands, distributors, and retailers paying the price.
Speaking from a retail perspective, the industry is evolving, as are consumer habits and expectations. As a sector that has been largely served by independent retailers, the Cycle Industry has struggled to keep up with this pace of change.
It’s commonly believed that bike retailers are making huge sums of money from selling products instore. If you look at margins and gross profit, then yes they are making a fair amount of money. Look closer at the costs associated with providing that service; I’m not just talking about the staff cost for the time you spend with them. I’m talking about all costs associated with running the shop 12 months of the year. The rent, rates, utility and staffing, I’ll stop there before your coffee goes cold, but factor this in and no they are not making as much as you think. You’re looking at single figure % net profit and on relatively small turnovers (£500k – £1m), that profit is just enough to plough back into the business to try to keep up with the times and keep the businesses relevant. I say try because you can only ever try and keep up with the multi-store chains and online retailers to provide your customer with an experience that meets their expectations. The larger the retailer the more they invest in the customer experience and the bigger the gulf between them and the independent. It’s certainly reached a point now where that gulf is impossible to bridge. So what happens now…
Before you think I’m going to tell you to only shop at your local bike shop, boycott the online retailer and pay full RRP for everything, I can assure you I won’t. I’m a consumer as much as the next person, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t shop online, who doesn’t. I find what I want and I buy it from where I feel offers the best value. To me this doesn’t mean the lowest price, it’s a combination of factors, the price is definitely in there, alongside convenience, the speed of delivery, experience, and ongoing support. In the cycle industry, for bike purchases, that support is something an online retailer can’t provide as well as a shop and this is why there will always be a place for a local bike shop. It will just look very different to how it does now.
The bike shop of the future will hopefully feel like that of today, the same faces welcoming you. A bike shop where you can get your bike repaired, meet friends for a coffee, but it will be a shop that no longer relies on revenue generated from retail sales, these will supplement its service-centric revenue streams. In the short-term, while this transition happens there will be significant strains on these businesses and this is where you fit in. You can support your local shop by using those services, still purchasing items from them even if it takes that extra day to arrive, as long as it’s good value and I will leave you to judge what that looks like to you. If you keep using those services, then hopefully you’ll find your local bike shop will survive what is a hugely challenging time.
These businesses wouldn’t be there without you, they know that and they value your custom. All I ask is that you don’t judge them on the small slip-ups, we’re all human, we all have bad days, and at the moment those days where something happens that significantly impacts the viability of their existing business model are happening more often than not! Don’t judge them on one bad experience, they don’t have the luxury of hiding behind a corporate front.
Local bike shops are the heart of cycling communities across the country but they need the support of those communities now more than ever. You can play a huge part in shaping their future, so next time you need something, pop into the shop or pick up the phone to see if they can help. The worst thing that will happen is they will say they can’t.
Ceri, founder of a bike shop aged 22 when I thought I knew everything…