At the beginning of 2017, BikeBiz reported the closing of Northamptonshire mainstay Wellingborough Cycles.
The news came as a shock to the community as the shop was well known for its quality service and renowned group rides, even making it into BikeBiz’s Top 20 IBDs list in 2016 due to its “efficient and helpful service, in-depth expertise and comprehensive range”.
However, all was not lost for the community, as a key member of the Wellingborough staff ex-shop manager Tom Scott-Collins has now created a brand new business from the ashes of the closure. The new venture, called VeloElite, will focus on servicing, repairs and bike fitting. Just two weeks after the closure of the shop, VeloElite opened to the public on 12th. February.
Not only is the new shop up and running, but the renowned shop rides previously running from Wellingborough cycles have now moved over to VeloElite and are running every Saturday from 8.30am, with some 40 riders coming to the first ride despite the widespread storms and snow across the UK.
“I had just lost my job at Wellingborough Cycles and had to find a new source of income,” commented Scott-Collins. “I have always wanted to go down the route of owning my own business, but this was something I imagined happening in the future. As a result of the shop sadly closing down, my plans have had to happen fairly quickly which is probably a good thing as I would have probably bottled it given time to think!”
“Initially our process was to find a suitable cafe/meeting point to carry on our successful group rides we ran from Wellingborough Cycles. We found the Water Mill tearooms at Woodford mill, the location is Idyllic and a perfect for a hub for our rides. We got talking to the Landlord and it just so happened that he had an office that had not been used for a while. We went away to discuss whether we thought there could be something salvaged from Wellingborough Cycles.
"So we sat down and crunched some numbers and it was very apparent that the profitable areas of Wellingborough Cycles were in the services it provides rather than the retail side. These services consisted of workshop repairs and bike fitting, which was ideal in terms of a new business as these are my area of expertise. We managed to get the Unit ready within two weeks of Wellingborough Cycles closing and were trading within three weeks."
According to Scott-Collins, since the opening, the shop has been a tremendous success: “Since then, we have been rushed of our feet with repairs and inundated with Bike Fit bookings! The reaction from the everyone has been amazing we have had an overwhelming amount of support – Wellingborough Cycles as a cycling community is very close and everyone has been great. We are continuing the Group rides where we get upwards of 80 riders across seven speed groups, so we have been able to keep everyone together.”
With so many closures being reported, Scott-Collins believes the key to keeping the IBD model working is adapting to changing face of the industry: “The cycle industry is changing; for me this is clear when looking to purchase cycling products myself in the trade, I have found on a number of occasions I can purchase these goods considerably cheaper from online retailers instead of the trade accounts we have! How can this happen?
“If the retail side of bike shops is to continue then this has got to change – you simply cannot continue as a retailer if your customers are able to buy products online, cheaper than the retailer can buy them at trade price.
“Having said that, the internet is going nowhere and as result I have set my business up to complement and not compete with the internet. Every service I provide cannot be found online – and where necessary, I will get customers to deliver parts to me where I cannot source at a competitive price all in attempt to provide the best possible service and prices to our customers. It really is a case of adapting and providing the customer a ‘shopping experience’ that cannot be experienced online.
“A solution has got to come from the supplier/manufacturer making a stand to not supply the online retailers with a rate that will allow them to undercut everyone. Distributors need to be able to offer IBS's the best rates so they can make the margin necessary to cover costs and build a strong business.”