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Helping bike shops in a busy time for the cycling industry

Schwalbe recently launched a volunteer programme to assist retailers experiencing a surge in business – particularly with services and repairs. Rebecca Morley finds out how it has helped stores during a busy period for the cycling industry

The rising numbers of cyclists in the UK since the start of lockdown has caused a surge in business across the industry, with demand for repairs also increasing alongside that of new bikes. This has also been recognised by the Government and its Fix Your Bike Voucher Scheme, aimed at encouraging the public to embrace cycling by allowing them to receive a voucher worth up to £50 towards the cost of repairing a bike. This was so popular that when the first batch of 50,000 vouchers was released, the website crashed.

While stores and workshops have welcomed this new interest, many retailers have found themselves in extra need of a helping hand during what some have described as the busiest few months of their history.

In July, Schwalbe launched a volunteer programme to assist retailers experiencing a surge in business, particularly for servicing and repairs. The programme, free to the retailer, allowed UK stores access to a Schwalbe sales promoter to work as an extra pair of hands, either in the workshop or on the shop floor, for a day or multiple days if required.

This assistance has helped retailers get on top of often huge backlogs of work, with shop owners and managers being appreciative of the help. One shop that utilised the offer was Giant Store Sheffield, which had a visit from Schwalbe’s Ben Tomkinson.

Ben Tomkinson

“It was a massive help and saved us a lot of time so we could concentrate on other things – namely customers coming through the door,” says store manager Andy Liversidge. “It was a breath of fresh air after having experienced a hellish three months as far as business goes. It’s been relentless. We’ve experienced the busiest three to four months since opening in 2013. It’s been that busy.”

But while the lockdown has prompted much of the population to take to two wheels, the summer months do see an upward trend in cycling – so how much of this is down to COVID-19? “It’s very pandemic-led,” Liversidge says. “We’ve seen a lot of new customers come through the door who we would not normally see. There was a particular price point of bike – the entry-level leisure market has absolutely boomed over the last three to four months.

“Sheffield’s quite a dense city. It’s a very urbanised area but there’s a lot of green space as well. A lot of people, during the initial part of lockdown, were turning to bicycles for that one hour of exercise and it evolved from there – they were getting their partners and the kids involved. We would naturally see an upward curve from April onwards, but this situation has taken things to a whole new level.”

But as we start to head out of lockdown, Liversidge says he hopes the trend will continue, with Sheffield in particular being a city that is making investments. Back in June, the city region published a plan to create a network of more than 1,000 kilometres of accessible walking and cycling routes across South Yorkshire. “There’s a lot of infrastructure and that looks like it’s a continuous programme,” says Liversidge. “Active travel in our city is growing. The industry’s turned a huge corner in the respect of people who are actually looking at bikes as modes of transport now as opposed to just being fitness-related. That’s a very big change in a lot of mindsets.”

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