How valuable are IBDs to brands like yourself?
Tandem Group Cycles focuses solely on the IBD market, so IBDs are invaluable to us and our brands. We’ve been banging that same IBD-centric drum for years in the hope that small businesses will listen and show support in return. We’re a small team, so we like to think we’re ideally suited for all retailers who appreciate a more personal touch. When you deal with us, you’ll get to know who you need to talk to, to get different jobs done – the same can’t be said for many other bike distributors I’m aware of. Those IBDs who work with us tend to do so for many years, which I’d say speaks for itself.
I can’t deny it’s frustrating to see IBDs support brands that clearly undercut them, or push their way in front of consumers directly to take business away from them, but at the same time I can appreciate it’s tough times out there, so all options are having to be considered. Recent ‘Black Friday’ deals from some brands were shocking in my opinion, bikes being sold directly to consumers below trade prices is madness, unless you want to alienate your complete IBD network.
Are you optimistic about their future, or do you feel the threat of the internet is too significant?
Yes, I’m a naturally optimistic person, so to any dealer that sees me after reading this – I expect my beer to be at least half full please! In all seriousness, though, it has been a very tough year for us all, not just for the bike trade, but for everyone. Media headlines about our impending doom over Brexit don’t help boost people’s confidence or morale, and that of course has a ripple on effect with how people spend their money. But I’m quietly confident that things will improve for those who last the test of time through this ‘rough patch’. Online retailers are of course a threat to any traditional retailer, but they’re here to stay.
Luckily for us, bikes still need servicing, consumers still want their new bike assembling for them, and in most cases, they want to physically see the bike before buying. Yes, IBDs see a lot of tyre kickers who annoyingly leave the store to buy online, but the proactive dealers out there can at least convert a percentage of them into sales by promoting the advantages of buying in-store rather than having a box delivered to their house. Wherever we can we promote the merits of IBDs and those who actively use social media will already know that we’ll push your stores whenever we can to help promote our brands and your business for mutual benefit. I’m sure that between us, even the smallest technophobic dealers out there can start to use the internet to their advantage.
Of course, this is just my personal opinion, and I can appreciate a lot of IBDs will feel downtrodden after a disappointing year, but hopefully there’s still enough optimism out there to work on solving the problem. It won’t happen overnight, but we’ll do all we can to help.
How significant do you believe Small Business Saturday could be for the IBD?
I personally think there are a few too many ‘special’ selling days to make them that special. Kind of like your local sofa superstore that has a limited time only special offer – until the next one starts the day after. Yes, it’s great when there’s a large focus on smaller businesses, and it’s great when incentives such as banks offering cashback on high street purchases are announced, but this won’t generate enough business to pay the mortgage all year round.
More needs to be done to maintain regular business and workable margins for the long-term – exactly what that is is difficult to answer in one statement for everyone. All I’ll say is that we’ll adapt as much as possible to support our IBD network and will continue to push our consumer database in their direction. We continually strive to improve our products and make them as competitive as possible so that ‘special’ offers aren’t so important. Our lightweight junior brand, Squish, pays perfect testament to this. Since its launch in January 2017, sales have been fantastic and with its continued growth, it’s clear there is a huge appetite for this type of product in-store.
IBDs should focus on brands and products like this, rather than stocking brands that are sold everywhere, to everyone and that are always discounted. Partnering the right brands with good in-store service would be more significant than any ‘Black Friday’, ‘Bank Holiday Special’ or ‘Small Business Saturday’ promotions.