You’d expect a move from an industrial unit to the High Street to positively affect sales, but it hasn’t had a huge effect for Bike Active. Co-owner Rob Hanley isn’t concerned, however, as he tells BikeBiz how he is taking on online giants...
Despite being within a five-mile radius of BikeBiz headquarters, Bike Active doesn’t necessarily pop up on our radar because of its locality. Sure, we ride past all the time and on a street otherwise occupied by tired looking buildings, the BikeActive store stands out as one that’s had some TLC. But it’s when you Google search brands like Lapierre or Orange that the Stanstead Abbotts store pops up, often top of the pile.
It’s hard to believe a retailer based in an area where the topography lines are relatively unpronounced could be selling so many full suspension bikes. But Bike Active has made a name for itself as an off-road specialist and ships bikes as far away as Scotland.
It’s not by chance, explains Hanley: “We’ve a philosophy of throwing our entire resource behind our hand-picked stable of brands. We ride these bikes and believe they’re the best brands available for UK trails. The store has become more of a showroom as most of our customers are discovering us online and travelling in, or simply filling out a finance form with us and buying that way.”
Interestingly, Bike Active breathed a sigh of relief when the results of Scotland’s independence referendum was revealed.
“I genuinely think that, had Scotland voted yes, it would have made a dent in our sales. Financed sales north of the border from our store would have become a bit more difficult,” says Hanley.
With an average sale of between £2,000 to £2,500 and a bike sent out most days of the week, Bike Active seemingly hasn’t got the memo that the MTB market is supposedly ‘flat’ in the UK.
But why is the business doing so well in challenging conditions?
“We’ve a sole focus on the enthusiast,” explains Hanley. “We’re very much available for one-to-ones and since we’ve ridden most bikes within our stocks the advice we can give is from personal and professional experience. Moving from an industrial estate to the High Street hasn’t made a huge impact on sales and we don’t carry a massive stock of components or spares aside from what’s needed for repairs and upgrades. With the competition on component sales online we’re pleased to have chosen this approach and as a result we’re able to dedicate a lot more time to complete bike sales and getting in front of the right customers online.”
Despite having a wall of jerseys signed by the likes of Fabian Barrel and Brendan Fairclough, the retailer is dipping a toe into the road. It helps that the store is just a few hundred metres from one of the steeper gradients in the area, so KOM-chasing road cyclists have become familiar with the store.
“We’ve put a lot of effort into presentation in the shop window and as a result we’ll often look out of the top floor window at night and see a group of cyclists outside inspecting the storefront. We’ve only been in these premises a year, but we’re certainly aware of a strong local road scene and are considering adding a tarmac ride alongside our weekend Epping Forest trips. One of the benefits of these new customers taking an interest is a spike in passing trade has opened up sales of nutrition product and 700c tubes. I’d imagine before long it’ll benefit our higher ticket items too.”
8 High Street,