How’s business at the moment?
Business is going really well – we specialise in building bespoke titanium bikes and we have seen interest increase dramatically over the last three years.
What is the story behind the name? Have you ever been tempted to rename the shop to something more generic like ‘Hunstanton Cycles’?
The name comes from the previous owner and there was a move to change it when the new team took over. However, internet research showed that 8,000 people a day were searching specifically for www.fatbirds.co.uk – so there was no way we could change it!
Is road cycling still going strong? We hear anecdotally that MTB is having a slow resurgence…
Road cycling is around 80 per cent of our sales. There is a slow growth in MTB, but the biggest growth currently is in the ladies who are getting into the sport. We have three groups of girls who ride from the shop each week.
Do you aim to attract customers from afar to the shop?
The majority of our business is web based and our customers come from all over the UK and Europe. We have a great telephone team of experts who can help customers specify their bike and ensure they get what they need!
How many staff do you have?
We currently have a staff of ten.
Do you still have a ‘bored spouse’ area where there’s a coffee table, sofa and mags?
Of course! But we also have stunning sandy beaches less than ten minutes ride away and we find that riders bring their families up and set them up on the beach before coming to see us. During winter it’s a bracing walk, but in summer it’s time for building sandcastles.
How long have you offered bike fitting and in terms of popularity is it growing/the same?
We’ve offered bike fitting for the last five years – position on the bike is easily as important as the bike itself.
How do you engage with your community?
We have smaller weekly group rides from Hunstanton and the surrounding area – and on the last Saturday of every month do a larger ‘team Fatbirds ride’, which is typically 50 miles plus. We support the local ‘Sportive’ club, Sandringham and West Norfolk, who have just over 300 members.
Our biggest event is Pedal Norfolk – a three day cycling festival held at the beautiful Holkham Hall over the first Bank Holiday in May. This year we had 2,500 riders and 10,000 visitors from all over the country. Emma Pooley was our figurehead – Emma is world time trial champion and was a Team Fatbirds rider ten years ago. It was a great weekend.
We also sponsor the Norfolk Superhero, a mad local quadrathlon which involves a sea swim, kayak, 50 mile ride and then eight mile run along the beach.
How else do you drive business?
Search engine optimisation (through WMG), PLA, press both local and national, Facebook and Twitter. We also attend local and national trade fairs, ride locally and at national sportives.There’s a team going to the Dragon Ride and Ride London, for example. It’s always busy!
What’s the biggest challenge for a bike shop owner or manager in 2014?
Not having enough time to be able to ride. Seriously though, ensuring that you’ve got stock throughout the season is always a challenge.
What would you say to someone setting up a bike shop?
Make sure you have a point of difference.