Comment: trading in a not so iDeal world

Had to crow bar the kids off phones and tablets over Christmas? Your future customer may be much the same
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We’re now nearly two months into a pretty non-descript 2014, where only the extremely brave will have dared venture outdoors. Weather has never been the unique selling point of the British cycle market (unless you’re in the mudguard business) but thus far things have been far more dire than usual. Cycling in rain isn’t a big deal, but many of us will have weighed up the comfort of indoors versus the thought of cleaning away a tonne of muck post ride and chosen the former of late.

So by the looks of things trade is off to a bad start in 2014, with very few retailers declaring a handy helping of Christmas business to see them through the quiet period. Sadly Mystic Meg declined the opportunity to work at BikeBiz, so you’re stuck with a few thoughts on the period ahead from yours truly.

We talk about the future of cycling a lot in this business, but with a tendency to overlook the youth, instead focusing on what our own generation’s creaky knees will be able to achieve. Consider this for a moment – the teenagers of today have all grown up on a diet of data – there simply has not been a period of their lives where tablets (that’s handheld computers, not rave enhancers) haven’t been glued to faces.

With information no more than a matter of seconds away at any time, what does that mean for the future of retail? You’ll only have to have spent time with a young family member over Christmas to see how frequently electronic devices are used. There’s no escaping online retail, the majority of us have accepted that now, yet embracing and accepting are worlds apart. There’s no shame in being unsure quite how to handle the younger generation, but my guess is that face-to-face chats about supporting your local sadly aren’t going to sink in nowadays.

Some traditions are still alive and well, as evidenced by the hoards of people queuing for the January sales. The age old tradition of badging items as on sale, when barely a shade off the true value, lured many who later realised the deals weren’t as great as they first seemed. So why did they bother? Tradition aside there were some strong adverts and social media hype for the sales – seemingly one of the few ways to get many off sofas and out into the wild.

Some in the business ‘don’t believe in marketing’, relying on one-to-one relationships built over time. Nothing wrong with that of course, but my inkling is that this strategy will become a whole lot harder to establish in years to come.

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