Like with most developing markets, specialising in e-bikes has required patience in order to get the business model right. Ray Wookey of Cycling Made Easy talks to Mark Sutton about taking his time to educate and familiarise customers with e-bikes and how that approach is starting to pay dividends...
As the sole retailer in the room during the Bicycle Association’s meeting on the electric bike market during late November, BikeBiz was immediately drawn to Cycling Made Easy’s retail business.
With tried and tested opinions on how to sell electric bikes, the room paid attention to owner Ray Wookey each and every time he addressed the floor.
Echoing the specialist distributor’s suggestions that engagement with the public was crucial to the sustained growth of the market, Wookey explained that, though time intensive, this is a segment where the fruits of labour are more often realised than they perhaps are in the sale of a traditional bicycle.
“Customers often come in to our store clutching a bundle of papers from internet research,” says Wookey.
“They want to know more, but understand, given the often higher ticket price and complexity of the product, that it’s unwise to jump into an internet purchase without the guidance of an expert. We sit the customer down and take time to understand why they are curious about electric bikes. More importantly, we will ensure they swing a leg over, guided by us, to try and develop a better understanding of the types of product that are available.”
Never an impulse buy, Wookey explains that he is frequently forwarded custom from his supply partners, with whom he works closely.
“Our brand partners know that we’ve got the necessary expertise, from both myself and our technical director Mike Barnard, to answer all the questions put to us.
“Our biggest source of custom comes from word of mouth and we feel that having spent the time to assist the customer in getting to grips with the product, most will leave enthused enough about the way an electric bike has effected their life to share their experience with others in their social circles.”
For this reason, Wookey says the early adopters of the market who initially bought sensibly are now a ‘second generation’ of buyer, returning for the high ticket item they were hesitant about committing to first time around.
“Those who try and understand the electric bicycle are sold for life and as such we are starting to see sell-through of the bikes costing up to £3,000, particularly over the course of the last six months.
“The bikes talk for themselves now and with the advent of technology such as crank drives, the bikes are becoming more and more user-friendly, allowing the fine tuning of the assistance provided. People have said in the past electric bikes are ‘cheating’, but that’s not my feeling. Electric bikes are no longer seen as the ‘one foot in the grave’ option for cycling, they are a sensible method to kick start your cycling experience again, as well as to maintain and eventually improve fitness in comfort.”
Cycling Made Easy’s methods appear to be paying off too, with turnover having doubled on 2011 levels last year and with Wookey holding the belief that this is perhaps just the beginning for the business, which is now entering its third year of trading.
“We’re not far off moving into our new showroom, a 2,000 square foot unit on the High Street. What’s more, we’ve moved into the distribution of the EcoBike label, which this year we will be interested in developing in the UK. It’s already our best selling label, much thanks to its value for money and we’d like to hear from other retailers who we in turn could help out during their first steps into the power assisted world.
“For those yet to make a decision on whether an e-bike is right for them, we’re also hosting monthly bike rides, which are already popular with existing customers and provide new users with a great opportunity to try a bike on realistic and varied terrain.”