Having opened a bricks and mortar store just over a year ago, Mark Sutton pays the store a visit to see how business is going...
Tell us about Groove’s history and how it got to where it is today:
The business started with the owner Mark Seaman and a Transit van. Mark would attend races and sell racing gear, as well as being a force to contend with on the track. From there the lorry was bought. That lorry still attends plenty of race days, but is mostly parked within our warehouse and is open to the store’s customers to browse.
The warehouse opened in October 2008 and the interior turned into a store dedicated to freestyle and BMX racing.
So the store’s not just race focused then?
No, in fact it’s half and half. Racing was booming after the Olympics and does still sell through, but it’s a fiercely competitive market fought between just a few companies in the UK.
Our ambition is to be the biggest player in this market and to challenge some of the bigger freestyle stores as time goes on. Hopefully we’ll become the largest independent BMX store, all under one roof.
How was Christmas for you – did BMX sales go mad as predicted?
From November onwards, sales certainly picked up dramatically. Complete bikes in particular are real money-spinners for us. Our entire order of WeThePeople bikes has sold prior to its arrival, and several other brands that we’ve pushed are also proving strong performers. We’re really behind the Verde and Twenty brands at present. Twenty components are what we tend to supply our sponsored riders with and this does occasionally rub off on customers who meet our team. In fact, we’ve just sold a bike very similar in appearance to the one we supplied up-and-coming James Curnock. This happened all because a kid asked him where he got his bike.
You have an extensive sponsorship programme then?
The Groove factory and flow race team are huge and very well known on the race circuit. There’s a few race-winners on the main team too, all of which represent the store at races.
As for freestyle, we’ve got four riders, most of whom are local and have appeared in adverts that you may have seen in BMX magazines.
Marketing the store is taken care of then?
As you’d expect, we’re a very big supporter of newly launched race magazine Fast Lane. Then there are our adverts in Ride, which hopefully are building the store’s name among the freestyle crowd.
Promoting the store locally isn’t a problem as those we sponsor always sing the praises of the shop wherever they go. Having said that, we do support a small local paper and make an effort to get our names on the flyers for most council organised events.
In terms of online, we’ve got quite a popular blog running, which is updated every few days. Within this we post product news, team goings-on and occasionally we’ll write articles for the web. The most recent posts have involved the scales and a number of products. On a quiet day we get down a selection of products, look up the manufacturers’ claimed weights and then find out the true weight. Some of the claims are pretty outrageous.
All of this content tends to find its way to our Facebook page too, which is just another portal to get the brand name drilled into the minds of the public.
We’re also working on our own branded t-shirts to be sold in store, as well as Groove stickers to hand out with orders. In the future, there’s a chance that we will have our own brand too...
Can you share any more details on your own brand?
I can’t say too much, but we’ve got vague plans to introduce a component brand under a yet-to-be-decided brand name. We are going to Interbike to scope the potential this year.
So your customers, are they all kids, or are older BMX riders still part of the demographic?
It is mostly kids, but it is a huge market, I mean really huge. There is obviously an established generation of riders sticking with riding 20-inch, but the new wave of ten to 16-year-olds provide us with plenty of sales. As I said earlier though, it’s all about the complete bike ranging between £300 to £500, these sell like crazy.
So component sales don’t make up a large portion of revenue?
Oh they do, but it’s mostly custom wheel builds. I’d say we do one custom build a day going up to Christmas. We’ve done a few complete bike builds from the ground up too, which needless to say generates a healthy take.
Race wise, safety concerns are rife among those hitting the track. We sell a load of full-face helmets, neck braces and race clothing.
So what’s the next big trend within the sector?
It’s got to be front brakes. There’s so many inspirational guys out there doing crazy things with their front brakes. Mostly I’m just saying this to annoy the riders that love to footjam their fork.
Telephone: 01279 451 677
Owner: Mark Seaman
Opening times: Monday to Friday 10am to 6pm, Saturday 9am to 5pm, Sunday 10am to 4pm