A lot of BMX shops are opened by BMXers to live the BMX lifestyle. You don’t see businessmen opening shops in the 20-inch market and that’s great, but it’s also risky.”
Ben Green, owner of Caterham BMX shop Premier, says it very much like it seems to be at present. The BMX market, as many will have realised, is in a bit of a flatspot. For whatever reason, be it the sudden presence of online giants, skateparks becoming playgrounds where kids scoot into one another, or an emerging flaw in the distribution model – BMX is in a familiar place. Though larger than during the last dip in the fortunes of the market and with countless facilities to support its growth in freestyle and race, it seems the money in BMX isn’t going to the specialists who support the riders’ interest.
“That’s the problem,” explains Green. “The proper BMX shop looks out for riders, hold jams, creates content to keep riders engaged. You just don’t see that from the online giants, yet we’ve got kids from this town rolling in on new gear that hasn’t come from us, despite the stock being two minutes down the road from them. BMX seems to be going through the same blip experienced by skateboarding 15 years ago. The market is at a stage where it needs to wise up, stop discounting, or rider-run shops could disappear.”
With that reality facing independent shops, Green, working with his father, has moved to turn his passion for BMX into a viable business: “At present we’ve become a bit of an apparel shop. I work with Nike and Vans closely, showing high levels of commitment and that’s based simply on the fact I know I can’t Google the product and find it discounted the week after it’s landed. I want to be a BMX shop of course, but at present it’s necessary to supplement the business with offshoot income. We’re opening a print shop to create own-label and freelance prints for local bands – again to boost the cash flow that I simply can’t generate through BMX products.”
Green is hopeful that the issues facing the market are capable of being resolved.
“I’ve had meetings with suppliers and in one case the head of a brand to explain what needs to happen for independently owned BMX businesses to be able to compete. Pricing has to be controlled, but there also must be incentives for the youth to buy local. Shelf life is important and so is being on a level playing field on price with typically younger customers. As rebellious an image as BMX gives off, there has to be ground rules in business, otherwise, like is already happening, we’ll see all BMX shops becoming distributors to control pricing. That’s not the way it should be. The stronger independent retailers are, the stronger the scene can be.”
Premier was first introduced to BikeBiz two years ago the Cycle Show, at the time as an online-only retail concept. With select suppliers refusing to sell to an online-only outlet, the Caterham store became a necessary step.
“Despite the difficulties, it’s been a blessing in disguise,” explains Green. “Our location is slap bang in the middle of Croydon’s street scene, the Crawley and Horsham park riders and the trails at Epsom – so we’ve become a hub. One of the riders from Epsom that we support, Freddie Househam, has featured in The Albion. Freddie and some other riders we support regularly feature in our Mixtape videos that go online and will also be in a full length DVD. The Mixtapes are something we do to maintain rider interest. Typically, 17-20 year olds get a car or girlfriend and the BMX can get neglected. They always come back to it, but there’s a downtime we’re trying to combat by having riders feature in our web series and it seems to be working.”
Below that age, Green is keen to push balance bikes to families, with a view to creating the next generation, who with any luck will recognise Premier’s efforts to nurture the BMX community: “Older riders with kids of their own know we’re the place to go for a first bike. Word of mouth has been kind to us and I want to see riders starting out here and sticking with the shop as they become serious riders.”
Opening Times: 10am – 6.00pm
Telephone: 020 8660 3641
Location: 52 Westway, Caterham, Surrey, CR3 5TP. United Kingdom