‘Click & Collect’ is a phrase we hear a lot about, but it’s an area that can be tricky for smaller shops to get into. Together We Ride founder Mike Thurgood explains to BikeBiz why that might be about to change…
What made you launch Together We Ride?
The cycle industry is unique in that 55 per cent of all the money spent is with small independent retailers (according to ActSmart statistics). There is a real demand from cyclists to be able to support their local bike shop but currently it is very difficult for them to do so online. On the other side of the coin, independent cycle retailers appreciate that there is a huge demand online for cycling goods but they lack the expertise or budget to really compete.
I have always been a keen supporter of local bike shops and it has always bothered me that the industry leaders have the technical capability and marketing budgets to stop smaller players getting a look-in online. Having spent my entire working career in the online industry, I want to bring those skills to bear for the good of the independent community and give them access to the increasing online demand for cycling goods.
Is click and collect core to the TWR offering?
Click and collect is very much at the heart of what we do. Our model exists to drive business to independent shops. By sending customers to that shop, we provide that shop with the opportunity to establish a lasting relationship. Once we have directed a customer to the shop, we encourage the shops to upsell and promote their own products and services – it has been shown that 60 to 75 per cent of click and collect customers purchase additional products when they are in-store.
We want to help customers connect with their local independent and we feel click and collect is the most effective way of doing this. It is the preferred method for 40 per cent of shoppers, so we are confident this is something that customers want.
We are not ruling out home delivery in the future but it would be have to be done in a manner which is beneficial to all partners.
What’s the response been like so far? Do bikes shops get it?
So far the response has been very positive, around 90 per cent of shops we’ve spoken to have signed up. The newer shops all appreciate the demands of the modern consumer and have been very much on board with what we’re trying to achieve.
We have had situations where shop owners have put us in contact with other shops. This is gratifying for us as it shows our partners are buying into the idea and are seeing other shops as potential partners, rather than competition.
We are still working to win over some shops. We appreciate that many older shops have been adversely affected by online retailers, so they are wary of the internet, but we hope they will change their mind once they see other shops benefitting from TWR.
The response from the independent brands we’ve contacted has been overwhelmingly positive. Small brands struggle to get off the ground as many shops are restricted on what they stock by distributors whilst others can only afford to stock items on ‘sale or return’. Selling through TWR allows brands to simply list the items they have in stock, so there’s no bulk orders or risk of items being shipped back end of season. It also allows them to reach new audiences with no cost. If we find that a particular brand is doing well in a certain area or with a particular shop, we have no restrictions on these two cutting us out and working with each other directly, in fact, this is our preference!
Can you tell us about the community aspect?
Everything about TWR revolves around ‘togetherness’. We think by helping the little guys we can make the cycling industry better for all involved. We are truly planning on levelling the playing field and giving the power currently held by the online giants back to the IBDs.
We see cycling as a lifestyle, and something that as riders, we all buy into. Therefore we look for shops that appreciate how important the community aspect of cycling is. For that reason many of our shops offer something a little more than being ‘just’ a bike shop; be that a café, maintenance classes, shop rides, demo days, or excelling in making cycling accessible for all.
We want to make our website as interactive as possible, so if a question is asked about a product, a new forum post will be created. Instead of us providing a stock response as you would get on any other website, other users and shops will be encouraged to participate in the conversation.
Are you planning to work with distributors and brands too?
We have accounts with a few distributors and several brands. Initially we had hoped to populate the website entirely with products stocked by the shops, but we realised this would require the shops to dedicate a lot of time to manage this. We still aim to primarily list products sourced from a partner shop, but we are also opening distributor accounts so we can always fulfil orders.
We are not restricted by distributors, which therefore allows us to stock some brands that you may not see on other websites or in the shops. This is something we hope to build on to create another thing that separates us from the established online retailers. We are supportive of all independent businesses, not just shops, so we will be stocking as many good independent brands as we can.
Are there any plans to expand beyond London?
Definitely. Eventually we would love to see every good independent shop in the UK connected and with a great online presence. For the time being though, we will be staying in London.
TWR is still a small team, so we have to be careful not to expand the network to the point where it becomes too difficult to manage. Expansion will be gradual but is definitely something we plan to do.
Are you looking to grow the number of shops in the network?
Yes, we are actively recruiting more shops. We launched the site with eight partner shops. In the ten weeks since the website went live, this has grown to 30. Our short term goal is to reach 50 shops, which would give us a great coverage across London.
We’re very active on social media, so shops can always chat to us there. We also have a contact page on the website or they’re welcome to drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Although we are London only at present, we are happy to promote any independent dealer in the UK on Twitter, so please feel free to drop us a message.