Where would we be without our beloved IBDs? The shops at the heart of the industry are on the front line of cycling advocacy, keeping us riding through all seasons and helping us overcome any issues we may have. To celebrate these wonderful institutions, we’re catching up with a few of the UK’s most respected names. This week, we’re chatting to Rat Race Cycles’ Pete Owens
Who are you?
We’re a small independent bike workshop in a great part of South-East London. I’m Pete, I started Rat Race Cycles as a mobile workshop in 2008 after I’d been head mechanic in other people’s shops for a few years. I set up shop in Nunhead in 2012.
Why are you a successful shop?
It depends how you define success! People trust us to look after their bikes. We have a lot of loyal customers including several TCR riders. We’re also in a good location, lots of people commute by bike from here.
What are the key contributing factors to your success?
The heart of our business is our people. All our staff are first-rate mechanics who are also customer-facing, our staff work hard, and we look after them. Trust is also key; customers rely on their bikes. They need to trust that we’ll do our best for them. Finally, we’re one small shop at the moment, so we have to focus on doing one thing well.
Why are bike shops struggling at the moment?
Retail has changed. Bikes and parts are commodities that people compare, and often buy, exclusively online. Competing purely on price is a race to the bottom. Bike shops have to give customers a reason to come into the shop, and reasons to keep them coming back. Until the last decade or so, it’s been relatively easy to kit out a couple of rooms full of bikes and kit, and wait for people to come in and buy them; Internet shopping has taken all that away.
How can the industry move forward successfully?
Adapt. And keep adapting. And show cyclists that quality service is worth paying for. Customers want experience, and relationships. They want to get to know you and they want to keep coming back. We just need to persuade them that that is worth spending money on.
How do you plan of safeguarding the shop for the future?
That’s a tough one – no business, or even industry, can guarantee their own survival. We’ll keep listening to our customers, giving excellent service and making sure they can rely on us. And we’ll keep making sure the business is built on stuff that works, not buzzwords.