COMMENT: No more lycra? Cycling apparel is changing...

Bike shop merchandising guru Mercedes Ross has some tough lessons designed to boost bike shop profit...
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Look at that headline. Are you listening? You better be if your shop is near London. You had better be listening even if it is not!

Cycling apparel is changing in the bike shop because there is a new cyclist coming in your door. The ‘main street’ customer. This article is talking about the aggressive plans London has to become the top bicycle commuting Mecca in the world…massive plans which will take a while to build, but nonetheless a huge statement for you and your shop.

At iceBike* I gave two seminars: One on Apparel merchandising specifically because it’s so important. If you missed it the entire seminar is on Madison’s B2B site for you to look at; without my commentary, but nonetheless informative.

The point is that apparel can be a good profit centre for you if you pay attention to five important points. You have a window of opportunity now after the Olympics to ride the momentum of the bike boom. Those new cyclists need new stuff, especially apparel. The first thing is to pay attention to them…

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No.1 – The Pie: The foot traffic walking in the door…what price point bikes are they buying? This will give you a glimpse at their wallet size and the price of the other products they will be spending their pounds on. Your bike prices determine the types of apparel you should carry. Additionally you need to start becoming aware of what we call the ‘main street’ customer …the one London is developing bike lanes for. They need other items – non-Lycra if you will. The title of the article screams that: what kind of apparel will they need? If your shop is close to a city you will have to contend with this new consumer.

No.2 – The Buy: If you buy the wrong price points, your consumer will not buy the product. Have a keen idea of the demographic of your consumer’s wallet. As you are buying realise a few things: women buy with colour in mind, meaning that they will buy a colour story if you present them with one, and they will buy more items if they go together. Create what colour stories with add-on sales in mind. If a colour story has socks and gloves to match, bring them in and merchandise them with the outfit…you will sell more. Men on the other hand are not as colour driven; it is important, but not critical. They are brand and price driven. Placing logos of the brands you carry is important to alert them to the fact that you carry them; they won’t go to check.

No.3 – Placement: Yes, this is merchandising. It’s third on the list – if you do the first two wrong don’t bother merchandising. Creating an apparel section is critical to success. It consists of a wall surface of some sort, slat wall, grid wall, or a rail system as shown in the picture. Walls allow you to display the product and create a spontaneous attraction. If customers can’t see it they won’t buy it. Creating a visually appealing display with colour stories will attract women to the section. Mannequins and forms are critical as cycling apparel has low hanger appeal. Also, if trying to entice women to buy product, placing female forms over their product signifies visually the product is for them. Likewise placing the brand names over the men’s section will pull that Pearl customer right over to the rack.

No. 4 – Maintenance: The season is ripping along, you are busy, but make sure you maintain high standards of merchandising. Stocking the apparel section is critical to its success at being a profit centre. If you run out of large mid-priced shorts – ever – you are missing sales. Having some back stock avoids this problem, but getting it out is just as important. It won’t do any good sitting in the bin in storage. Changing the displays is also very important: change the mannequins weekly, and switch the colour story on the wall. Make sure that someone is zipping the jackets, getting rid of empty hangers, and cleaning out the dressing room if you have one – daily. The section should be restocked daily.

No.5 – Sell Through: Putting things on ‘Sale’. Not every decision you make is correct. Alas we all make mistakes: it is better to own up to them and take your losses when you can. Whether it be bad weather, the economy, or the mere fact that you where not paying attention to your Pie (No.1), you will have product left over…Put it one sale in season – while there is still people in your store. If you have determined that something isn’t selling, get it on sale early. Create a sale environment; a separate rack or table with bins is a great place to start. Most importantly identify the section with a red sign that screams sale. And don’t forget to mark the item down visibly on the tag: let them know how much they are saving by placing the original place and then the sale price visibly on the tag. Steer clear of the 20 per cent off sign at the top of the rack, which is too much work. Don’t make them think. ‘Sale price as marked’ and then mark it – and don’t make the same mistake next year.

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