This week we heard that uber online retailer Amazon is opening its first physical shop. No, it won’t be stocking bicycles (you’ll probably be glad to hear), but books.
We’re not about to claim this is a sign that they’re planning a line of cycle shops on UK High Streets, but it clearly does signify that even a giant online retailer like Amazon knows there is a benefit to having a physical retail presence on the street. Albeit in Seattle. Amazon appears not to be the kind of company to do anything that isn't related to its profits, so it certainly gets you thinking.
So onto bikes… Chain Reaction Cycles famously started off as a local bike shop but more relevant is the fact that after it had cemented its huge online business it then decided to open a flagship store in Belfast in 2011, a swanky 10,000q ft outlet containing over 180 bikes.
Fierce online rival Wiggle has stopped short of opening a flagship store so far, but it too has shown how it values having a physical presence on the nation’s streets, with its (now defunkt) Homebase concession stores and partnerships with Doddle and Goodman Business Parks.
So can physical retailers take heart from the fact that online retailers aspire to bricks and mortar?
Many, but not all, independent retailers curse those larger online cycle retailers and it’s not hard to see why. Just this week we received an email from a shop that had faced “another tough sales month with customers throwing internet prices in my face”, particularly those for a certain large component brand.
But despite all the advantages that large online cycle retailers have in terms of pricing and the like, they clearly covet bricks and mortar, signifying that there is no online substitute for some things at cycle retail - like servicing, workshops, being able to chat to someone face-to-face, click and collect… the list goes on.
So in answer to that question earlier, there is an interesting message, or at least a reminder, for those bricks and mortar retailers feeling under the cosh of online retail giants. By focusing on the services only physical shops provide, local bike shops can provide something the online-only retailers can't.
I grant you it's not going to stop Joe Bloggs coming in and telling you "I can get this for half the price online" but there's always a chance that he, or indeed she, will be back in a week's time handing you cash so you will fit it for them.
We've got more on the topic of bolstering your bike retail business here.