Last year Leisure Lakes opened its eighth – and largest yet – store in Daventry, Northamptonshire. Director Chris Noy talks shop cafes, climbing interest in mountain bikes and online competition with BikeBiz...
BikeBiz: How’s business?
Chris Noy: There is no doubt that the dry and relatively warm summer, along with the early autumn, has been great for the bike industry, not only meaning an increase in sales, but more opportunity for everyone to get out.
The more people seen riding by non-cyclists definitely increases the level of awareness and translates into more people taking up the sport.
BB: What’s new with Leisure Lakes?
CN: As a company we are always looking for opportunities to open new sites in new locations. Because of the quality of the bikes we stock our customers will travel long distances to visit our stores, so we are keen to open new venues to bring us within reach of more people throughout the UK.
We have eight retail stores at present and a warehouse which deals with all website and mail order sales.
BB: Which categories are proving most popular at the moment?
CN: Road cycling has seen fantastic growth over the last few years, helped by the Government-backed Cycle To Work Scheme, Olympics and Tour de France successes.
Demand for MTBs over the same period had seen a slight decrease, but slowly over the last 12 months interest has definitely increased, possibly due to more people getting back into cycling through riding on road and gaining the confidence to explore.
BB: Are you finding the market more competitive due to the number of entrants to the bike trade?
CN: Due to the increase in popularity and the vastly improved media coverage of cycling in general, more investment is naturally drawn into the cycling industry. However, the positive side is that the professionalism of the overall industry increases; bikes and equipment improves, which translates into more people enjoying cycling and we all benefit. It simply means we as a company have to keep ‘raising the bar’ in terms of service and product selection.
BB: How’s the online side of the business? How long has the e-commerce site been operating?
CN: We’ve been online approximately 12 years, it is very time consuming, but equally incredibly valuable.
Apart from the obvious extra revenue generated on top of store sales, we regard it as a vital aid to our customers and our staff as an information portal, as all current year bikes from all our suppliers are listed with full specs and all clothing and accessories which are stocked in-store are also shown on our website. This allows our customers to research before visiting or just buy online.
BB: Has Leisure Lakes gone down the ‘open a coffee shop in the bike shop’ approach?
CN: In our latest store to open at Daventry we have the ‘Melo Velo’ café which has been a great success, allowing customers somewhere to chill out while waiting for their new bike to be made ready.
BB: What’s next for Leisure Lakes?
CN: We are very excited by the expansion of our VIP club. Cyclists who join can access special discount rates on products and servicing and the membership is growing all the time.
We have several expansion possibilities in the pipeline, but I would say the most important concentration, as it always has been, is to maintain the high levels of customer service which our business has been built upon from day one, over 30 years ago.
Bury, Cheltenham, Daventry, Lancaster, Nottingham, Preston/Southport, Wolverhampton, Newport