Visiting and discussing business with a variety of retailers in the cycling business is something that goes with the job. I meet a lot of people – enthusiasts in the business, or businessmen with enthusiasm – with a lot of different attitudes to the job they do and the industry around them. Some will openly share their stories, while others will keep their cards close to their chest.
The former of the two are typically the characters in the trade – the ones that make my relatively simple job far easier. They’ll talk openly about their efforts to engage the wider community in cycling by helping out here and there. What they often don’t say is how successful those efforts to market themselves are in terms of a return. Enthusiasm for ‘getting out there’ in endless quantity, but still scratching their heads as to why turning a profit is so difficult.
The latter are often the ones most concerned about how to stay competitive in business. The very same customers that pay through the nose for the latest smartphones and gadgets baulk at the price of an inner tube and that, understandably, scares this bunch. But what to do about it?
There’s two schools of thought I’ve seen on visits. The ‘weather the storm, summer’s around the corner’ approach is the first.
Then there’s those that are thinking beyond summer, right through to winter – a time when things are guaranteed to be difficult. They’re planning ahead, brainstorming how to engage fairweather customers secured over the summer and keep them interested.
Got some spare storage space? Can’t let that go to waste – stick some turbo trainers in there and invite customers in at £10 per hour, plus a free coffee. Got a customer who wants to get fit, but lacks the willpower? Knock them up a training plan and sell them the kit they’ll need to stick to it. Bike Shops are in a unique position to capture the irregular gym member. Weigh up the cost of their monthly cash commitment against a bike or trainer of their own.
Is the hire bike scheme taking over locally? Send the Saturday lad along on a sunny day with some cycling maps and local guidebooks. Engage the would-be cyclists and ask them if they know where ‘Sutton’s SkidShop’ is. (That’s not a real bike shop, yet).
Think ahead, ask staff for their ideas. Running and even falling occasionally is still far healthier than standing still.