BikeBiz speaks to Hooked on Cycling's Jon Hook about the multi-faceted business...
Hooked on Cycling is a cycling holiday business as well as a retail shop?
When we started in 1997 we didn’t know whether to start in the cycle holiday business or retail, but we decided on the former at that time. In some respects, that was a good decision because now we’ve grown that side of the business and probably have one of the largest cycle holiday businesses in the UK, with over 2,000 cyclists on holiday each year. The retail part launched in November 2010.
And what prompted you to launch the shop?
We’ve always been looking around for potentially building a retail business. The holiday side of the business generates lots of income during the summer months, but not much in the winter months. I know obviously historically the first quarter is usually pretty poor for cycle retailers, but it gives a boost in the fourth quarter.
We wouldn’t have launched it if we didn’t have the prime location and the right brands wanting to come on board – and the right people to run it at that time and obviously the cash to invest.
We perceived a growth in the road side, so we invested quite heavily in high-end road bikes and high-end MTBs, plus hybrids, city bikes and hire bikes.
We’re in a central part of Scotland that is seeing investment in industry and lots of house building, so the population is growing strongly here compared to other parts of Scotland. The local market is expanding.
Those who are serious about cycling probably already had relationships with other shops, so they’d only come to us if they wanted a brand we stocked.
And there’s the people who are new to cycling. Those 40-plus customers who want to get riding are our bread and butter.
Has business been strong on the retail side since launch?
We broke even in the first 12 months, which was good. Since the Christmas period finished it really hasn’t dropped at all and has carried on growing into February and March.
How about the holiday market? Is that market generally buoyant?
Yes, our turnover and profit has always grown. Some times you might find the numbers haven’t changed much, but we’ve always turned a profit. We’re very strong online – it’s not just UK customers. Probably around 50 to 55 per cent of our holiday customers are non-UK. There are Americans and Canadians – generally always English speaking – as well as customers from South Africa, Israel, New Zealand and Australia. We do quite well in Scandinavia and we’ve had a good run of those incoming to the UK from Europe. It’s quite well balanced.
Which destinations are the most popular?
Italy is always our number one country – it has been for the last three or four years, with Austria next. But the Austria figure is distorted with the popularity of the Danube ride – a top ride – so if you took that out it would drop in the list.
What are your ambitions for the short term?
Our real ambition is to make sure the cycle shop is somewhere people want to come and visit. Whether they’re buying a £10 pump or a £3,000 bike, we treat our customers the same. I think there are places where if you’re not buying a high-end road bike you tend to get looked down on, but we’re not like that at all.
Trying to grow our customer base and make sure everyone who comes in has a good experience is our ambition. It’s great to grow turnover and generating profit, but it’s important to be associated with good customer service.
Location: 17b Glasgow Road, Bathgate, West Lothian, EH48 2AG
Telephone: 01506 631919 (retail shop)
01501 740985 (cycle holiday business)