BikeBiz reflects on the first-ever Local Bike Shop Day in October, which looked to emulate the success of its record store counterpart

The inaugural Local Bike Shop Day took place on 6th October, aiming to celebrate the successes of some of the best-loved small bike shops in the country, and give them the opportunity to highlight what sets them apart from the bigger national retailers.

Many bike shops across the country got involved, with some holding workshops and classes to teach people more about cycling, whether this was to a regular customer or a first-timer, and some simply providing coffee and cake to welcome the public through the doors and engage in conversation. The day generated excitement on Twitter with the hashtag #supportyourlocalbikeshop, with retailers calling on the community to come along and show support for the shops at the heart of the cycling industry.

The celebratory day was inspired by the success of UK Record Store Day, which is now in its 12th year. Mandy Cairns Ford of Belhaven Bikes in Dunbar says: “Local Bike Shop Day hopes to take inspiration from Record Store Day and give smaller, independent stores an opportunity to highlight what sets them apart from the bigger national retailers, namely being at the centre of their communities, specialist knowledge, personal service, individuality, and their dedication to help cyclists get the most out of their cycling, whether they use their bike for leisure, commuting or competing.”

To celebrate the day, the shop held a prize draw with the chance to win a free bike service, an opportunity to test ride its new electric demo bike - Forme Peak Trail, the chance to view a ‘Bikepacking in East Lothian’ film, and coffee and cake. 

The shop says the day gave it the opportunity to raise awareness and keep momentum on being kept ‘front in mind’ for customers. It would happily be involved in Local Bike Shop Day next year, and says hopefully this year’s inaugural day will provide a basis to build on, like Record Store Day has. The opportunity is there for more shops, IBD-focused manufacturers, distributors, organisations and customers to get involved.

Interestingly, some retailers told me they were not aware of what Local Bike Shop Day was, and therefore had nothing planned for it. They added that they would have done had they known, and many were keen to find out more. Brooke Tully, CEO of BikeExchange UK and Ireland, plans to start the campaign early next year, but still found this year successful as a starting point, if anything it is a good opportunity to grow this and make it something really big. It embraced and promoted the day with a banner campaign to blanket both the BikeExchange marketplaces, a campaign on social media, an editorial piece on its homepage and a B2B newsletter to trade. Tully says: “#supportyourlocalbikeshop day was this year a good opportunity for us to see just how much potential this campaign has for retailers and consumers alike.

“We’ve received very positive feedback in terms of the potential for this day to grow into something really significant. BikeExchange UK and Ireland activity has ignited interest across the BikeExchange global platform, and we already have a team developing ideas that will take this a lot further next time. Any idea that champions local brick and mortar bike stores, and reminds customers what makes visiting a store so special, is an idea that BikeExchange wants to magnify.”

This doesn’t mean small bike shops have to break the bank and hold huge events to celebrate the day. Mat of John Woods Cycle Repair Centre says: “For us, it was a nice little event to run on a Saturday. We really just gave away some nice cake and had a couple more cups of coffee with customers than normal. It enabled us to have an additional topic of conversation that otherwise wouldn’t have been there which I really liked.”

It also helped with social media, enabling the shop to post good content that was well liked and shared. As long as shops jump on board and use Local Bike Shop Day as intended, as a promotion for what a local bike shop can offer and not just another Black Friday style discount event, then it’s a winner.

The team celebrated by giving away (and eating) specially decorated cakes with coffee, and ‘pasting’ the Local Bike Shop day logo across its social media. The shop says for the first year it was massively successful, inviting in customers who were welcoming of the idea. It will take part again next year, and hopes to increase promotion, making it a bigger and better event.

Sandra Corcoran from Pennine Cycles says: “We feel we had visits from customers who came to support who may not have come into the shop on Saturday. It puts using your local bike shop in people’s minds and they came and supported us so I believe customers did respond.”

Engaging and building relationships with potential customers in person with a cup of coffee is important, especially with the increasing pressure that is coming from online retail. This isn’t going to just go away overnight. Communities need to work together to put bike shops at the heart of towns and cities, something that this day could be a positive step towards.

Ben Othen of Altrincham Bikeshak says: “Local Bike Shop day, on the whole, was successful for us, it gave us the opportunity to have something to shout about online other than the usual products, servicing random nonsense etc.

“It was also a reason to push home the idea of shopping local and supporting local to our customer base. I would hope it’s a catalyst for more people to engage with their local shop, we saw a few customers drop by who had just come in to show their support for us which was really reassuring that these customers are still out there.”

He adds that long gone are the days when just having something in stock was a reason for customers to enter a shop and buy it, now shops have to shout from the ‘digital rafters’ to get the footfall needed. The day should be welcomed with open arms as it gives retailers a platform to do something that feels united with the rest of the industry. Hopefully, customers will recognise this day as a regular worthwhile event that can continue for many years.

It would certainly be a shame to waste this great opportunity, so hopefully, Local Bike Shop Day will be a concept that will capture the imagination of the entire industry, especially given that shops that did take part found it successful.

Circulating the news via social media and tweeting #supportyourlocalbikeshop as well as holding in-store events will help. These can be done any time of year, not just on one day, but the day itself could still present a chance for your local community to invest in the cycling retail industry.

Othen concludes: “I think it’s very easy to get all cosy and liberated seeing events like this pop up on your phone feed and think ‘wow that’s great, what a brilliant local community I have’ and to never actually engage with it or visit the shop.

“If Local Bike Shop day can’t generate footfall then there is no point in it. Record Store Day – quite brilliantly – is backed by the labels who market one of special presses and limited runs to local shops, which means they have something to attract customers in to spend some money!

“I think this is the next logical step for Local Bike Shop day, suppliers and product manufacturers need to use us to market their brands and products on the day by giving us similar support that the record labels do for Record Store Day.” 

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