The current retail environment and the struggling high street has been well reported for a long time – with many figures pointing to a bleak picture for bricks and mortar stores in the UK. 2019 was described as the “worst year on record for retail” by the BRC, with total sales decreasing by 0.1%, alongside the ongoing talk of Brexit and political uncertainty that concluded in a December General Election.
But that all seems like a distant memory now, with retail now facing the far greater challenge of COVID-19. A nationwide lockdown was announced on 23rd March when prime minister Boris Johnson told all “non-essential” shops they must shut due to the spread of the virus, but bike shops were among those excluded, meaning it remained up to cycle shop owners to decide whether to remain open for business, fully or partially.
Some stores have temporarily closed, while others have put various models in place to ensure the safety of their staff and customers. BikeBiz reached to bike shops to find out how they have responded to the ongoing crisis.
Today, we hear from Pennine Cycles and Balfe’s Bikes.
Sandra Corcoran, Pennine Cycles
At Pennine Cycles, we were delighted that we could remain open as an essential business, although it is naturally not business as usual.
As a team, we’ve worked on all different aspects of the business during this pandemic. Only Paul has been going into the shop and he has been following the Government guidelines in serving customers. We have a “no browsing policy”, hand sanitiser available to all and only one customer at a time.
The door is kept locked. Appointments can be made. We’ve been encouraging contactless and BACS payments. The rest of the team have been working from their respective homes.
We’ve also launched our online shop which, although we were planning on doing it at some point, we have accelerated the launch and started with some essential bundles for cyclists. We will add more products as we can and once we have a good system in place to handle more orders. It has been and continues to be a huge team effort – whether it’s in the bike shop or from a distance.
We believe cycling is more important than ever, whether it’s for essential travel or for the Government-allowed daily exercise to stay fit in both the mind and body. We are grateful we have been able to adjust to our customers.
Richard Balfe, Balfe’s Bikes
We have been directing all our customers towards our inbox and as we are not allowing any browsing now (one customer at a time). We allocated one of our staff who had to self-isolate onto managing our inbox instead so we could keep him functioning as part of the team.
We have also been working hard to add to our website the accessories that we feel people will need through this time, like helmets, inner tubes, turbo trainers. From this week, we shall start to send bikes, pac, out to customers as well through mail order so that is a new avenue of business we are adapting into.
We have seen a lot of workshop demand so are trying hard to keep the calendar down and remain open for servicing, which we are now beginning to get on top of again. The whole effort from the staff has been extraordinary.