What do bike shops really think of distributors?

Are there any 'easy win' changes that distributors can make to please IBD customers? We ask the trade...
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There are a number of direct to retail brands out there, but the relationship between the nation’s independent bicycle dealers and distributors remains pivotal to the continuing success of the UK bicycle trade. 

Earlier this year we asked our independent bicycle dealer readers for their honest views and thoughts on their distribution partners.

Here we compile the results, warts and all, packed with ideas, insights and a few surprises that will not just be essential reading for distribution companies, but also to anyone else that deals directly with bicycle retailers.

HOW HELPFUL IS YOUR MAIN DISTRIBUTION PARTNER?
Let’s start with a positive: the majority of our retailer respondents said their main distribution partner was very helpful. In fact the vast majority were on the positive side, with just over five per cent claiming they were ‘not very helpful’ or ‘awful’. Taking out the ‘middling’ 15 per cent, a whopping 79 per cent said their main distribution partner was at least helpful.

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WHAT FRUSTRATES YOU MOST ABOUT DISTRIBUTORS?
Of course retailers get cheesed off with distributors, but what really grinds their gears? Low stock and lack of loyalty to small accounts topped the poll here.

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WHAT’S THE MAIN BENEFIT OF HAVING DISTRIBUTION PARTNERS?
In a crowded market chock full of brands it’s hardly a surprise that a distributor is a valuable single point of contact and source of stock for retailers big and small. But the survey also shed light on the wider role distributors play, including their product knowledge – which was also particularly valued in this tech and jargon-heavy industry. Similarly, the wide-ranging ‘support’ role of the distributor proved to be highly prized by the independents taking our survey. Top of the pops, however, saw ‘sourcing stock’ closely followed by speedy delivery of said stock. So if your couriers are possibly a tad too laid back and you’re looking to refine your distribution business in a few key areas, you know where to start.

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WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE MORE OF FROM DISTRIBUTORS?
Three main points came out of this question, one of which is – in theory – absolutely free to implement. ‘Better communication’ was joint top along with ‘more stock’ and ‘fairer pricing’. BikeBiz’s visits often reveal distributors have been increasing their warehouse size, implying ‘more stock’ is being addressed. Perhaps naturally, pricing continues to be a bug bear, but better communication should be achievable for most.

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IF YOU WERE IN CHARGE OF YOUR DISTRIBUTION PARTNERS FOR A DAY, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

Barring the odd passive/aggressive suggestion, there are a few gold nuggets here…

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Got any points to add? Let us know at BikeBiz@nbmedia.com or in the comments below.

This article first appeared in the July edition of BikeBiz. That issue, and many more, can be read online for free in our Digital Edition bit of the site.

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