Stephen Robinson, Maxxis UK bicycle brand manager, discusses how cycle brands can help IBDs thrive in the cycling community in 2019
It’s no secret that times are tough for traditional independent bike dealers. Since 2000, many experts in the industry have cited a cut of almost half the number of IBD stores in today’s local towns and high streets. It’s sad to hear, but news which we believe the industry shouldn’t dwell on too much. According to estimates, IBDs are still thought to hold around a 35% to 40% share of the cycle market, sitting just ahead of big brands such as Halfords. It’s figures such as this which reiterates that IBDs still have a huge role to play in engaging and educating all levels and abilities of the cycling market. As a leading manufacturer in this field, we also recognise we can add massive value in not only helping IBDs hold firm but continually enhance the USPs that they bring to the market.
Primarily, when we think of IBDs and how they add value to the industry, we are reminded that they are one of the clearest representations of cycling as a community. People like to talk about it, ride together and discuss what bikes and accessories they’re buying next. It’s a social activity that those invested in it will use to organise their next meet up or ride out to their favourite forest trails and tracks. IBDs are a big part of this feeling of cycling as an experience. As fans of the sport themselves, they are hugely equipped to discuss the needs of one rider to another, giving valued advice and ultimately taking the time to hear about how X and Y got on with a certain product. In the long-term, they are hugely adept at being able to build relationships with consumers, helping out with tyre punctures and other technical bicycle support that may pay off further down the line with retained custom and profit.
Of course, none of the above necessarily happens without the backing of the wider cycling community. That’s where brands such as ourselves come in to assist IBDs and help retain their unique position in the market. We do this in a couple of ways. Firstly, we arm our distributors with the right products with the best margin opportunities for dealers. For us, this means distributing our high-performance tyres to meet a range of cycling disciplines, from BMX to road, off-road and downhill racing. On top of this, we give all of our distributors extensive training and marketing support on these products, so that they are ultimately well-equipped to pass this on to IBDs. Through this process, we ensure our dealers are as clued-up and as passionate as possible on our product offering so that they can share this detail and enthusiasm with consumers.
The second aspect of adding value to the IBD network is through event support and sponsorship. We want to reach out to the consumer in as many ways as possible and one of the ways in which we do this is by backing some of the best riders and cycling events throughout the country. From elite teams and riders such as Madison Genesis and Matt Jones to providing on-site support at the renowned ‘Ard Rock Enduro Festival in the Yorkshire Dales, we aim to sustain interest in the cycling community for the benefit of the IBD and consumer network. We see this as a two-handed approach. On the one hand, equipping some of the best riders in the country with our products continually pushes us to develop some of the highest quality tyres on the market. In turn, both consumers and bike dealers recognise the value in our offering, with the latter stocking products that may be in hot demand after being ridden by consumers’ racing idols. On the other hand, we also go back to this feel of cycling as a community. Many dealers, as well as interested consumers, will turn up to events such as the Cycle Show in Birmingham and will engage with ours and many other cycle brands’ distributors as both fans of the sport and as potentially interested buyers of bicycles and accessories. It all helps to not only raise cycle brands’ profiles within the industry but also within the wider cycling community that includes dealers, distributors and consumers in a mutually beneficial arrangement.
Of course, whilst we recognise conditions may be tough for IBDs in today’s competitive marketplace, they undoubtedly have their place for dedicated fans of cycling as a sport, hobby or as an activity to help with fitness. You only have to look at the number of people riding, which according to organisation Cycling UK has risen almost every year since 2008, to reaffirm the fact that interest isn’t fading or going away. Instead, if IBDs can tap into their genuine interest, passion and growth of cycling as a community, with the help of brands such as ourselves, then they will surely be able to tap into the psychology of riders of all abilities to build a bright and profitable future for all.