Cautious spending in the wake of Brexit means that it’s been a slow year for UK retailers, however, the bike sector is still seeing pockets of growth.
The Association of Cycle Traders (ACT) noticed that commuter cycling was on the rise with 65% of retailers reporting that their sales were up. Women's cycling also had strong results with 45% of businesses stating that women’s bike sales had improved.
Despite a general lull in consumer spending, the popularity of cycling continues to rise, so, what can you do to ensure the continued success of your bike business?
Be unique and better than the competition
Within the industry, it’s interesting to note, that the independent bike shop comes out on top, making up 55% of the market.
This is because these smaller shops work hard to provide a better offering, including a better experience, and tailored advice and support. In this industry, it pays to be unique.
According to ACT the independents can be split into three types: family shops selling mid-priced bikes to adults and children; specialist shops selling expensive sports and mountain bikes to enthusiasts; and hire shops that sell some bikes but mostly deal in hire equipment.
To run a successful bike shop while competing with bigger retailers, independent shops must rely on their unique selling point (USP), and their detailed knowledge of the technicalities of cycling combined with outstanding customer service.
"Today, bicycles are seen by many people as another price-driven commodity sold by supermarkets”, an ACT spokesperson told us.
This means that independents are under more pressure than ever before, and are working harder to demonstrate their unique value to customers. So, consider whether your bike shop is offering something unique and think about how you can get ahead of the larger bike-shop chains.
Embrace the community
Bike-loving customers also enjoy getting support and advice from fellow bike enthusiasts.
Along with the growth in the activity itself, a community has emerged among keen cyclists and bike buffs, with specialist shops and cycling cafes cropping up across the country. Customers want their bike shop owners to share the same ideals and interests. Does your shop embrace the cycling community?
Provide excellent customer service
A central part of the success of any bike shop is providing excellent customer service. To prove yourself more informed and more effective than the competition you and your staff should know your bikes and be able to offer useful and practical advice.
Make sure any bike servicing is effective and fairly priced. Could you offer free advice, servicing or add one such as lights or a helmet when someone buys a bike.
Great customer service and a genuine interest in the industry as well as building a rapport with your bike-aficionado customers, means repeat custom and word-of-mouth recommendations.
Be friendly, helpful, and positive, and you can hope for a loyal and growing customer base.
Deliver a range of products and services
Good service with a smile is not enough, customers will also expect you to deliver the goods, so ensure you have a wide selection of bikes to suit all customer needs, from the weekend cycler to the professional cyclist in training.
Also, add to your existing offering by having add-ons like puncture repair kits, pumps, inner tubes, helmets, lights, reflective jackets, knee and elbow pads for children, stabilizers and other merchandise – your customers will want to get everything they need in one place.
Another way to stand out is to include a workshop area, or café, or both. Many bike shops now include a café where cyclists can stop for a break, grab refreshments while their bike is being fixed, or socialize with other cyclists.
A workshop area means that your income isn’t solely dependent just on bike sales. Bikes need regular maintenance, so this can be a good additional earner. But be sure to provide reliable service, it’s important to remember that a poorly maintained bike is a safety risk, and you don’t want to be responsible for an accident.
If you don't have the mechanical skills to service bikes yourself, can you employ some technicians to do it instead? There are a variety of training courses, such as Cytech, which can help you and your staff become experts on two-wheeled transportation.
Show off your stock
Your shop is only as good as your stock – so, it’s worth giving some time and attention to your shop layout and how you display your bikes and other goods.
You want your stock to look appealing to customers. You also want to give the impression of a well organised and efficient business.
Hone your marketing
Make sure your target audience know about your shop. Do have a well-designed, and frequently updated website where customers can go to get all the information they need? Do you have social media accounts they can follow? Can you host competitions or post about offers?
In the digital age, this has never been so important. Think of all the ways you can help your shop engage with its customers, and attract new ones – both locally and further afield.