I was watching ‘All Over The Shop’ last night on BBC2, a programme where someone visits small retailers and tells them where they’re going wrong. Unexpectedly it featured a small bike shop in Leicester who wanted to improve his business.
Run by a likeable guy who was looking for a helping hand, sadly it was like any other bike shop you’ve ever seen. Nice owner, crowded shop full of stock, bikes stacked in front of the counter and all the rest. When asked to sell a bike to the presenter the owner even failed to ask him what kind of riding he planned to do in order to see if it was suitable for him.
This isn’t a knock at him. But it’s clear even to me that there are some basics to get right. First of all with regular riders. They know what they want and will have researched in depth before coming to look at a bike. So don’t put obstacles in their way and make sure to ask them if they want to buy it. Advise when people ask for advice.
With the new/unconverted. Soften the shop so it’s not so threatening. Make sure your staff don’t hide behind the counter (the bike shop in Reigate springs to mind). Cater to the leisure rider, the commuter and the prospective new MTB’er with ‘recommended’ bikes in separate areas with different price points. Make it clear why you recommended them — most bystanders have no idea what a Deore is but might guess it’s Winnie the Pooh’s miserable donkey. You might as well say it has a Hokey Cokey 2000 and a Winkle Wankle shaft.
You could sell commuter packs (for example) as an add on for new commuters — hi-viz jacket, puncture repair kits, saddle bags, pump, cheap helmet etc. and so on. Same idea for kids bikes (knee pads/helmet/gloves), leisure riders (picnic hampers and antiseptic cream for saddle sores!). You get the picture.
The new/unconverted is where your business grows. Once they’re hooked, they’ll spend a fortune (ask any of us!!). Skills days, road awareness training, local rides, all these could be popular ways for you to make more money. How about a basic mechanics course?
In fairness the guy did make some changes, introducing a women’s section but I don’t honestly think it would enthuse an uncommitted but retail savvy woman to part with her money (I can do sweeping generalisations with the best of them!).
I know I don’t run a bike shop and that in the real world it’s quite difficult to do some of these things. But with economic and environmental conditions as they are (plus the Government’s popular cycle2work scheme) there’s plenty of reasons for people to start riding. Maybe it’s possible to grow your business, even?
Just my thoughts based on what I saw and not meant to be a dig at anyone or anything in particular…
Coincidentally, I’m not the only one thinking the same. Guitar Ted has just posted thoughts on why he reckons cycling is poised to thrive in these tough times.