The Ass Backwards Ways of the Bicycle Industry

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If you are a common visitor to BikeShopGirl.com (thank you) than you may have noticed that the tag line and description have changed.  Originally this site was targeted to specifically women and our niche.  We aren’t leaving that niche, and I’m a woman so I’ll continue to concentrate on helping women in the cycling industry.   As comments and emails stream in on a daily basis, I realized that almost everyone other than the bike snob elitist related to the words I have been typing.   Many people are scared to walk into bike shops, they are scared to try on spandex for the first hundred times and they feel like they are trying to be sold to instead of educated.   This is the nature of retail and consumerism thanks to used car and Xerox sales guys.

Recent Observations

Here are some recent musings while talking to friends and cyclist of all types

  • My impression is most people that ride bikes, do not refer to themselves as cyclist
  • They fear shopping for bikes, due to sticker shock and lack of knowledge
  • They relate to their friends and family, wanting to include them as much as possible in their experience
  • Due to lack of knowledge, they will shop based on friends recommendations or sources they trust (this is where I come in)

My Goals are Not to Crush

Making a bike shop profitable in a saturated market is getting more and more impossible.  Margin’s are getting skinnier, there is more knowledge needed by their staff which means higher salaries and more training, more product by more vendors means more room to store it which adds to overhead, and the online retailer (unfortunately for local bike shops) are doing it right.  Call them, ask them tons of questions, price shop, and repeat.

Today, across all industry’s, it is the time for the consumer.  Consumer’s want you to save them money, to be treated like your long lost first love and for it to be all about them.  Because after all, they are giving you their money and they want you to earn it.  They will be needy, helpless and walked through many things.  But, hey, that’s okay!!! Treat them right and they will be your loyal customer referring you to friends for years.

We’ll talk about what bike shops could do, and hopefully get more feedback from end users.  But in reality, my goal is to help the consumer.  EMPOWER the consumer to shop smarter and have a better experience riding their bike.

9 Comments

  • RogueMechanic says:

    You’re preaching to the choir. I think that you have something here. Keep it up.

  • Of course, you a right.

    BUT the bicycle consumer is sometimes a difficult animal to deal with.

    Many come with preconceived notions. Trying, for instance, to convince someone that they’d be better off with a practical hybrid, rather than a carbon-fibre wonder bike is like talking into a vacuum. They will then go to another shop that is happy to accommodate their illusions.

    There are shops and salespeople who will steer people right and there are brands that do more than market a one-dimentional dream.

    I think we will see a continuation of development in the area of utilitarian bikes and, as more people take up utilitarian cycling, consumers will appreciate that a decent bike is a bargain compared to the financial burden of car ownership.

    Salespeople will then be relieved of the burden of defending a reasonable price for the world’s most economical vehicle.

  • emily says:

    My local shop is exactly what a bike shop should be: they love riding, all kinds of riding(mountain, freeride, road, mtb, cruising, etc) they really try to put you in the RIGHT bike for you not the bike they NEED to sell. They understand how much money this stuff is and try to save you when they can, tell you if the upgrade is worth it or not, etc. also they want to educate you, so you make an informed decision about your bike and it s components. It’s the bestest shop in the world. Abington Wheel Wright Bike Shop, in Abington PA!!!

  • stickboybike says:

    @emily- OK, that was spooky. After reading this entry, I was rolling through my head, what shops need to have their business model in more towns and cities. I was in AWWBS yesterday and agree, they’re an outstanding shop.

    More and more bike shops need to be ran like a business and not a ‘good ole’ boys country club’. Some are realizing this and get it. Others don’t and they’re the ones loosing foot traffic to aggressive, up and coming mid-20 something cyclists opening their first shop. And being ran like a business means remembering the major function of a business. And that is to maintain/establish a customer base and generate revenue. If retailers keep their sights on those two items, they’ll stand to make a name for themselves in the cycling community.

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  • Asher says:

    Sing it, sister! I was, once upon a time, totally terrified of walking into Actual Bike Shops because I’d had a few bad experiences with a couple of shops whose business model appeared to be, “We don’t care that you’re here for an inner tube or how much money you can actually spend, you are going to buy THIS bike: also, you suck. So does your bike.” I was already riding a lot (~150 miles a week, mostly commuting) and knew a bit more about bikes than the average total newbie, so I can only imagine what it must be like to walk into a shop like that knowing nothing at all.

    I am now a die-hard, lycra-wearing, hill-crushing (okay, so maybe ‘crushing’ is a little strong, but I do climb *really* well for my weight :D), all-weather roadie who sometimes also rides off road, largely because of a few nice bike people at my old job and on the ‘webs — *and* a couple of really great local shops. If you come in for an inner tube wearing cargo shorts and pushing a big-box Schwinn or an ancient hybrid, neither one assumes you’re an idiot. They treat their clients with respect, listen, answer questions honestly, and love bikes like crazy.

    It sounds like you’ve got it down. I think all of us who work in the bike industry would do well to remember the points that you mentioned.

    Brava on another great post :)

  • Bike Shop Girl says:

    Asher,

    Thanks so much for the kind words. I would love to hear more about your experiences within the bike industry, bad and also good, in hopes to pass on the knowledge to others!

    Also, thanks to everyone for not battering my grammar and spelling up too bad. I wrote this on a whim while waiting for something to download.

  • Sing it, sister. The intimidation factor of shops that look and feel like man caves creates a real barrier to getting more women on the road. We need well-lit, attractive, inviting bike shops that welcome questions and like teaching people.

    Jeez, if you like riding bikes wouldn’t you want to share your passion in a way that invites others to share it?

    After years of commuting (and being married to a bike racer who is technically very skilled, worked in a bike shop for a while, and patiently explains things over and over) I am far more comfortable going into a bike shop and asking questions. But I’m not a beginner, and I still remember that creeping sensation that I really didn’t belong in the shop. I wasn’t an insider.

    If I’m not an insider I won’t come back. You won’t be able to sell me more. Is that your goal?

    I can’t imagine this kind of culture shift to a more customer-centered and inviting atmosphere wouldn’t help a bike shop sell more to MEN, too.

    @BarbChamberlain
    @womenbikeblogs
    http://www.facebook.com/womenbikeblogs

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