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Pedaling Through the Maze: A Bike Shop Owner’s Insight on the Retail Landscape

Scott Waters

Hello there, fellow cycling enthusiasts! I’m Scott Waters, a bike shop industry expert and biking enthusiast with a story to tell. It’s a tale of gears and grease, punctuated with payment processing hitches and website development nightmares – all part and parcel of running a bike store in today’s retail landscape. In this article, we are going to talk about a few of my experiences working with bike shop owners, and growing their online presence. 

Chapter 1: On Your Marks

The day has come, your bike shop is finally opening. Even with everything you spent weeks overthinking, there are still a few loose ends. When you are first starting a business, it can feel like you are a chicken with its head cut off. In business, we call this creating a minimum viable product. What is the least you have to do to start making money? 

For a bike shop owner, it might seem as simple as selling enough bikes or having accessories with good markups. For others, it can be having an efficient repair process so you can get more riders back on the road. Whatever your goal, a lot of times reaching a profitable point in your business is a lot more complicated than you think.

In my years of experience, there are two things that increase your chances of hitting the break-even point: increasing profits and reducing expenses. 

The most important thing for new businesses is reducing expenses. Most new business owners get wrapped up in so many aspects of running their business they get overwhelmed. In their attempt to grow they hire too many staff and start to hemorrhage money.

The second aspect is increasing profit margins. This one often comes over time. As you build more goodwill for your business, you can increase your prices. Bike shops are in a unique place where they make money on both service and retail sales. Although many think increasing profits come from higher retail prices, at a bike shop you have a unique opportunity to create larger profit margins in your services your offer.

A great example is your mechanic. You do not pay your mechanic $500 to replace your air conditioning because it takes him a long time. You pay your mechanic because he is knowledgeable and can get the job done quickly. This is true for bike shop’s repair services too. If your team can fix a bike within a day of a customer dropping off an order, the customer will be willing to pay more than if you get it done in a week.

Chapter 2: Payment Processing - More Than Just Sales

My first encounter with modern retail complexities came in the form of payment processing. Before I was a retail consultant, I owned the highest-rated local store in my industry. I started off believing that all I needed was a cash register and a basic credit card reader. Something like a Square or Clover could run my entire business. How wrong was I?

One day, a customer wanted to pay using a digital wallet. As she explained how it worked, I realized I was trailing in the digital race. I immediately sought a solution, implementing a comprehensive payment system supporting cards, mobile payments, and even cryptocurrencies. It was a rocky road, but it made me realize how vital it is for independent dealers to be up-to-date with financial technology.

Although this seems like such a minor detail, it can make a major difference in your overall success. Your payment processor should be more than a crappy customer service to call when you do not receive your deposit on time. Merchant services companies like Process Payments Now offer bike shops more than just processing. They help you grow your business by building out a solution that brings you business in-store and online.

Chapter 3: The Unexpected Hurdles of Website Development

When I initially ventured into website development, I thought, “It’s just an online catalog, how hard can it be?” Boy, was I in for a surprise!

Creating and maintaining a website is more than a full-time job, it is a second business. There is so much that goes into maintaining a good online presence that most shops do not give it the full-faith effort it deserves. This is a major problem for bike shop owners because it allows major manufacturers and major retailers like Amazon to scoop up your sales.

Let me give you a good example. Most bike shop owners who I work with that have been in the industry for longer than 5 years tell me the same thing, accessory sales are down. Back in the day, selling a bike meant a new bike, a new helmet, cleats, and a cool water bottle holder. A $2,000.00 purchase quickly because $3,000.00 with all the added products sold. However, now most shoppers come in with the item they want to buy in mind and are not interested in the upsells.

Part of the reason this happens is due to the fact your website does not list the products you sell in-store. In the digital age, customers are doing research and choosing the item at the best price with whoever can fulfill that order the fastest. Now I am not saying you have to compete with Amazon’s prices, quite the contrary. Simply having a website that advertises your products is enough to bring in more traffic. 

Let me leave you with another example. Bob’s Bikes has a website where they list all their current products for sale. A customer goes online and sees a bike he wants online. The customer starts are the manufacturer’s website. However, the urge to buy becomes too great and the customer is ready to buy. The manufacturer’s website is on back order and the customer wants it now. Amazon has one in stock but so does Bob. The customer could spend $50.00 less and get it in 2 days from Amazon but he is ready to ride today. So what does the customer do? He spends the extra $50.00 at Bob’s and goes to pick up his bike an hour later.

Chapter 4: The Thrills and Spills of Running a Bike Store

Running a bike store is much more than just selling bikes. It’s about creating a community, a place where bike-lovers can gather, discuss, and feel at home. It’s about being there for a kid’s first bike, a professional’s upgrade, or a senior’s new hobby.

However, this journey hasn’t been all smooth pedaling. Dealing with inventory shortages, high competition, and changing consumer trends is a constant juggle. But for every challenge, there is an equal opportunity.

To stand out, I tell bike shops to focus on personalized service, from bike fittings to maintenance workshops. Moreover, I learned to take advantage of social media, using it as a platform to connect with customers and promote my shop’s community spirit.

Chapter 5: Looking Ahead

As I look to the future, I see an ever-evolving bike retail landscape. E-commerce is booming, technology continues to advance, and customer expectations are higher than ever. These pose challenges, no doubt, but they also bring exciting opportunities for growth and differentiation.

In the end, my journey in the bike retail landscape working with independent bike dealers has taught me one thing: it’s not about the destination, but about enjoying the ride.

If you are ready to take your bike shop to the next level, book a meeting with me so we can talk more about how to grow your business.

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