The handful of stories from the Allez thread inspired this post. I was curious on everyone’s thoughts on where Bike Shops will be in the future. We are seeing more and more direct to OEM models leaving bike shops out on sales. With enough of this most bike shops won’t be afford to stick around. But at the same time if I can get a cheaper bike straight from a factory, then I will. It’s hard to blame the customer for not wanting to buy a product a store is selling. There’s plenty of nuance to this that I don’t think paragraph could suffice.
So how do you think bike shops can survive in the future?
By being good at service & maintenance. Keep selling soft goods and small parts. Also with the massive onset of E-bikes. Bikes are getting more and more complicated for the average Joe to do their own wrenching.
As for sales, some of the local shops have already moved to a model, where they only have demo bikes on hand. They rent them out, help customers order, get a kickback, and then they sell those demo bikes at the end of the season.
Given the surge in indoor training, I think there will be a growing market for servicing indoor trainers, smart bikes, etc. The good shops will develop capabilities for this, and possibly even offer in-home service for the smart bikes given how much they weigh and difficult they are to move around.
Seems like lots of businesses are realizing they can’t just be a place that has products on shelves that people come in and buy. They have to be more of a destination and also provide an experience that you don’t get by ordering from something online. Maybe bike shops will also open a coffee shop/cafe within them and make sure they are a destination for group rides. Host more events and information sessions. In the winter maybe have people come in and do group rides on trainers? Offer coaching with shop based coaches?
Just pulling ideas out of my head, but seems like a bike shop that wants to survive will find ways to get people in the doors without them coming to buy a product. Because we all know that once we step foot into a bike shop, we buy something. Even if it’s just a tube or some bar tape.
Rob Curtis, from PSIMET wheels, has a good podcast that he just released going over the dealer letter and what he thinks the implications for bike shop futures are. I think it is worth a listen (and some support for local, Chicago business!). Road Is Dead: Backed In . Specialized talk starts around 12:00 in
Pretty much this. I’ve worked in shops over the years and experienced enough of the business to know that I would probably never own or work in one again. IF, big IF - I would focus on securing brands still willing to do business exclusively with dealers (Ibis), I would outfit the shop with a bench specific to mountain bike suspension, and I would (begrudgingly) educate myself with as much eBike motor and other electronic repairs possible. You really need to differentiate yourself from the competition and really good quality specialized repairs, with adaquate turn around times is the only way. It’s a ton of work for a shitty pay out.
I’d also be only stocking the very hottest bikes and make sure that my suppliers could deliver. All that to be said, I’m still seeing brand new shops entering this market and it absolutely blows me away. Want to make a million bucks in the bike game? Start with 2.
Quite a few bike shops round here (North Yorkshire) have cafés or coffee bars as a means of extra income, getting footfall, etc. You can’t rely on selling several top end bikes every week to keep things ticking over, it’s the nuts and bolts (sic) that add up.
Around here we have a few established bike shops but a mate of mine more recently set up a bike workshop/ cafe in the longer term I see him succeeding. He’s also good at sourcing parts if they are needed so I doubt that he needs to store too much on site.
Roadies buying $10+k super bikes is such a small part of the market. The bulk of sales are much cheaper bikes. Shops don’t make a lot on those bikes but they build a loyal clientele that comes to them for service.
The retail bicycle business has always been tough. It’s usually made tougher by the fact that the people running these businesses are not business people but bicycle people.
There are tons of things the average shop could do to boost business.
Have a mobile repair component to your business.
Turn around repairs faster and prioritize better. How many times do you hear about a shop quoting a 5 day turn-around for a 20 minute job?
Sell online. Expand your territory virtually.
Sell bike tours and guide services if you live in a cool area.
Promote a race series or fondo pocket the profit.
Rebrand custom bikes and wheels from China and sell them to your customers for half the price of Specialized.
I gave up on my local bike shops. After spending around $20,000 on bikes at a shop and sending numerous people to a the shop who have all bought high end bikes they just didn’t really want my business. They quoted weeks do to maintenance and said my bike had to be at the shop the entire time, they couldn’t call when they had time in the schedule. Then when I decided to buy an S-Works Epic, they wouldn’t honor the NICA coach discount, wanted full MSRP, and quoted 6-12 month delivery. I knew the delivery would be an issue, but the rest was just bad return customer service. So I bought the frameset straight from Specialized and had it shipped to my house and source all the parts online. Then I just watched a bunch of YouTube videos and built it myself.
All future bikes, parts, and accessories will be sourced online. Most of the time the local shop had to order what I needed anyways. And now I can do my own service. Plus the shop really didn’t do much for the local cycling community in terms of rides or events.
that’s a pretty good idea!. My tacx is making a tick and I bought a puller tool for it to inspect theinside… I bought it a year ago and still have never looked at it. I’d pay some money for someone to fix that local
There will always be a need for bike shops……the overwhelming majority of the bike business is still on the recreation side and those customers have little interest in ordering online and having to do any assembly once the bike arrives.
Back when I managed a shop (admittedly many years ago), we always said our competition was not other bike shops, it was other disposable income opportunities. If you have some extra $$ in your pocket, and it is a nice spring day, you might decide to buy a bike. If it is rainy, you might decide to buy a home theater system.
Flexibility and adaptation will always be the hallmark of any good shop….just because something worked for the last 5-10 years doesn’t mean it is the right strategy for the future. For years it was catalogs that would kill shops, then it was the internet and now it is direct-to-consumer sales. Adapt and survive.
10 years ago, I would have told you that the future for some shops would be to incorporate training centers into their shops (and not just tossing some trainers in the basement). I saw several shops excel at the concept. Monthly membership basically covered their overhead and the shop side provided revenue / profit. Plus, they had their best customers coming into the shop nearly every day…always the opportunity to sell them something, be it a gel or a tube or whatever. Then the Kickr came out followed by TR / Zwift and it pretty much killed that concept. So you gotta adapt.
Shops that made a devil’s bargain to become one- brand shops are now realizing the error in their judgement. If your shop is not your brand, you are doing it wrong. Good shops can survive losing / changing any brand of bikes. Making a bike brand the primary reason someone comes into your shop is always a mistake.
Get involved in the community, make your shop a resource….hold bike clinics at schools, provide the lead pace bike for the local 5K race, etc.
It will be the same as any other area of business that has been disrupted by the internet. Services that are improved or require in-person presence such as maintenance, repair, upgrades, soft goods, etc.
A family member was recently shopping for a BMW, and the dealer agent was exceptional - super knowledgeable about every option, model, color, and potential competitor down to the HP and wheelbase. Family member ended up with a BMW because of the thorough run-down the agent was able to provide. It made me wonder why bike shops don’t do the same - many of us would wander into a bike shop just to talk shop, get advice about brands, new releases, technology, racing, etc. If I go into a bike shop and someone can talk to me about the advantages of larger diameter jockey wheels and intricacies of tire construction, I’m hooked. I’ll definitely be back to that shop, buying just about anything they sell.
I was at a bike shop in Mississippi that had a small bar with craft beers, snacks, a big tv and some couches. So I’m sure they have their regular group rides where they come back to the shop and have a beer and hang out. And it’s that sort of thing where you’re in the shop and need some part or tubes or whatever and since you’re right there you buy it there rather than order from Amazon
As others have said, even for cheap bikes, shops don’t make the bulk of their revenues from bike sales. Their strongest revenue streams are service, parts and apparel. Mark up is very low on whole bikes but much larger on these other items.
Selling bikes also is not great for shops anyhow given that they must buy bikes up front. That is why shops mostly push cheap bikes. It is a gamble to buy a bike over $1500 and hope it sells before the next year model comes out and you have to slash the price.
I personally would be happy to buy a consumer direct bike. I buy all my stuff online. I just don’t think it matters much for most shops unless they are high end only.
That is not entirely correct…bikes provide a HUGE revenue stream, usually the largest amount of revenue. What they don’t make up is the largest amount of profit dollars. That comes from the other segments that you mention.
Most shops need both….the revenue stream from the bikes balanced with higher margins from other segments.
I give this topic a lot of thought, since it’s my career.
I don’t want to launch into my opinion on every topic in this thread, but if anyone is curious about “why do shops do X” or “why don’t they do Y,” I’d be happy to give you my take on it.
Very broadly speaking, there is no one Future Of The Bike Shop. The variety of customers, products, and markets mean that there are many different paths to success. And just about every shop will have to be willing to change over time to adapt to what their market demands.