Editor’s note: Heather Mason has done nearly everything in the bike industry. The former pro 24-hour racer has been a retailer and national sales manager for a well-known brand. Now she is a bicycle industry advocate, business developer, columnist, and athlete who shares her knowledge, insight and passion with everyone she meets. She is also in charge of eastern U.S. business development for Bianchi Bicycles. BRAIN is sharing monthly columns from Heather in 2020.
The cycling industry has spent years discussing ways to attract new riders to the sport. Marketing plans and programs designed specifically to introduce more people to cycling. Due to the changes in our global environment; we are on the edge of a huge upswing.
Even with a change to our normal business operations, independent bicycle retailers should expect cycling demand to increase and stay there.
The term “Bike Boom” or “Bicycle Craze” refers to any of the specific historic periods marked by increased bicycle enthusiasm, popularity and sales. There have been several bike booms over the years. Time magazine referred to the years of 1965-1975 as “the bicycle’s biggest wave of popularity in its 154-year history.” The 1990s witnessed a mountain bike boom, and the early 2000s saw an increase in road cycling popularity. The 2010s began to boom again with bicycle sharing and e-bikes coming to market.
With businesses closed, many working from home, and home-schooling, cycling is about to transition from the ultra-fit, upper class, city commuter, warm weather thing to an all year adventure vehicle for everyone. People are going to see all that is possible with life on two wheels and they are going to enjoy it. They will savor the whoosh of the wind against their face, blood pumping in the legs, landscape passing by and how alive the bike will make them feel. There is huge potential for a Bike Boom in 2020.
Spending the past few days on the bicycle myself, exploring old routes, bike paths and river-fronts, I continue to notice more and more cyclists. Many people are finding themselves drawn back to their old ride, or are now looking for new equipment to get out and enjoy the feeling of freedom. Families riding together, shoppers riding to the store, or a simple few miles to clear the head.
At times like this we should not be preparing for business to slow down, but rather for it to double.
With this boom we could see an increase in product and service demand; thus, putting pressure on our systems that are already pressured by the recent economical happenings. Rising cyclists number is our industry goal, so how can we best prepare for the upswing?
Give the best customer service experience possible.
People may be entering or calling a bike shop for the first time ever in their lives. Make the moment enjoyable, memorable and streamlined. Understand you may have a bunch of first-time cyclists on your hands. Prepare to equip them with the knowledge that every beginner will need to know. Explain helmets and pumps, and what they will need to fix a flat.
Adapt your practices and systems.
You may have to close your store or alter your hours — but the demand will still be there. Become creative with ways to deliver bikes to clients and continue to offer fit and service appointments. Create a new rider package, or box up energy food supplies for a month and sell creatively.
Hire people to help.
As businesses are talking about letting staff go, you may need to think about hiring staff to pick up and drop off bikes, build incoming bikes, meet service demands, or answer the phone. Think about increasing your open hours by extending your phone-in times to answer questions and take orders. Stay open as much as you can.
Provide the “Experience”
While we may not be able to gather and lead rides, you can still be a great resource of knowledge. Turn to an online navigational app and map out and share your favorite riding routes. Work with other local businesses to have riders pass by and pick up a take-out snack or coffee. Give riders direction on local trail maintenance that could be done. Send out a suggested ride for families to take. Go ride yourself and post images with directions on how others could create the same ride route.
Work with suppliers.
Check in with your suppliers to ensure product availability to meet demand. Consider closeouts or prior year models to fill the needs of those looking to enter the sport without breaking the wallet. Consider new vendors to fill the additional needs of your growing customer base. Make sure you have a resource to offer kids, family, road mountain, and e-bikes. Stock up on the essentials: tubes, lube and other repair items.
Show your customers you appreciate them by creating fun things that they can take part in online. Ask them to post images of their ride and share their routes. Consider a contest for the best family cycling picture, or the best bike lean background. Consider building a loyalty program to make your customers feel special and build long term clients.
Plan for Continued Growth.
Let’s celebrate! The cycling industry is about to see another big boom; one that will continue as new riders find the joy of life behind two wheels. Set the shop up for continued success. Monitor the POS system and see what people are buying, adjust your buying habits toward that. Now is not the time to devalue service or goods, instead explain the time and art of bicycle repair done right. We could be headed toward a recession; if this occurs think about used bike sales or rentals. Tap into new concepts of sales and delivery and how we can cater to the ever-changing needs of the customer.
The humble bicycle is the means to an incredible lifestyle, and it’s just getting started. More and more riders are about to enter our sport and realize the incredible brainpower boosting effects of the bicycle. The health benefits, the money savings, the family connections, the friendships and positivity. New riders are about to embark on this journey with us.
Welcome to the new now.