– Can local bike shops remain relevant against the internet’s ‘instant gratification theater’?
In the past few years the bicycle industry has been booming. 2015 was the first year to not see a substantial growth within the industry.  Although the industry as a whole remains stable, from manufacturers to wholesalers there were dips all over the industry. From parts to whole bikes, companies are cutting prices and not moving stock.  This trend is having an effect on small local bike shops. Over the past decade there has been a steady decline in the number of bicycle retail shops in the US. The numbers continue to drop while small shops struggle to make sales. With increased funding for cycling infrastructure and other bicycle inclusive transportation initiatives and plans nationwide, there is clearly no lack of cyclists. So where are they shopping?
The internet. The internet holds the 24/7 accessibility and instant price comparison no bike shop can. Yet. Local bike shops and the industry as a whole are running behind when it comes to utilizing new technologies. Without any experience of prior knowledge, anyone can look up and purchase a bike online from across the country at 2am in their PJs and have it delivered to their door step within 72 hours. So how can local bicycle shops compete with the instant gratification theater of the internet? All bike clothing, accessories, parts and more can be easily ordered and shipped online before some shops even open. How do shops keep customers coming in when parts and accessories are a vital part of many small bike shops earnings?
Some have already begun adapting to the Twenty First Century through mobile repair fleets, new online sales platforms and the secondhand market.
Although it’s nothing new, there has been a resurgence in mobile bicycle repair. Pick up and drop off or on site repairs are one way independent mechanics and shops are using mobility to help recharge their sales. This gives accessibility to customers and can be requested though online web forms. Companies such as Beeline Bikes are entirely mobile while other shops, like Endless Cycles offer delivery and pick up services. There is a new App in the making said to be ‘the Uber for bike mechanics’. Velotooler is said to work by a request for repair being made and any registered mechanic available and within range can respond.
Manufactures have taken notice of the lacking technology within sales. Giant USA has begun a new platform to connect customers, local shops and their bicycles online. Allowing customers to select and order bicycles online and have the bikes delivered to a local Giant/Liv dealer shop where professional mechanics can assemble it. Customers can also have bicycles delivered from a local shop while the shops receive credits for Giant and Liv purchases.
Another way shops can connect with customers through the internet is taking advantage of the secondhand market. Most shops stay away from purchasing used bikes to avoid paying bike thieves, but one company came up with a solution. Bicycle Blue Book created a partner trade-in program that allows customers to trade in their used bikes for credit towards a new purchase at certified shops. Shops receive online tools for their website and reimbursement for bikes traded in minus certain fees. Customers can get a value estimate for their bike online and credit towards a new bike purchased in that shop.
In the future – How will the bicycle industry better utilize the internet for business and growth.
Will these methods prove beneficial for local shops? Only time will tell. The bicycle industry is looking unlikely to slow down anytime soon but changes are definitely coming.
– For Hard Knox Bikes By Sir B Brown –