By Jasmine Glasheen
If you’re wondering how to run a successful bike shop, you’re going to need more than just a zest for biking to excel. The bicycling industry as a whole accounts for $88 billion in direct consumer spending worldwide, and between 15 to 20 million bicycles are sold in the U.S. each year. Bike shops can be lucrative businesses. So congratulations on choosing a segment that keeps growing while others falter.
Bike shops have actually seen a surge in sales during coronavirus! As customers suddenly can’t go to the gym, there’s been a jump in high-investment ($500-$1000) bike purchases. Want in on the action? To run a successful bike shop in today’s retail environment, you’re going to need a solid strategy.
We’ve created a blueprint to help you along the way.
1. Find Your Niche
Ready for a truth bomb? Local businesses like bike shops can’t afford to compete based on price alone. Of course, you should always be personable, your staff should be knowledgeable, and you should strive to connect with your community. But for your bike shop to be successful, you need a way to stand out from the masses. There are three ways to do this:
a. Offer unique products
b. Provide a service that they can’t get online
c. Create a community in your physical store
Bike shops market themselves based on inventory. Selling hard-to-find bike lines and gear can bring in customers that may otherwise do their shopping online. The real draw of a physical bike shop, however, is the ability for customers to connect with other people that have a passion for the same activity.
You may opt to have an in-house service department, offer bike rentals, have a knowledgeable staff that can recommend local trails, or have an in-house café/brewery.
Check out Trail House in Santa Rosa, CA for inspo on this one. In addition to bike rentals and services, Trail House also a scrumptious food and drink menu that guests can enjoy.
Having a schtick also doesn’t hurt: an eccentric business name, cool interior, etc. Whatever angle you choose to differentiate your bike shop and make it successful, commit to it fully. Then, make sure your customers know what makes your store unique to begin to create a buzz about your business.
2. Set a Steady Schedule
Dependability is one of the most important aspects of running a successful bike shop. Determine what hours your store will be open and make sure these hours listed consistently across every platform. This includes: your website, store window signage, Google Maps, Yelp, and social media. It’s your job to make sure your customers know when your store will be open. So, put an employee you trust in charge of updating your store hours across platforms every time they change.
The hours you choose for your store to be open should reflect your customers’ schedules. This will probably mean being open later in the day and weekends, since most biking enthusiasts engage in their hobby when the workday is done. Every bike shop’s customer base is different, though. Evening hours probably aren’t the right choice if you run a family bike shop that stay-at-home parents visit with their kids.
The pandemic has altered store hours in most regions, so it’s more important than ever to be transparent and communicative about the ‘How and Why’ of the precautions you implement.
MJ’s Cyclery nailed the accessibility thing during Covid. A successful bike shop in San Diego, California, MJ’s Cyclery’s website details exactly what they’re doing in light of Covid––explaining each precaution, why it was implemented, and how it might impact wait times.
But they don’t just drop the info and bolt…they invite customers to get in touch to make an appointment, and to “call, email, or text us with any questions or concerns.”
MJ’s Cyclery also has a clear CTA button that leads to its appointment scheduling portal for customers who need to come in for a bike services.
3. Create a Sales Forecast
Sales forecasts separate the retail hobbyists from the real contenders. A lot of business owners fail to do this, so it can put your bike shop ahead of the curve. The purpose of a sales forecast is to help you determine when your business ebbs and flows, so you can make more strategic sourcing decisions.
Say that, upon reviewing last year’s sales data, you discover that you make the bulk of your apparel sales during the holiday season. You also find that 50% of customers buy biking gloves with their holiday purchase. That knowledge will inform your sourcing decisions. If your customers come in looking for warmth, you’ll buy less moisture-wicking bike gear that’s made for the summer months; and more biking gloves, hats, and jackets to help with heat retention during your biggest sales season.
Once you have a grasp of how much you sell of specific inventory categories during a given time of year, you can order the right number of products in each category for that season. It helps to reduce overstocks and understocks by ensuring that you always have the right bikes, gear and accessories for your customers when they need them––without having to take a loss by discounting unsold inventory. A sales forecast can also help you identify times when your store is historically slower, so you can schedule in-store events and promotions to keep sales going during blah business periods.
Use Vend’s robust retail analytics capabilities to accurately forecast sales and trends. Vend reporting lets you drill down on specific metrics, including sales and inventory performance so you can make smarter decisions.
4. Understand the Trends
The cycling industry may be rife with high-ticket sales, but it’s still susceptible to trends. Certain product categories are growing faster than others. Cision’s “Bicycles – Global Market Trajectory & Analytics” report detailed the fastest-growing categories: hybrid bicycles are growing at 3.1% per year, road bikes are growing at 1.7% per year, and mountain bikes are growing at 2.1% annually. Of course, trends don’t just impact which product categories are on the rise…they also impact how customers want to communicate with your business.
A whopping 80% of customers use social media to interface with companies. Bike shops in particular are expected to have an accessible, personable, and knowledgeable staff –– and these attributes need to come through in your store’s social presence. Think of your social media accounts as your company’s calling card. They give potential customers the run-down on your brand. And whether customers reach out to discuss bike maintenance, to find out what products you have in stock, or to learn what to expect at future in-store events, you need to be ready and willing to address their concerns on every platform.
Running a successful bike shop isn’t rocket science, but it does take some strategic thinking and the ability act on that strategy. Following the suggestions above will have you well on your way to creating a unique brick and mortar bike shop. And if you need help managing your inventory as your business start to grow, click here to try Vend POS for free for 14 days!
About Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.