By spokesman | February 13, 2009
I wrote a post entitled Support Your Local Bike Shop in November. Recently I received a very long and thoughtful comment on that post. It focused on things that a local bike shop can do to better serve their customers. Rather than leave it in the comment section on that post, I decided to put it on the blog as a separate post so that it gets more readership. The comment in its entirety is below.
Staying in Business During an Economic Downturn 101
1. Take trade-ins and sell used bikes. Promote the fact that your products are inspected, reconditioned and warrantied for two years, and a good-quality used bike will perform better and last longer than a same-priced new cheapo from the mass retailer.
2. If people are riding a lot recreationally on weekends, open your store and offer service on Sundays. Few things are as frustrating to casual riders as a breakdown on a perfect day to ride, and no access to repair. This doesn’t have to be all year, but only from May-September in many places. Close on Mondays for a day off.
3. Open at 8AM on weekends, like dive shops do.
4. Stay open til 9PM at least one weeknight during the high-season. You can manage staffing costs by opening at noon or even 3-4 PM on those days.
If you operated a tavern, would you be open 9-5 Mon-Sat for your own personal convenience?
5. Rent bikes to enable people to try different models and bike types, giving them riding experience on which to base purchase selections. In some cases, look at leasing weekend space in parks, beaches to set up party tents for rentals and service. City and county governments are looking for more money to make up for tax shortfalls.
6. Give customers 3 free services, after the traditional first month readjustment freebie.
7. Sell extended service contracts, at reasonable charge.
8. Put things on sale every month, and email your customers. Selected clothing this month, saddles next month…
9. Hold DIY cyclist-home-maintenance clinics monthly, at reasonable charge, or free. (Some people have knocked Home Depot vs. family-owned hardware stores. Who came up with the idea of Saturday DIY clinics? Who first offered Makita, DeWalt, Milwaukee and other pro-grade power tools to homeowners, when the LHSs were selling cheapo B&D?)
10. Consider forming your own dealer-owned purchasing co-op, just like Ace and True Value were set up to enable LHS’s to buy products directly from manufacturer’s, eliminating middleman wholesaler/distributor markups, and thus keep HD and Lowes from driving them out of business.
11. DO NOT markup prices ABOVE MSRP, if you aren’t in a tony community or resort area with free-spending customers, and if you don’t have higher than national average rent, utilities and staff wage levels. If this applies to you, either you are abusing your customers deliberately, or you lack sufficient sales volume to make ends meet at MSRP, which means there are too many bike stores for your local market, and some need to close.
12. Start DISCOUNTING to high-volume customers. Your computer tracks customer purchases.
a. Give a $50 gift certificate for every $500 of purchase accumulations over the preceding 24 months.
b. When you have sales, send announcements to your regular customers, and give them an Early Bird shopping day to get their pick of the best stuff.
c. During your sales, give your high-volume customers an extra 5% off.
d. GIVE DISCOUNTS FOR SPECIAL ORDERS. Here you want to both encourage SOs and share your own cost-savings with the CUSTOMERS WHO ARE SAVING YOU MONEY. You don’t pay for inventory-maintenance for these, so your profit margins, with discount, are higher than selling the same items at MSRP that have been on the shelf for six months.
If you’re the kind of “business genius” who loves special orders because they save you purchasing and credit-line costs, but you see no reason to pass on some of the savings to your own customers, who keep you in business, the LBC (local biking community) would be better off if you found another line of business.
For those of you who have already figured many of these things out, because you realize that what separates you from the big box stores is personal dedication to serving your customers, and spreading the passion of cycling, keep up the good work!
Topics: Bicycles And Business |