Bike Shops: How do YOU decide where to shop?

Discussion in 'Cycling Equipment' started by graham70, Oct 26, 2004.

  1. graham70

    graham70 New Member

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    Hey Forum,

    I own a bike shop. Bicycles have been an addiction for me since my first BMX in 1978 and now I own a small shop. The shop is two years old and has done surprisingly well considering I have concentrated on parts & service, not sales until now. Its time to take the shop to the next level by selling bikes - we plan to only sell quality mountain bikes ($500 up to $5000). I would love to sell road bikes too, but figure it is best to focus and do one segment properly than two segments half-assed.

    I am very interested to hear from people about their bike shop experiences and ideas. I have included some topics below to consider:

    What makes a bike shop appealing to you?
    How can a small shop be better than a large shop?
    How important are bike brands?
    What should a shop do to earn your loyalty?
    Is price everything?
    When shopping for bikes, do you decide on a model and go looking for it?
    Or do you decide how you want to use your new bike and go looking for something suitable?

    I would really appreciate any feedback on this topic - maybe shop owners in your area will see this and be inspired to improve aspects of their business!

    thanks,
     
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  2. tafi

    tafi Member

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    Where I shop only has trek brand bikes but it is big always has a reliable stock and stocks all necessary parts for day to day running of a bike. A good stock of the bits and bobs is a must to have good patronage
     
  3. fix

    fix New Member

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    What makes a bike shop appealing to you?
    large selection so that I can comparison shop. even though I may not be able to afford the high-end items, it is nice to be able to examine them to understand what refinements exist at the higher levels and then seek some of them out when buying the affordable items.


    How can a small shop be better than a large shop?
    Be very personable and helpful. Offer experience, but let the customer ultimately decide.

    How important are bike brands?
    A known name with a proven history is essential, but avoid having only the mass-market appeal. There is always the appeal of a niche brand, that a purchaser can feel like they are the discoverer of something special and unique. Demonstrate that niche brand's quality and value, and you might find the stuff sells quickly. just be sure that you too believe in that product and make sure that it will deliver as promised.

    What should a shop do to earn your loyalty?
    Deliver the quality. Listen to the complaints. solve each customer's needs like they are the only customer that you have.

    Is price everything?
    Only for the initial lure, but when the service is added, a marginal price increase will not matter. the vlaue of quality service will be the return on the marginal cost difference.

    When shopping for bikes, do you decide on a model and go looking for it?
    Or do you decide how you want to use your new bike and go looking for something suitable?

    I look what is for available in my area. decide which products suit my needs. Then shop for the best value for my needs while keeping watch on the prospect of customer service for future needs.


    :D good luck with your shop and if you succeed by incorporating our feedback, I'll look forward to your franchising in my area soon. :)
     
  4. bikerbrian

    bikerbrian New Member

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    As far as shopping for a bike I usually narrow my choice down to a few and then go looking. As far as service I always go to the same place reguardless of price just because they do a bang up job, I'm assuming the price is also reasonable but I've never gone anywhere else so I don't know.
     
  5. graham70

    graham70 New Member

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    Fix, thanks very much. I can only hope that a business based on loving bikes and trying to help others love them too would be appreciated enough that a franchise will appear in your town.
     
  6. cachehiker

    cachehiker New Member

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    What makes a bike shop appealing to you?

    I like to see a work area that isn't hidden from the public. Having a cellar full of used bikes and components is fine, but I don't like to see my bike taken to a dungeon where it is likely to be subjected to abuses that most of us can only imagine.

    How can a small shop be better than a large shop?
    What should a shop do to earn your loyalty?


    Stand behind your work. There was one and only one shop in town I would've purchased a Shimano Flight Deck from. I know they will take the time to install it properly; and I know if I have a problem, it will be addressed. They know I won't dick around with something under warranty.

    How important are bike brands?

    Although I buy half of my stuff from the preferred LBS, no shop can be everything to everybody. The LBS realizes they can't stock everything and they don't hold it against me when I buy 700c Bontrager Mavericks from the local Trek dealer. I'll still come back to buy the hubs and spokes from them. I may not buy their Titus Racer-X or GT I-drive, but they give me credit for doing my research, making a quality decision, and then bringing it back to the right place when it needs work.

    When shopping for bikes, do you decide on a model and go looking for it?
    Or do you decide how you want to use your new bike and go looking for something suitable?


    I start with a long list of models, then eliminate and rearrange until I'm convinced I'll be happy with any of the top three to five models. I'll wait another month for things to percolate, then buy whatever is on top. Of course, a hot deal on number two, three, or four will always attract my attention in the meantime.
     
  7. gubaguba

    gubaguba New Member

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    Its a service industry so serve. Do what you say, treat you customers like your money because they are. Know your product but don't preach about it. Don't make assumptions about me. Do your best and have no regrets about a loss. Always remember that you love what you do and share that passion with all that enter your store. I give my money to people I like and respect and avoid those I don't. Make your store the kind I'll drive an hour to get to not because your selection of socks, but because your there. In the end you sell yourself I just leave with other stuff. Good Luck.
     
  8. ad6mj

    ad6mj New Member

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    Offer the Park Tools course.
     
  9. rule62

    rule62 New Member

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    I always do my own reading and research on an item before going in and evaluating a bike shop experience. I ask them a bunch of questions that I already know the answer to and see what they come up with. If they have no clue, or worse try to gas me, I move on.

    Latest example...I went into the repair shop of one of the LBS's in my area and perfectly described a ghost shifting issue and asked them if they had any ideas about what my problem could be . They were pretty clueless. I even went as far as asking if they had ever heard of ghost shifting. They just looked at me like I was speaking Urdu. Needless to say, I don't have their shop on my list of area resources.

    On the other hand, when I bought my bike, I had done a ton of reading on the Specialized geometry versus that of a Trek. I knew a lot about the differences between what goes into a Litespeed road bike, etc. When I found a place and a sales guy who confirmed all that I had read and worked with me at that level of technical knowledge, I knew that I was dealing with a good shop. He had me take out each bike after talking about its pros and cons and let me see how each difference felt for me on the road. At the end of the process, I knew exactly which bike to buy and why. I couldn't have asked for a better experience.
     
  10. jitteringjr

    jitteringjr New Member

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    Here are some very important questions you need to ask yourself:

    What is my competition offering? How can I differentiate myself from them?

    Remember that a customer buying a $300 giant has different needs than a person buying a $4000 Ellsworth.

    My opinion is that bike stores can be grouped into categories. Cheap, semi-specialty and specialty. Cheap is not even really a bike store, but they sell bikes. (i.e. Wal-Mart’s) Semi-specialty will have low profit margins and high inventory turnover and will sell mostly $300-$800 bikes but also a few higher end stuff too. Specialty is where the Guros go to buy bikes. They have high profit margin but sell lower numbers. They are expert fitters, hire the best mechanics, and sell mid to high-end stuff only. You don't find $300 giants in these stores and the sales people will politely tell that shopper that he will be better off shopping at "Semi-specialty bikes R us"

    So what categories are the other shops around you in? It sounds like you would be best suited toward the specialty stuff, but if there is already specialty competition around you, things will be difficult and you might consider a different approach.

    Once you have picked that category you want to compete in, ask your question again to the specific target market. This is because the $4000 Ellsworth customer will want things that the $300 Giant customer doesn't need and vice versa. If you offer both, you may loose your differentiation and suffer financially. This is most important when you are first starting out. Once you grow, you may start to offer both worlds and maintain focus.


    Remember these two things:
    You are in a business and you need to make money. Don't try to have customer service so good that you don't make any money.
    Don't try to make so much money that your customer service is too low.

    Hope that helps
     
  11. Virenque

    Virenque New Member

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    1. Sellers must be well informed about what they`re selling and they must take time to explain all what I want to know! Not like some sellers, usualy in bigger shops, which say "come here and you will see" and then they even don`t know almost nothing about the product!
    The second very important thing are prices and of course type/brands of bikes which they`re selling!
    2. Size of a shop is not important for me! Important are offer, sellers and prices as I said above!
    3. A lot, because that`s the first information that people get to know about one bike! You can sell well just low price unknown bikes! Almost no one would buy expensive bike with "no name"!
    I will never buy completely unknown bike, but not very prestigeous one as well!
    4. Very similar answer as for the first question..
    5. Not everything, but a lot because most of people don`t have a lot of money!
    6. No, I`m attentive more to equipment and price and less to model or brand..
    7. Sure, that as well!
     
  12. billy1974

    billy1974 New Member

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    lots of good advice up there about service and quality.

    one other thing you should do is be active with your local riders and clubs. get out there and ride with existing and potential customers on a regular basis. serve as tech support for local club/charity rides. basically, by putting yourself out there among riders, you'll be more apt stand by your work, service and sales; there won't be any place to hide. (my preferred LBS does this all the time, and it's really helping them build the business.)

    good luck!
     
  13. larryb

    larryb New Member

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    i live in a small college town out in the country. there are 2 local bike shops.

    The long term established shop has good selection, lots of clothing, good service and is sets up at all the local biking events. They also accept used bikes in trade for new bikes!

    The new shop has good selection, few clothes, good service and is at some of the bike events. They do NOT take used bikes in trade for new bikes.

    I have bought 6 bikes from the established shop. Traded only one of them... i got $900 for a $1300 bike that was 4 yrs old and had less than 200 miles on it. Price for new bike after trade, $2000.

    i'll continue to shop at the established shop... the owner tells me that he actually makes a FORTUNE on bike clothes... which are always 50% off list price.

    best wishes on your expanded business.
    cu,
    larryb
     
  14. billlee

    billlee New Member

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    What makes a bike shop appealing to you?
    I would enjoy a small shop. I suppose I am lucky to have two large ones very close (Performance, revolution), I presume the small shops were long ago purged from a municipality that caters to big retailers.

    How can a small shop be better than a large shop?
    Consistency, just what the big ones lack.

    How important are bike brands?
    The high end brands all exceed my need for quality, so I have not fallen in love with one yet.

    What should a shop do to earn your loyalty?
    Once or twice solve a difficult parts or repair problem.

    Is price everything?
    No. But it is part of the buying descion.

    When shopping for bikes, do you decide on a model and go looking for it?
    No, see brand answer above.

    Or do you decide how you want to use your new bike and go looking for something suitable?
    Yes, I suppose I do without realizing it. I always include used equipment in my search which throws me out of the shops.

    I wish you good luck. It looks like a very difficult industry to me.
     
  15. litespeedguy

    litespeedguy New Member

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    I found my current bike shop by asking someone at my company who races ( road) for a recommendation; this shop has one mechanic, the owner.

    For me , competent service is the key to selecting a shop; I'm lucky in that my mechanic is also the owner. But if a junior mechanic worked on my Litespeed I'd want some assurance that an experienced mechanic reviewed the work.
     
  16. ghostpedal

    ghostpedal New Member

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    What makes a bike shop appealing to you?
    Staff that is knowledgable and friendly without being condescending.

    How can a small shop be better than a large shop?
    By the service they are able to provide. Getting to know and remember customers also goes a long way. Having people who are honestly excited about cycling, as their enthusiasm is noticable.

    How important are bike brands?
    As long as you stock well-respected brands, and you honestly believe in them, that's all that can be asked.

    What should a shop do to earn your loyalty?
    The little things. If you put as much care into selling me a ~$20 tire or some other small part, I will come back when I'm ready to spend the big dollars. Explaining problems with equipment in understandable ways, and promptly fixing them.

    Is price everything?
    You have to be somewhat competitive, but the service given will earn the repeat customers. If you service what you sell, and don't make that service a hassle to obtain, the more people can spend on the bike. The more time on the bike, the more bikes wanted. More sales for you.

    When shopping for bikes, do you decide on a model and go looking for it?
    I think it varies on the customer. Very experienced riders will normally have a narrowed list of choices they have previously researched and found acceptable. With that said, if this type of customer comes in, talk honestly about their other options, and admit your products good points in addition to the competition. These people know, so talking smack about the other bikes they were going to look at is an insult to them. Don't do it. For newer riders, they will not have as much of an opinion as the vets, so try and guide them. If they are ignorant of features, brands, etc. educate them without making them feel like stupid newbies. I have seen many new people turned off by the cycle snobs at bike shops. They may be new riders now, but they might not be for long, and they will base their next decision about you on how they were treated the first time. Sell a lower end today, sell top of the line in two years.
     
  17. RC2

    RC2 New Member

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    The biggest 2 factors in my decisions:
    - does the LBS have a great selection of quality parts (i.e. componets, seats as an example -- can I touch/hold/try 30 different saddles from selle, fizik, etc...). Clothes is another one -- can I try a few different bibs (and any old store will have PI's, I'm more interested in stuff that is less commonly available, maybe castelli).
    - does the LBS have knowledgeable and friendly staff? It's fun to shoot the sh1t about that new Superprodigy they just got in, or why I may want crank X vs crank Y if I'm in need of a new crankset.
     
  18. BDK

    BDK New Member

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    I don't have any experience running a bike shop but I was a regional manager for 12 years for a specialty electronics chain and I do have some ideas on customer service.

    Learn your customer's names.

    You can't stock all things for all people but make special ordering an easy task.

    If you don't know the answer, don't BS, tell them you don't know but that you will find out.

    If you are too busy to take care of a phone customer, ask if you can call them back - and make sure you do.

    Don't tell people what you can't do but what you can do.

    If you promise something, deliver.

    Don't promise if you know you can't deliver.

    Hold workshops and events for the public and sponsor a club.

    Be fair in your pricing but don't be afraid to charge what you are worth.

    Make your shop a fun place to work and you can retain good workers.


    Hope this helps
     
  19. steve_wmn

    steve_wmn New Member

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    What makes a bike shop appealing to you?
    Friendly, patient salesmen. In one of my local bike shops I get the cold shoulder every time I walk in, even though I do buy stuff from time to time. The staff is obviously mountain bikers and I'm a roadie, and they seem a bit aloof.

    How can a small shop be better than a large shop?


    Location, location, location. Also, your customers will know who is working on their bike (you), rather than trying to guess which interchangeabl kid does the work.

    When shopping for bikes, do you decide on a model and go looking for it?

    I just bought a bike and what I did was pick out a few I was interested in, then went looking for them. In the process I found a nearby, hole in the wall LBS that had one I wanted, and that's where I bought.

    Or do you decide how you want to use your new bike and go looking for something suitable?

    I did my initial suitability research on the web, then used the manufacturers' websites to find my local dealers once I had my list paired down a bit.
     
  20. lohsnest

    lohsnest New Member

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    The most important thing that made my decision a long time ago is honesty. I don't care how much my bike shop owner charges me, as long as he is giving me and honest and fair price without trying to sell me something unnecessarily. If it's full retail, so be it. I have been shopping at my local dealer for years now. I have never had any issues with them. In fact, they even tried to talk me out of spending money there.....actually, they were trying to convince me that for the money I spent on my bike (not with them), I would be fine and not need to spend all that money upgrading. I eventually bought components from them anyways, after deciding to upgrade to a better frame. Let me tell you this.....If they actually had the frame I was looking for, I would've gotten it from them, but alas, I got a frame from a smaller, less well-known manufacturer.

    I know that I can always count on my local LBS. They can get me almost anything I need for my bike. They offer me that personal touch that you almost cannot get anywhere else, especially from the internet.
     
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