Many bike retailers have a love-hate relationship with cycling apparel.
The need for cyclists to regularly replace knicks, jerseys and gloves can generate valuable business for dealers – not to mention the time, effort and funds many riders invest in how they look.
However, the variations required – different sizes, colours and tweaks in style – to adequately cover the possible demands of customers can make apparel a particularly tricky area for retailers to do well.
Those challenges are compounded by the fact apparel is one of the industry sectors most impacted by the trend towards online shopping.
On the flipside, until technology perfects the virtual dressing room, bricks and mortar bike shops offer customers the chance to check if they really do look fabulous in those bib knicks and designer-print jerseys.
Here are six tips for selling clothing, helmets and eyewear:
Tip 1: If you’re going to do it, do it properly
Let’s start with the fundamental question: do you even stock apparel? It’s a legitimate question. Many bike shop owners complain selling apparel and competing with online vendors ‘is just too hard’.
If you’re not prepared to fully commit to apparel, it’s probably better to steer clear of it altogether.
A sparse assortment of, probably dated, jerseys and knicks banished to the back corner is unlikely to incite much excitement with shoppers and can detract from the store and the image your brand is trying to convey.
That said, there is one positive solution if you can only go small – keep it simple; plain black knicks for roadies and baggies for your mountain biking customers.
The next step up is a well-designed shop jersey, they’re popular among riders and who wouldn’t welcome some mobile billboards promoting your store.
Which leads us into…
Tip 2: Create your own unique apparel
Now we’ve got past the prickly question of ‘do you or don’t you?’, let’s look at ways to maximise your success with apparel.
One way to address the competition from online sales and stand out from the crowd in general is to have apparel shoppers can’t get anywhere else.
A shop jersey is an obvious and popular solution but it doesn’t have to end there.
There is an ever-growing list of custom cycle clothing suppliers and the better ones offer plenty of opportunity to tailor garments – fabrics, features and price – to target your audience.
Which is a good segue into…
Tip 3: Know your audience better than they know themselves
The better you know your customers, the greater your chance of success with apparel. Yes, that is the case for anyone trying to sell a product. But nowhere is it more true than with the challenge of selling clothing and apparel.
A finely honed understanding of your customers maximises your chances of having what they want, while you can keep a lid on your quality of stock. A selective range that hits the spot with your shoppers is just so… boutique.
Don’t fall into the trap of choosing apparel based on what you would wear or what you think your customers should be wearing.
Keep abreast with the trends so you can stay a step ahead. You have some very informed sources of advice…
Tip 4: Make the most of your suppliers
You are an ambassador for your suppliers and their brands – not to mention a link to consumers. It’s in their best interests for you to be successful with their brands, so make the most of the support they can offer.
Get regular advice on what’s hot and what’s not, call upon their marketing support and take advantage of staff training.
Suppliers are also increasingly likely to have experts to assist with an effective online presence…
Tip 5: If you can’t beat them, join them online
It’s inevitable online sales will continue to grab a greater share of the bike market, in the foreseeable future at least. Retailers that can effectively complement their bricks and mortar store with a well-designed and functional website will increasingly have an advantage over their competitors.
It also offers a wonderful solution for offering an adequate range of apparel. A well-chosen selection to display in the store can be accompanied by a more expansive range online.
Advances in online B2B platforms offer greater opportunities for retailers to offer products with a reduced requirement to prepurchase and hold them in stock.
Tip 6: Good, better, best
It’s an old rule of thumb to help simplify and focus the process of choosing brands, determining pricing points and planning presentation.
Designing a portfolio that enables customers to select between ‘good, better and best’ also ensures they feel like you’re offering sufficient choice.