How’s Business? September 2021

Welcome to our monthly chat with six bike shop owners or managers across Australia and New Zealand where we start by simply asking, ‘How’s business?’

As you might expect, their responses varied considerably depending upon what level of covid restriction their town or city was under.

For this month’s follow up question we asked, ‘What impact if any, do you think that cycling being on TV during the Olympics has on customer enquiries and sales?’ It was interesting to see a broad contrast of opinions on this, possibly linked to the nature of the stores and the personal interests of their owners.

Gary Jackson from Riviera Cycles in Bairnsdale, Victoria said:

Business is very good. We consider ourselves to be very fortunate that people are wanting to ride during the pandemic.

We’re certainly seeing an increase in people who come into the store wanting to buy a couple of e-bikes because they can’t go travelling so they’re looking for things to do at home.

I guess like bike shops everywhere, it’s been a big increase in turnover for us. It’s been a big shot in the arm, I think for the whole industry.

We’ve been in the same location for 26 years now. I was 24 when I started this business. I’m not 24 anymore, unfortunately, but still going!

Being a country bike store, you’ve got to cater for everyone. But the more popular bikes at the moment, certainly e-bikes including both your mountain e-bikes and your commuter or recreation style ones, gravel bikes, and dual-suspension mountain bikes, in particular.

When you’re talking higher-end bikes, those are the three categories.

When you’re talking bikes $1,000 and under then it’s a real mixture of hybrids, step-throughs and mountain bikes.

We’re actually carrying more stock than we would normally have at this time of year because we’re saying ‘Yes!’ to everything. But if I’ve got such and such a bike only in size large and you need a medium, it could be months.

We deal mainly with Giant and Advance Traders and they’ve both looked after us pretty well. They’ve tried their best to get us bikes in a timely manner. They’ve both been working off an allocation system. But we can also talk to our rep and say, ‘Hey can we request this particular bike?’ If it comes up in their allocation, they can send it our way.

Just recently Giant has been able to put some of their Momentum e-bikes on the portal – on the B2B – so you can actually just order a bike, like the good old days! So they’ve obviously been able to get enough of those to do that. But the general Giant and Liv stock is still on allocation.

We’re mainly Giant and Advance Traders is our second supplier for Merida and Norco. I notice that Advance Traders too, where they’ve got excess stock, they’ve been able to open it up on the B2B for everyone to order.

Olympic impact?

I would say that I haven’t been able to pinpoint any customers coming in because they’ve been inspired by the Olympics, but they may not necessarily tell me that, I guess.

With the Tour de France, we get people come into the store and they talk about watching it on the television, but I certainly didn’t notice anyone say they want to start riding because they’ve been watching the Olympics and it looks like fun.

Benny Devcich from Benny’s Bike Shop in the suburbs of Auckland, New Zealand said:

Business is good. Unfortunately, we went into lockdown two days ago. But until then, it was awesome.

I’m uniquely placed in that I’m servicing, bike fitting and new bike builds. I don’t actually sell any bikes on the floor at all for recreational use.

My business model is well suited to being very busy in this time because bikes are few and far between. I think that a store with a regular business model at this stage would be quite nervous.

I work with Chapter2, a New Zealand company. Those frames are coming directly from their warehouse in Hong Kong, within three or four days. Our big concern is groupsets and groupset availability, so we’ve got to be more organised with forward planning for future builds. For example, we’ve just got a Specialized frame in where the client has waited seven months, through his Specialized store. Good cyclists don’t mind waiting because they’ve often got other bikes to deal with.

Olympic impact?

Very little for me. It’s more just a topic of conversation amongst existing cyclists. Because of the nature of the Olympics this year, I don’t think anybody paid much attention to the cycling side of things. Except maybe there was a little bit more talk about women’s cycling, through the misstep in communication (with the Netherlands team in the women’s road race) not figuring out that there was a person still up the road.

I think there will be very little change at all. Maybe a bit of conversation about, ‘Why is BMX Freestyle in there?’ May as well put skateboarding in there as well, at the demise of regular sports including velodrome programs, which have been thinned out because of these extra sports.

Brendan van der Spek from Onya Belconnen in the suburbs of Canberra, ACT said:

Currently, being winter, we’re quieter than in summer, as usual. We were booked out four to five weeks in advance during summer and we’re now only a few days, so it’s come right back.

As you’d expect, bike sales have dropped in the same way. But really the difficulty is just getting parts and bike stock. There’s a lot that we can’t get and a lot that we’re just waiting to come back into stock with parts suppliers. Shimano etc are all very behind.

There’s no particular rhyme or reason to it in terms of parts. Some parts, there’s plenty of stock, some things there’s nothing. It depends upon which specific parts you’re looking at.

As far as bikes go, kids’ bikes aren’t too bad. But it’s usually that $1,000 to $3,000 recreational mountain bike and that sort of thing that we usually sell plenty of. Someone walks in and I have to say, ‘That’s a unicorn! It doesn’t exist. That won’t be available until new models arrive.’

In terms of Canberra’s current lockdown, we can only open for mechanical repairs, so it’s very quiet. It’s even quieter than ‘winter quiet’.

Olympic impact?

I would say, not too noticeable. Things like the Tour de France have a bigger impact on viewing and therefore recreational activities. Cycling’s only a small proportion of the Olympics and only the keen cyclists seem to follow it on TV.

Not anything we can notice in-store.

Danny O’Shea from South Coast Cycles in the outer southern Adelaide suburb of Christies Beach said:

After Covid hit, it peaked massively and now it’s getting closer to what it was pre-covid for our winter. But you’re still getting a lot of people coming in that hadn’t been riding for quite a while, who got their bike out during lockdown and now they’re still going. They’re still doing it. And they’re getting their kids into it as well.

We’re seeing more repairs as well as sales on kids’ bikes and things. And a bit of a resurgence on lay-bys as well. I’m already getting quite a few lay-bys for Christmas from people who are worried about stock.

Normally there’s been a trend towards later lay-bys or people just coming in and paying for it in the last month or so. But now we’re four or five months out and already getting lay-bys.

During summer and Christmas time we sell a lot of BMX because that’s what I ride and I’m into. Then the rest of the year is more entry-level mountain bikes, mid-level hardtails, family recreation bikes as well.

Olympic impact?

I’ve had quite a few customer enquiries about the types of bikes they’re using in the Olympics, especially freestyle BMX. People wanting to build up a ‘Logan Martin bike’ (Australian Olympic freestyle BMX gold medallist). Until I tell them how much it will be, close to two and a half grand for a BMX bike, so they’re not sold on that. That tends to lower their expectations a bit.

Usually, I can convince them to get their kids into something that will fit them properly. Rather than getting a bike that’s too big, then they can’t ride properly. Building their confidence from a young age.

If you ride left foot forward you would put the chain on the regular right-hand side, but if you ride right foot forward you would put the chain on the left-hand side so the chain doesn’t hit your ankles when you’re doing tail whips. Freestyle BMX is another world. There’s so much to it. From the outside, it all looks very similar.

Zoe Charles from Adrenalin Cycling in Pialba, part of the Hervey Bay district in Queensland said:

Booming! E-bikes and cruisers and a lot of normal mountain bikes as well. We do 12 different brands. The ones that are moving the fastest in the e-bikes are the NCM. In normal bikes, I would say… I don’t know if it would be Trek, Merida or Norco at this point.

More the older people are buying the budget e-bikes mostly to ride up and down the esplanade.

We have three employees, two mechanics and myself. We’re in the process of moving to a new location. Our lease was coming up and someone we know just bought an old chainsaw and lawnmower shop on the main road. He said, ‘I was thinking of you guys when I bought it.’ And he’s renovating it for us. Right now we don’t have air conditioning and we’re more of a warehouse-style, but where we’re moving to is a shop. It’s about the same size. Looks are deceiving. It looks smaller out the front but it has three sheds out the back.

We’ll be moving around the end of September or October. We’ve been busy all year this year. We’re slowly moving stuff across already so we can do as much as possible without having to close.

Olympic impact?

In the last few weeks, our workshop is choc-a-block. I don’t know if people are just bringing out their old bikes and deciding to go riding again, or if it’s because they saw the Olympics on TV. But all of a sudden, our workshop is flat out.

Nathan Devenport of Monkey Rock MTB Co in the country town of Denmark on the south coast of Western Australia said:

With it just coming out of winter, things have been a little bit quiet. But we’re cruising along. We’ve only been open two years and we’re constantly growing.

We’ve just started the foundation works for a new shop this week. We’ll be moving to a better location with twice the floor space so we’re able to have a more diverse range.

We’re quite diverse in our business in that we also do coaching, junior social rides and also trails development. Through this winter we fulfilled our first contract for DBCA (the WA government Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions) of building a walking trail for them.

Our coaching aspect of our business is coming along really well. We have one on one coaching with various clients once per week.

We’ve had an extra guy come on full time in the last little bit, so we’ve got myself, a full-time bike mechanic and a young guy who helps us with trail development as well as admin stuff.

I think in town here we’re around the 3,500 – 4,000 population mark and the Shire is just over 7,000. I founded the mountain bike club here four years ago. Coming from New Zealand originally, I was involved with a lot of bikes in the 1990s.

I’ve had kids and really want to get that going. I’ve been racing all the rounds of the state downhill for the last, whatever years and it was time to introduce that sort of thing to Denmark.

It has been met really well. Our club is up to 70-odd members. We held the first round of the downhill state series here on a track that I designed, so that was pretty cool.

We’ve got the contract to design and oversee the build of the Albany Urban this year, which is the only urban mountain bike race in Australia.

Olympic impact?

It has definitely had an impact. Especially the BMX. We’ve had a new skate park and pump track at our neighbouring, closest city, Albany. And definitely, the interest in BMX and that sort of thing, it’s very much brought it into the limelight and I guess given it justification that it is actually a sport and that these guys aren’t just shitkickers down the skate park, they’re athletes!

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