With the rapidly growing ebike market has come a new breed of ‘outsider’ entrepreneurs who are attracted by its future possibilities. These entrepreneurs are bringing fresh ideas and are willing to try new concepts.
Crooze is a great example. We recently visited its main store, located on a busy highway in Bundall on Queensland’s Gold Coast.
First impressions upon seeing the shopfront then walking inside were of a very professionally presented store that only opened in May 2020 but matched the top tier of Australian bike shops. But Crooze is not an ordinary bike shop. It also had enticing displays of a wide range of micromobility solutions including electric scooters and electric skateboards.
Inside we spoke to Matt Davies who despite his protestations, ‘I don’t like titles!’, we’ll describe as the retail manager.
“My background is in skateboards,” Matt explained. “I started with skateboards in about 2011, initially non-powered, but through being a bit of a gadget guy, interested in things that are fun, led into the electric skateboard world, very early in their story.
“I got involved with one of the bigger brands, Evolve Skateboards, at a very early stage of their business for nearly four years.
“I learned a lot about technology, about vehicles but probably most importantly about people and about how electric vehicles make things a lot more accessible. It’s not just the product itself but what it does for people.
“I then went into my own project, following the ethos of trying to get life changing experiences through simple electric vehicles. As dramatic as that sounds it’s actually fairly easy if people who are new to this open their minds.
“I did a lot of customisations, building electric boards to a skill level.
“The most common question I get is, ‘Am I too old for this?’ But we’ve had a 77 year old I’ve taught to skateboard who is still regularly doing it – maybe not as crazy as some of the younger guys. But just that experience, you see people’s emotional reaction. It’s not just a purchase, it changes how you do things so much. So that became a very prominent ethos in what I believe and what I do with this industry.”
Earlier in 2020 Matt joined the team at Crooze.
“James Patten took over Crooze in early 2020,” Matt continued. “His passion is in building businesses and he’s had a few. His most significant is one called RY which is in the haircare and cosmetics industry. That was quite a successful endeavour for him and it fortunately attracted the interest of someone bigger, which freed him up to pursue other interests.
“Through his travels, James found that no one was doing a retail location that had all the options. Not just ebikes but e-scooters, e-skateboards, e-unicycles. Where can you go to one place and say, ‘This stuff is really cool, but I don’t know which one’s for me.’
“Identifying that opportunity got James in. The Gold Coast is the place to start. You can’t walk a kilometre without passing someone on an electric vehicle of some sort.
“James is originally from the UK but he’s been on the Gold Coast for quite a while.
“I reached out to James, came and had a look, I thought this place is pretty special. The customers are very similar. They’re looking for that fun factor. It’s an itch to scratch.
I can bring people in here and say, ‘If you can’t ride a skateboard, how about a scooter? If you can’t ride a scooter, think of the adventures you could have on an ebike!’”
Since Matt came on board he’s had a steep learning curve as Crooze sells a very strong selection of ebike brands, mostly but not exclusively, in the higher quality, higher price point market segment. These include Specialized, Focus, Kalkhoff, Kona, Bulls, Dyson, GoCycle Tern and Hummingbird.
“Ebikes have been a real eye opener!” Matt continued. “You see all of the different types of bikes. The people we get come in and the stories they tell… caravaners, rail trail commuters, road cyclists that might be starting to fall behind the younger guys and just want that little bit of pep to keep up. Everyone loves a story.
“While ultimately business is about sales, you don’t feel like it here. I joke that this is a toy shop. It’s one of those industries where you almost build a mateship just talking to people.”
When talking to Matt, we got the impression that James and his team are people who are expecting things to move fast.
“Currently we have two shops,” Matt said. “We are looking to expand into the bigger capital cities. Where that is first, we’re still evaluating. Our online presence has exploded recently. We were hoping to use that as little bit of a map to show us where is the greatest demand. But if anything it’s told us that this industry is something people are really interested in.
“This facility works really well so we’ll try to copy this larger space as opposed to a ‘hole in the wall’.”
When asked how many shops he thought there would be by 2023 Matt said, “I reckon you could Crooze all the way around Australia…”
Asked if he meant one in every capital city he said, “That would be ideal, but demand would be the biggest dictator.
“For example Sydney has huge opportunity. The law doesn’t agree with it yet. (Referring to electric skateboards in particular.) But as the popularity comes up there’s potentially opportunity. As in Melbourne, the law doesn’t like it down there but there’s an insane community, particularly with skateboarding.
“I can’t see that going backwards. There’s a lot of start up culture down there as well, particularly with scooters and ebikes.
“Perth to me is like a Gold Coast, just on the other side of the country. It’s got that openness that would mean particularly longer range bikes, are a viable replacement to a car over there because the traffic isn’t too crazy. It’s safe to ride, scenic as hell, just a great lifestyle opportunity.”
We then discussed how the mix of multiple products worked and the breakdown of sales between each category.
“Ebikes are our core products, but we sell more scooters than ebikes,” Matt revealed. Without fail two to three per day, either online or walk in. Skateboards would be in the 10% of sales range.
“Bike wise, step throughs – Gold Coast cruiser styles of bikes would be 30% to 40% of sales. Mountain bikes, adventure bikes are about 20% to 25%, but it’s not consistent. It’s more tidal. Some weeks we’ll do four or five of them, some weeks only one.
“This week we only did one e-mountain bike but three Specialized Creo road bikes. We’ve got a bright red Specialized S-Works in the front window that’s worked really well… ‘Oh, I didn’t know you had Specialized!’
“We’ve sold a few cargo bikes. They’re very sporadic. The most common customer is mum putting a baby seat on the back. But it’s hard to get baby seats at the moment.
We might do two cargo bikes a month on a good month.
“Then through our online store accessories, handlebars, Quadlocks, even cycling headphones. At the moment about 30% of our sales are online from a dollar value but 50% to 60% from a transactional perspective because it’s smaller items mainly selling online. We don’t sell many bikes online. A lot of manufacturers don’t like bikes sold online, so we don’t push that.
“We don’t currently build our own products. We’re trying to work with reputable brands and create a full service experience so people can come back in two years and still get parts. People like Specialized, Orbea, Focus, these guys have been around for a while and have awesome networks behind them.
“We’re not saying we’ll never create Crooze products, you’ll never say no to an opportunity.
There’s no brand that we have a bias towards.”
Matt is confident about the future for Crooze. “We’ve got seven people on our team at the moment,” he said. “We are professional, we have professional skills, but we’re looking for a culture of enthusiasm. It’s all about that customer experience. Making sure that we’re all positive so that people want to talk to us.
“Bikes tend to be the most practical but sometimes it’s the fun factor, like having a one wheel, just being able to ride with the kids out the front of the house. A bike might be too much for that so for us it’s having that reach.”