The past 12 months have been a time of considerable change for bike retailers in the NSW South Coast. At nearby Kiama, the seaside town’s only bike store changed hands for the first time in 30 years.
It’s been a baptism of fire for Beau and Ann Rosser, who bought Kiama Cycles last July and were quick to get on the front foot to deal with the current industry downturn that has many seasoned operators calling on years of experience to weather declining sales.
“We bought it on the tail of the best time ever in the bike industry, so we got a few really nice months,” Beau said.
“Since then, we’ve felt the pinch with a downturn in bike sales.
“The biggest thing has just been looking for creative ways to get out there. Social media is just bombarded with sponsored ads and bikes being discounted to ridiculous prices, so tapping into our local community and customer base has been critical.
“We’ve got a very good relationship with a few of the local schools and we do donations and raffles with them.”
The couple have lived their whole lives in the seaside town and Beau’s community connections have been boosted by his many years working in the automotive industry, in aftermarket and running local dealerships.
When health issues prompted him to take a break from the automotive industry, the lifelong cyclist saw a more attractive career option.
“While sales levels have been a bit hit and miss in recent months, it’s definitely still been a good choice,” according to Beau, who said the incessant competitiveness of the automotive sector prepared him well for the current downturn confront bike retailers.
“The main difference with the automotive industry is you have a lot of people who aren’t doing it for passion, for most it’s just a job. But in the bike industry, there’s still a lot of people who are passionate about bikes and cycling in general,” he said.
“A large proportion of people who own or work in bikes shops are really bike people.
“With the car industry, you’re dealing with customers on a needs basis. Everyone needs to get their car serviced, whereas in the bike industry, customers tend to be driven not so much by a need as a want, so working in the industry brings more satisfaction.”
Beau said while sales have been “all or nothing” in recent months, steady business for the workshop and an upturn in local domestic tourism brought stability for the store.
“The service side of things is going great guns. It could support two full-time staff and we’ve just put on another trainee mechanic part time to train him up,” he said.
“Our hire e-bikes have also been a good part of the business of late.
“We’ve increased our number of hire bikes from two to eight and, surprisingly, April was probably our highest month of e-bike hire – close to 10% of our total turnover.
“We had a lot of retirees taking out bikes and I think it was also a month when a lot of people who’d gone back to work after Christmas were ready for another break.
“People are taking more holidays down here because things are a bit tighter. They’re just coming down from Sydney and doing caravan parks or AirB&B, as opposed to travelling overseas.”
Beau said while he and Ann had made a lot of changes to the presentation and administration of the store, they’re continuing to stock a very wide range of bikes, including Giant, Merida, Norco and Focus.
“Our two big sellers are hard-tail mountain bikes and step-throughs, but we have everything from kids’ bikes to dual suspension mountain bikes,” he said.
“We’re selling plenty of e-bikes and that keeps increasing.”