Savage Succession Prompts Sale of Griffth Bike Store

Griffith, NSW

Flourishing business has forced the hand of a longstanding Griffith sporting goods store that has put its bike operations on the market.

A succession in management for the family owned and operated business, GB Sports & Leisure, and escalating sales have, paradoxically, prompted the business to sell its GB Cycles operations.

Established by two brothers, Rob and Paul Savage, 35 years ago and operated by their two families since then, GB Sports & Leisure is a microcosm of the bustling and surprisingly cosmopolitan southwestern NSW city.

With a very strong Italian heritage dating back to the city’s origins, Griffith has thrived from a culture underpinned by family, hard work, plenty of entrepreneurial get up and go and the Murrumbidgee irrigation scheme that has been the lifeblood of an extraordinarily prolific food production area.

GB Sports is a perfect example of the district’s commercial hub, a busy retailer with a professional presentation that explodes typical preconceptions about stores Australian country towns.

So when it added GB Cycles to the operation seven years ago, it was hardly surprising the bicycle side of the business would thrive.

“We’ve had steady growth and then Covid gave it a big shot in the arm,” GB Sports manager David Savage said.

“The bike side of the business has been a really good department and during Covid it really has grown into its own beast, but unfortunately we just don’t have the time to run everything.”

The retirement of his uncle, one of the business’s founders, two years ago and the departure of other family members has prompted the organisation to re-evaluate its direction.

“We used to have seven family members in the business and now we’re down to two and a bit and that bit – my father Paul – is ready to retire,” he said.

That will leave just David and his sister Kim, who joined the business in the late 1990s.

“There’s less of us to manage the same business footprint. It’s just too broad, and if we can’t do it to a standard we expect of the business, we have to realise it might be in our best interests to sell off some of our departments.

“As good as bikes have been going, it’s one we’re looking to move away from. Traditional sporting goods – shoes, clothing, etcetera – are still the heart of the business.”

He said customer demand had persuaded them branch out into bikes.

Griffith already had two longstanding bike stores – both operating as a mixture of motorcycles and bicycles.

“However, people weren’t satisfied with what was available locally – the brands and range of products they could access, so we took a bit of a leap,” he added.

“And while it’s aligned with sports, we’ve learnt it’s a very different industry.

“We’ve learnt some things with bikes that we’ve brought across to the sporting side. At the same time, we had knowledge from our broader sporting business that we’ve incorporated into the bike side of things, like displays and marketing.”

GB Sports & Leisure
GB Sports & Leisure introduced its bike department seven years ago, based around key brands Specialized, Trek and Merida. Photo credit: GB Sports & Leisure.

They centred GB Cycles around three key brands – Specialized, Trek and Merida and P&A from distributor Bike Corp.

“Cycling numbers here are driven by families and the mountain bike side of things,” David explained.

“And like most places, e-bikes are starting to take hold as well.”

He said while Griffith isn’t a big city – just over 27,000 people but growing at a rate of more than 20% per annum for the past decade – the local council has around half a million dollars in grant money to build on the mountain bike trail network on Scenic Hill, the range that borders one side of the city.

“They recently got a couple of hundred dollars to put in a new pump track, which is next to the skatepark established a couple of years ago,” he said.

“The council is also trying to put in more bike lanes and make the city more of a bike friendly community.

“We put the bike side of the business on the market thinking someone who already owns a bike store in a metro area might be looking for a tree change. We think it would be an attractive proposition to move to a country area but stay in the industry.

“A lot of people think when they’re that far from the city they’re going to be in a pretty backward country place. But when they drive up our main street, they realise there’s a fair bit going on here.

“There is plenty of money in the town just through all the industries we’re fortunate to have here.”

Find out more.

Leave a Comment