Sydney Electric Bikes is about to open two new stores which will take their total number of locations up to nine.
Founder Jake Southall recently spoke to The Latz Report and started by summarising his rapid growth from the humblest of beginnings.
“We opened up the first little concept shop on Pyrmont Bridge Road, Pyrmont (just west of the Sydney CBD) in 2010,” Jake recalled. “It was just an internet café and me with five bikes in it.”
After an expansion at their original location, Jake moved just up the road to 210 Harris Street, Pyrmont, which remains their main city store.
Jake continued, “Our next retail shop was Thornleigh (in Sydney’s northern suburbs) which we then moved to Hornsby, first in a small store, but the business grew so quickly that after six months we just couldn’t move in there, so we relocated to much larger premises.
“Our next store was in Canberra which was a partnership with David Cook of Cookies Cycles. We trade as Canberra Electric Bikes.
“Then we opened Engadine (in the outer southern suburbs of Sydney) and around the same time we started Sydney E-Bike Rentals which is now at 46 Wattle Street, Ultimo.”
“I like working in collaboration with business partners who run each store”Jake Southall – Sydney Electric Bikes
Later, when the Harris Street store was bursting at the seams, Jake moved the workshop to the much larger Wattle Street premises.
“Our next store was Centennial Park, then Narrabeen,” he continued.
The Centennial Park store which is in the up-market inner eastern suburbs of Sydney is directly opposite Sydney’s huge park of the same name that contains a very popular cycling circuit. Meanwhile, the Narrabeen store is on Sydney’s northern beaches.
Now Jake and his team are going west.
“Our new Parramatta shop is at 2/4 Sorell St Paramatta,” Jake announced. “It’s just down the road from where Velocipede was, which has moved to Castle Hill.
“Everyone’s saying that Paramatta is going to be the new centre of Sydney but it’s obviously not quite there yet.
“What we do is a bit different because we do a very broad range of e-bikes. We don’t subscribe to one thing, so we can work out what works for a certain demographic and area, such as Parramatta and then cater for that. For example, it might be that entry-level does really well there, but the high end doesn’t, so we’ll just keep it to entry-level.
“Or perhaps cargo will do really well. Our Engadine store has become a Mecca for cargo bikes, with a lot of people coming up from the Illawarra.
“It’s the last building before the Parramatta River bike path and there’s a hill to come up when riding back to the shop so they can get blown away by the electric motor assistance and there’s even a slopy green dirt track which will be perfect for mountain bike testing.
“It’s a very small shop. It’s a chance for us the trial the Parramatta area. Sheldon, who has worked with us for a while, will run it. If it does well, we then might look for a bigger shop.”
Second Canberra Location
“Canberra is the bigger news,” Jake continued. “Our original Canberra store, which is a collaboration with David Cook, will continue. He’s done an amazing job. But we wanted to move into a second location. The first shop is in Franklin which is a long way (10 km north) from the centre of town.
“We also had a few brands who were keen to do more bikes in Canberra. We’ve secured a 300 square metre shop is in Phillip (11 km south of the CBD) right next door to My Ride and close to the Trek and 99 Bikes stores in Phillip.
“It’s going to be a big shop. We’ll have the biggest range of e-bikes in Canberra.”
Jake says that one key to his rapid growth has been forming business partnerships with the managers of several of his stores.
“It’s been a fun journey,” he said. “I like working in collaboration with business partners who run each store.
“David Campbell who manages Hornsby is a co-investor. Scott Jeffreys who is running Narrabeen is a partner, so is Andy at Engadine, then there’s Canberra and Cookies. I’m looking for a co-investor for the new store in Canberra.”
Like everyone, Jake has faced stock challenges but is confident he’ll be able to stock the new stores well.
“We’ve got good stock coming for 2022,” he predicted. “We’ve been able to get Focus and Kalkhoff on board for the new Canberra store, which is very important.
“We have so many brands, the upside is that when one brand is low, often another one is available to us.
“I’m also starting to re-engage with a direct from China model. I’m talking to some other shops on partnering with us along with a wholesaler who would partner with us and ‘white label’ bikes which would carry our own brand.
“For us, long term, as we’ve been scaling up and getting more buying power, having our own brand is becoming more relevant, especially at the entry-level price point. We’d still continue to sell certain other brands as well, but in having our own brand we’d have more control, better margins and I could more input into the designs. I’ve got all sorts of ideas for bikes that at the moment I can’t do because I just get what I get from the brands.”