One of Australia’s largest independent bicycle dealers, Yarra Valley Cycles, is set to triple its floorspace with a shift to a new premises in Lilydale it says will be unique in this country.
Work is well underway to convert its new Main Street building and the team is preparing to start the move next week.
“We want it to be bold, we want it to be different and we want to create an experience where people feel welcome.”
Co-owner Ashley Swann said they’re creating a high-impact destination that will accommodate several businesses within its 1,500m2 of floorspace, including the first Australian headquarters for global frame wrap and frame protection business Ride Wrap.
Ashley said they have just signed a lease agreement with the Canadian business, which will base its production and distribution operations in a 120m2 section of the new building.
He said the new location will also incorporate a children’s play area and café within the building, along with display areas that will be “completely different to what you’d see in a typical Australian bike store”.
“This store will be beautiful. It has exposed roof trusses, polished concrete floors and a wood fire,” he said.
“We want it to be bold, we want it to be different and we want to create an experience where people feel welcome. We want to create an activated space where people feel like they want to stay in the shop.
“That includes getting a bunch of different businesses operating out of the space to help activate it as much as possible.”
Ashley, his brother Alex and their family have owned and operated Yarra Valley Cycles for the past 17 years, building it into the State’s premier go-to mountain bike store.
“We’re already a fairly large shop, with about 525m2 of floor space at the current store, but we find ourselves pretty crammed in,” Ashley said.
“We’re a flagship mountain bike store, and we stock the biggest range of mountain bikes we can get our hands on. But we also do a range of all types of bikes in theory, so we work hard.
“We’ve needed to sell twice as many bikes this year than we did in 2022.”
“Plus we’re currently in a rented premise and we wanted to purchase something that had the majority of its display space at ground level.
“The opportunity to shift to this new site came up late last year. It was actually for lease and we approached to owner to see if it was possible to buy it.
“It wasn’t going to be suitable to lease out. It needed a half a million dollars’ worth of work done to it to create a space suitable for us.
“This is not going to be your regular bike store. There isn’t a bike store in this country this has done what we’re doing.
“We’ve had a number of distributors who have got behind us on this, because they see it’s a big opportunity. It’s a declining market at the moment and we’re expanding.
“In certain categories, discounting has meant we’ve needed to sell twice as many bikes this year than we did in 2022. “We’re just having to sell more bikes to make the same amount of profit.”
That includes selling 144 dual-suspension mountain bikes during the past three months.
Ashley describes the current business downturns as “a lot like the GFC (global financial crisis) but with a lot more bikes available”.
And much like its approach to the GFC, the Swanns’ solution for the current decline in market activity is to push harder through all available avenues.
“Re-invest back in stock, buy the right products, work with suppliers to make sure you have readily available access to stock and then create a market, instead of waiting for a market to come and find you,” he explained.
“There’s obviously some suppliers who have massive stock holdings. You’ve just got to find those opportunities to purchase at the right price, put them out to the market at the right price and push that hard and create some noise about it.
“Social media is a big part of it and we have a lot of grommets who ride for us, young riders who are committed to being part of the store and the environment we’re creating for them.
“There’s always someone out in the market who wants to buy. You just have to find the right way to attract them to your store and then create that opportunity for them.
“It pointless having no stock and trying to sell. You’ve just not going to get anywhere.”
He says that includes a good range of garments and P&A, because “for every customer that buys a bike, there’s usually product that goes along with that”.
“Around 50% of our floor stock is P&A. At one point, we had in excess of 300 full-face helmets in stock and we have nearly 3,000 garments.
“If someone wants a particular piece of clothing for a major brand, we’ll likely have it in stock.
“It means you’re not going to have people coming through and being disappointed because we don’t have the right product there for them.”
Yarra Valley Cycles last week ran its annual ‘end of financial year’ carpark sale, with the added incentive of clearing stock so it didn’t need to be shifted to the new premises.
“This year in particular we went pretty bonkers. We had in excess of 1,000 transactions over three days.
“A busy Saturday for us is about 100 transactions.”
Yarra Valley Cycles is also perfectly placed to capitalise on the recently approved Warburton MTB Destination and the accompanying rail trail and bike park infrastructure being implemented by Yarra Ranges Council.
“We’ve been heavily invested to make sure we’re a part of the opportunities that arise from those developments,” Ashley said.
The new Lilydale store will also be a headquarters for Ride Time Bikes, a hire business operated by Ashely and Alex’s older brother Matt and comprising a fleet of more than 100 electric and analogue bikes.
As part of its point-to-point service, the operation also has a store in Warburton, one of two buildings the Swanns have purchased in the town in anticipation of the MTB destination.