Welcome to our monthly survey of bicycle shops across Australia where we start by simply asking, ‘How’s Business?’
If recording the number of shop owners that were too flat out with customers to talk is any gauge, then retailers are pretty busy at the moment!
As always we also ask a follow up question, which this month, was actually two questions: ‘Are you selling any gravel bikes? What's your opinion about this new category?’
If our selection of shops we spoke to this month is any indication than the answer is ‘minimal’.
Trevor Morris of Don Ash Avanti Plus in the Victorian regional city of Shepparton said:
We can’t complain. We have myself, my son in law Nathan, another young guy who’s a mechanic and my wife does the bookwork and we’re all kept flat out all the time.
Business is good. Retail sales are good, but margins are fairly competitive these days.
We sell bikes across the board but in the past 18 months we’ve been selling more mountain bikes than road bikes. The consensus I get for the reason that there’s been a swing in that direction is the interaction between cars and bikes on the road really gets some people worried. Out on a mountain bike trail you’ve got no problems with cars and personality conflicts between a car driver and a bike rider.
Up here in Shepparton there’s certainly been a swing towards mountain biking but another reason for our shop is that Nathan certainly rides more mountain bike than road, and I’ve been dabbling with a mountain bike myself in the past 12 months. We’ve got a following of people that we ride with and some of them have swung over to mountain bikes as well.
They’ve put a bit of variance into their riding. They still ride road bikes but now they ride the mountain bikes as well.
We sell only Avanti and Scott, right through from children’s to adult bikes. Because we’ve entered into the Avanti Plus agreement, Sheppards don’t really condone us stocking other brands. I’m a great believer in not ‘shopping’ too many brands. Because if you do it’s too confusing for the consumer.
Although a lot of people do their research these days, the normal consumer gets confused with what’s available as it is. So if you introduce more brands it even confuses them more.
(Gravel bikes?) Gravel bikes haven’t been a real taker up here in Shepparton. We haven’t got any rail trails in close proximity to Shepparton. And we haven’t got any mountains. That’s where a disc brake bike comes into its own, in the mountains. We mainly sell your normal road bike or mountain bikes.
In flat country where you hardly use your brakes, they don’t really serve a purpose. We don’t try to sell them. We try to sell our customers what they need and gravel bikes are not needed in this area.
Peter Sutton of The Complete Cycle in Noarlunga South, an outer southern coastal suburb of Adelaide, SA said:
Business is reasonable. Road bikes are a bit slow. Run of the mill stuff, you know, mountain bikes, kids bikes, commuter bikes, retro bikes… nothing particular is selling in any great numbers but combined it’s making for a reasonable turnover.
Electric bikes, definitely getting heaps of enquiry on them. We’ve been selling them for quite some time, but the newer ones are really brilliant. We sold a couple just recently that we were quite happy with. The main one we sell at the lower end is the TEBCO, but we also sell Riess and Mueller. We’re starting to get people wanting the more up market Bosch systems and things like that. At the moment we haven’t gone with any one particular high end ebike brand. It’s more a case of fit the bike to the customer.
Eventually we’ll settle down to carry a range, but we’re still looking at the market, very toe in the water at this stage.
We’re getting a lot of people using them for commuting and we’re seeing more and more people that you’d expect to see just on normal bikes, who are going for the more expensive ebikes for commuting and recreation. It’s interesting to see how the market’s going.
Repair work is flat out. I was here until 2am this morning, just because there was a lot to do. I’m doing it all myself now. My wife helps in the shop too. We’re still trading seven days a week. We’ve been here for 38 years this year. I still enjoy it. I don’t have to do it.
(Gravel bikes?) I think we’ve sold one – basically just a road bike with disc brakes and fat tyres. They’re just a bike to me. It’s not a bad idea actually.
Aaron Sears from Midland Cycles in Midland an outer eastern suburb of Perth, WA said:
I think it’s the same as everybody. Everybody’s feeling the pinch at the moment, especially here in WA. Everything’s slowing down with the economy.
But we’re still doing services and trying to keep our customers happy, that’s the main thing isn’t it?
We have three brands, Gekko which is your good quality entry level bike, Giant and Specialized. We sell a range of everything: road bikes, mountain bikes, bikes for mums and dads, bikes for kids. We sell from the basic $350 mountain bikes right up to your Specialized Epics, Giant Anthems and Trances, anything really.
Gekko is owned and distributed by a Western Australian family. They’re a great little bike, alloy frames and Shimano gearing. They’re for families that don’t want to spend a massive amount of money, but they’re good quality. We sell a fair amount of them. When families come in and want to buy bikes for mum dad and the kids it’s a nice way to get them into the industry.
(Gravel bikes?) Are you talking cyclocross? I’ve got a cyclocross bike myself, which is a growing industry in WA. We have a cyclocross race season here.
Mark Emerton of Ultimate Cycles in the NSW south coast regional city of Nowra said:
Business is treading along ok. It’s not booming. We had a reasonable Christmas but this time of year it always gets a bit quieter. We’re chugging along ok.
Our three main brands are Cervelo, Avanti and Scott. In the early days we tried to cater for all styles of athletes, riders, ages and abilities. I think we tried to do too much. So over the past few years we’ve focused upon the triathlon and road market, plus a bit of BMX.
That works in well with the other business we do, Elite Energy, running the sport of triathlon.
We have quite a healthy database of over 60,000 people from the sport of triathlon so we utilise that database to sell some of our bikes to all different levels of people.
With our events we have about 26 events now. I’ve got 16 full time staff who just work on events. It’s got quite big. Huskisson is our jewel in the crown with 5,000 athletes this year. Some other events struggle. But we get a lot of support from Councils and some state governments. We’re in every Australian state now except Tasmania.
I guess that’s one reason that I’m looking to sell all or part of my shop. I’m just too busy. A small shop needs someone in there all the time who has a financial interest in it.
(Gravel bikes?) No, we don’t sell any of those. Not in our area.
Russell Tucker of Tucker’s Cycle Inn in the north Queensland city of Rockhampton said:
For me personally it’s been tough because I had to relocate and another bike shop went into my old shop. It had been my premises of 14 years so a lot of people still went in there thinking that they would still be talking to me.
So it has been a tough 2 ½ years, but we’re finally turning the tables and starting to build. A big thanks to Jamie Walsh for supplying us Jamis and Rocky Mountain.
Some other brands dropped us, but you’ve just got to rebuild.
This area is doing it tough. The mining boom collapsed. Rockhampton took a long time… it took about 20 years but real estate doubled with the mining boom here, so the locals had some equity and invested in the area. So we had a good times.
We all knew they’d slow but actually it stopped overnight, which happens, but no-one was prepared for the sudden halt. So you’ve got to adjust.
We’ve got a building, my partner does beauty and we opened up tattoo removal as well, so we diversified to survive basically.
So the front of the building we have beauty and tattoo removal and out the back we have the bike shop. It’s diverse but it’s working well as a combined business. It’s like Beauty and the Beast isn’t it!
I’m in a warehouse. I don’t have a shopfront. But I’ve built many bike shops over the past 30 odd years and I reckon this one is my best feel shop. It’s got a mezzanine up top and I’ve got a lot of room.
It’s been a tough time. I had a couple of nice suppliers hang in there but others jumped ship.
There’s a lot of uncertainty out there so you can’t blame them.
We opened here in September 2014. It has been a tough time. The biggest thing was Specialized ditching me. They went with the new shop in my old location.
My ex-wife and I owned the old building but Family Law sold it from under me to the opposition, so they walked straight into a going business.
But Oceania Bicycles were really good to me and then Jamie Walsh came along.
The other side that effects us greatly up here is the internet. The more remote you are the more people tend to use the internet. I’ve got still loyal customers but if they come to buy a Shimano groupset or something like that I just say, ‘Mate go and buy it online and I’ll fit it for you.’
(Gravel bikes?) Jamis do them. I can’t see them really taking off. It’s sort of an in between bike, isn’t it. We’re still largely flat bar roadie.