Welcome to our popular monthly column in which we call one bike shop from each state and simply ask, ‘How’s Business?’
We’ve just been through a month of record heatwaves across most of Australia, so this month’s follow up question was, ‘What effect does a heatwave have upon your business?’
Stew Campbell from Happy Wheels in the inner city Sydney southern suburb of Waterloo said:
It’s good. Our workshop’s going off like usual. All the bikes are ticking along.
It’s summer season, so you tend to go alright, but it’s been good.
We’ve been here six months – new location, new people. Our new location is right on the bike path that goes straight down the middle of Waterloo, so I’ve picked up a lot more commuters and just people in the area.
A lot of families, surprisingly. Our old shop (on Anzac Parade, Kensington) as much as I like that area, the light rail (currently under construction) has just destroyed that area. It was not viable.
If I hadn’t found this shop I probably would have closed. It was just getting all too hard to find a good location that was the right price in the right area. There were a lot of variables that had to be ticked, but this one pretty much ticked everything.
This shop is more than double the size. The other shop was about 85 square metres, but it was segmented into four rooms, whereas this is 190 square metres and it’s essentially one big room.
Like my other shop, I’ve kept the workshop quite open so that people can watch the mechanics work. That’s where my business started and flourished always, just giving better service than everybody else.
Personally, I think that’s where the future lies in a bike shop – in the servicing. You can’t buy that online. If you do good service, they’re always going to come to you.
I have five staff, two full time, one permanent part time and two casuals, plus myself and my wife.
I’m selling most types of bikes, but because I come from racing I specialise more in higher end road stuff. But I stock a lot more commuters than I used to have, just because I’m right on that commuter path. I still do a lot of high end road bikes and a decent selection of tri bikes and time trial bikes.
I tried mountain bikes but that hasn’t done as well as I thought it would. I thought I’d have a go – you never know.
(Heatwave?) It can really slow down business, because people don’t want to come outdoors. Although they know that the air conditioning at my new shop is really good, so they know at least that when they get here they’ll be in a cool environment.
You’ve got two ends of the scale really. If it’s really wet, or it’s a heatwave it keeps people away – for a while.
Ben Wildman of Cyclescape Bendigo in the Victorian gold rush city said:
Business is good. We’ve had a strong start to 2017, following on from a strong December. Things have continued to ramp up from Christmas time.
We’re seeing increased bike sales. Our workshop is busy, so generally business is very good at the moment.
I’m relatively new to Bendigo. I’m the store manager here. I’ve been here about 10 months, having moved from Melbourne but I’ve worked in the bike industry for about 18 years.
We’re a Trek concept store, a small, well fitted out, good looking store internally and externally. We focus on Trek, Bontrager and various other bits and pieces to supplement that.
We traditionally have done a lot of dual suspension mountain bikes and higher end hard tails. Bendigo is has a thriving mountain bike scene with an active local club and local racing, lots of trails and riders around here.
But recently we’ve been selling quite a lot of road bikes as well.
(Heatwave?) That’s an interesting question. I think in the immediate term on the very hot days we’re quiet because there’s less people walking around. We’re not on the main thoroughfare so our foot traffic would probably be reduced because people stick to the main thoroughfares or air conditioned shopping centres perhaps.
But overall I wouldn’t say it had an impact.
Tony Sunderland of Cycle de Vie, in the far north Queensland city of Townsville said:
It’s a rollercoaster. Townsville is hurting. You’ll have a huge month then a deplorable month will follow that, so it’s hard to plan. I can’t see any reason why, but when I speak to retailers in other industries, they seem to be following suit. Sometimes lagging or leading us by a month or so, but it seems that everybody in the retail space here, be it the car yards… are going through a similar process.
January was ordinary but February has been much stronger. Mountain bikes seem to have got stronger, whereas in our first couple of years, definitely our balance was towards mid end road bikes, now it’s very much that mid end mountain bike – let’s say the $4,000 mark.
We’re pretty much 100% Trek now.
A couple of smaller bike shops in town have closed, but none of the bigger ones. But I get the feeling that everyone is walking a tight line.
Townsville’s a reasonably large regional centre. It will wax and wane as most areas do. I really think it’s more the independent bicycle retailer that will be the interesting one – not so much per town, but whether our model needs to change a little, or a lot. I think there’s a lot of changes to come in the next five or so years, but we’ll see huh?
(Heatwave?) We’re in Townsville mate, it’s always hot! (laughs). It just means that it’s a little bit hotter – no effect. It’s more-so rain that effects us. It tends to slow us down.
Matt Tozer of Bike Society that has three large stores across Adelaide, SA said:
It’s good. It’s been busy for us. Being Adelaide based, the Tour Down Under definitely shakes us a bit as well. Servicing becomes well booked out in advance with so many guys coming into town for the race and also the BUPA Challenge (a mass participation ride that starts in advance of one day’s stage and had 5,700 riders this year).
There’s so many locals that do that as well. There’s also a flow on effect. People get a bit of a Tour Down Under bug and come in afterwards either with their old bike, or looking for something new. They’re inspired to do the BUPA next year or do more riding in general.
We have three stores (Brighton, Blair Athol and Everard Park). We stock Specialized and Ridley. Ridley is something new for us since late last year when FE Sports took over distribution.
(Heatwave?) It definitely has an effect during the middle of the day. We’re busy at the start and the end of the day. Nothing that you can predict though – you might think, ‘It’s going to be a belter today!’ and then you’re run off your feet.
I think a more typical trend is that we’re busy first thing in the morning then we’re busy late in the day. All our stores are open until 6pm, so that 5pm to 6pm there’s always a rush.
Last night we sold a bike after 6pm because customers were still in the shop. There’s no way (we’ll close the door on late customers). We don’t want to rush them. We don’t know what they’re going to do!
Lynda McPherson from Tassie Cycles, New Town and inner northern suburb of Hobart, Tasmania said:
We had a busy Christmas and it’s still going ok now. It hasn’t slowed down yet but I think it’s going to start. We’ve been told we’re going to get some snow soon too, so it might slow down when it gets a little cold.
We had fires the day before yesterday and now they’re saying snow. It wasn’t that long ago, only a couple of weeks ago that we had snow, but that was up the Midlands way, not right in town.
We took over the shop (which was started in 1959) nearly seven years ago, in 2009. We’ve stayed around about the same. We’re doing a lot less road bikes and more mountain bikes though. That would be the only real difference, but Tasmania is going crazy with mountain bike trails at the moment.
We sell GT, Apollo and Mongoose in mountain bikes. We sell more hard tail than dual suspension. We’ve done some dual suspension but not as much as some of the Launceston shops say they’re doing.
BMX bikes have always been really strong for us. We do Wethepeople and Sunday.
There’s two of us; one full time mechanic and myself and I have a junior who comes in on Saturdays to help out.
I also have an online store and an eBay store. I think you have to do that now for people who work and don’t have time to get to the bike shop.
(Heatwave?) We don’t really get much of a heatwave in Tasmania. When it’s fine weather and it’s beautiful, people are out riding and our repairs take off and a few sales.
I mean we’ve had a couple of 28 or 30 degree days but it hasn’t really got extremely hot down here.
Trevor Rix of The Cyclery, who has two stores in Canberra, ACT said:
Business is actually pretty good for the January/February time of year, after a flat Christmas.
Things have been chugging along, surprisingly for very hot months. We’ve done good business through the hot months, not quiet as you might expect.
Both our shops run the same brands, but Fyshwick is more of a destination store with lots of mountain bikes and road bikes. Braddon is more of an urban commuter store, a lot more heavy in the accessories.
They seem to track along, pretty much at the same rate. I think when Canberra’s up, everybody’s up. When Canberra’s flat, everybody’s flat.
We also do our Destination Trail hire fleet, which lately has been going really well, through the month of February. We’re just in the process of turning the fleet over, selling off the old fleet and finally all our new fleet is here.
There’s a lot of interest in road, which is interesting. Road hire has always been a little bit of a struggle but lately it’s really taken off. And the mountain bike stuff is always popular. Canberra has always been such a huge destination for mountain biking.
We offer pretty much every type of full suspension mountain bike that Specialized does – all high end. All $5,000 to $7,000 bikes and I think we have around 30 to 40 bikes in the hire fleet. It’s a big commitment. We knew that when we started. We set aside a value for our hire fleet and we just turn that over every 12 months to keep it up to date, keep it refreshed.
We don’t have any trouble selling the ex-hire bikes - people queue up for them. We put people’s names down through the year. If they’re hiring a bike and they’re not looking to buy just yet, we keep their details and they get first choice when they do go on sale.
It is a hire fleet as opposed to a demo fleet, but if people live in town and looking to try different bikes, they may get hooked on one. The locals who are hiring do often buy. Interstaters don’t buy from us, but they might go home and buy one.
Mountain bikes are $120 a day to hire. They’re high end bikes. They get serviced and cleaned after every hire so when the rider picks it up it’s almost a brand new looking bike.
It is more than a car hire, but they need a lot more servicing than cars! (laughs)
(Heatwave?) I was expecting to have no-one walk in the store, but both stores were busy so I was really surprised. We had two over 40 degree days in a row but we were busy both days throughout the day. I was really surprised. I thought there would be no-one around, but we had some good days. Maybe it was because both shops are air conditioned, so people were happy to drive in their air conditioned car to an air conditioned shop and have a wander around because it was cool. As opposed to going for a ride, because they weren’t riding on a day like that.