This year may have started with a stock exchange bear market and falling Aussie dollar, but if the shops that we called on 19th January are anything to go by, this negative financial news is not hurting the bicycle industry, for now at least.
As always, after asking ‘How’s business?’ we ask a follow-up question. This month we asked, ‘What differences do you see in your customers and sales during the January holiday season compared to other months?’ There was a consistent theme to the responses, which you can read below.
Paul Birch of Ride 365 in the Canberra commercial hub of Belconnen ACT said:
Business is not too bad. We’ve move locations about 12 months ago, so we’ve got a bid more street frontage and are easier to find.
We’re only a couple of hundred metres down the road. Previously we were a bit tucked away. We’ve got good street parking out the front as well. With the increasing number of shops in Canberra, I think there’s around 25 shops now, we were a little bit too hard to find.
It used to be in Canberra that a bike shop was a destination point. People would look to find you. But you can’t avoid tripping over bike shops in Canberra now so visibility is important. You’ve got to be convenient.
I could walk within 10 minutes to three (bike) shops in Belconnen. Being able to be found matters. And we’ve seen that in an increase in our sales. We’re running our best months yet, fairly consistently. I think five out of our past six months have been our biggest months yet, and we’re almost five years in now.
We’re seeing a good increase largely because of that location factor.
Our plan was always to give customers that more relaxed atmosphere, provide a high level of customer service. But customers might have to wait a bit longer because finding the right staff can be tricky. That worked well early on, but with the increase in shops you just have to be visible.
Also parking used to be a bit tricky down that end of the street but now people can park for free right out the front of the shop. In Canberra that’s a pretty rare thing.
(Regarding January trading) We see a greater variety of customers, because a lot of people are just getting on their bikes for holidays, or pulling it out having not ridden it for a bit. Particularly with our service focus, a lot more walk in traffic.
We see anything and everything through January, whereas in Canberra through the middle of winter we see a lot of commuter traffic, a lot of serious bike riders, but because it’s so cold, you don’t see that family market as much.
January is about anyone and everyone who has something with two wheels on it.
Adrian Van Loon from Ride Bellereve, located next to the cricket stadium in the Hobart suburb of Bellereve, Tasmania said:
It’s bloody good mate! There’s lots of people out and about. We’ve had a pretty good summer as far as the weather goes.
Lots of events on and people participating, it has been really good. With the events, our workshop is very busy and bike sales are growing and growing. More and more people are catching the bug down here in Tassie. We’re always a few years behind the mainland down here as they say, but it’s starting to show.
There’s lots of little events. Downhill races, twilight races up north are getting a lot of participation.
We ran an event the Meehan Monster in October and we had 150 entries. It was a 25 k, 50k or 75 k mountain bike race. The Meehan Range is a mountain bike range about three or four k’s from our shop.
(Regarding January trading) It’s often a lot of new customers who want to get into bike riding. A lot of your regulars have headed away and it’s generally new faces, wanting to get themselves kitted out.
There was only three trading days between Christmas and New Year but we sold 14 bikes, so I was pretty happy with that.
We’re still with Advance Traders. We’re big partners of theirs with Merida, Norco and Lapierre and Met helmets. Cannondale with Monza…
But we’re always on the lookout. We’re growing quite quickly. We’ve now got four full timers plus me and three casuals.
Luke Fronsko of Cycle Zone located right in the city centre of Darwin, NT said:
Business is good. It’s going really well. It’s a busy time of year for us. We’ve just had Christmas so we’ve been selling lots of kids’ bikes.
Now we’re into the new year, so a lot of new people buying bits and pieces for their new year’s resolutions. Lots of road bikes. A lot of young couples coming in, planning on getting fit and getting new road bikes.
We sell quite a few mountain bikes as well. There’s a pretty large mountain bike scene in Darwin. A couple of guys in the shop are part of the DORC club here (Darwin Off Road Cyclists) and their pretty good at advertising.
Just recently they got, I think it was about $120,000 grant for building new trails is Charles Darwin National Park (located right next to the city), which is pretty cool. It has created a bit of interest for the mountain bike club.
They do quite a lot of events. We have a lot of people getting bikes for events and getting bikes serviced.
We sell Trek and Giant as our two major brands and also Electra, which is by Trek. There’s five of us in the store, three guys in sales and two full time mechanics out the back.
(Regarding January trading) As I said before, new year’s resolution people are keen to get out there and get fit. Darwin’s very flat. It’s a good place to do a lot of road bike riding, so we seem to be selling quite a few road bikes.
In December, everyone wants to get a kids bike from Santa. In January all the adults come in and get all the bikes they were looking at in December to start their new 2016 fitness regime.
Peter Boulton of Ron Boulton Cycles in the inland regional NSW city of Orange said:
Business is quite good. We had a reasonably strong Christmas, up on the past couple of years.
Post Christmas is continuing on reasonably well, for a normal January. Repairs are always ticking through and we’re selling a few bikes.
This shop has been a bike shop the family since 1972. Ron is my father. I’ve owned it for over 20 years. Ron’s 88 years old this year. He’s going well but hasn’t helped me out for many years! (laughs).
Our main brands are Avanti, Scott and Malvern Star. I’m happy with those. They look after me. We’re pretty general. We cater for the family market: hybrids, a lot of kids bikes, BMX, nothing super high end. We do a few more expensive dual suspension MTB, up to about $4,000, but in road bikes I generally don’t go above the $2,000 mark.
(Regarding January trading). There’s more people on holidays, so we see more people in the store in January than in other months. The mums and the dads are often both on holidays so they’re out and about spending money.
This year we’ve sold some kids scooters and BMX’ers. Post Christmas, there’s always birthdays.
Orange is very patchy here and there. We seem to be slowly expanding. But we’ve got some industry cutting back. They’re closing the Electrolux whitegoods factory this year with about 500 out of work.
We’ve got a new mountain bike park opening up at Mount Canobolas. It’s opening up in stages. But just last week it opened up stage one. They’re talking of expanding that and getting a lot more action over time.
The Council is quite supportive of bikes. It’s not a real friendly town to ride a bike through but they’re pushing to get the mountain bike park happening. It will bring people to Orange and make it a bit of a hub.
Jack Dubois, the new owner of Bikes @ Brighton in the Melbourne bayside suburb said:
I’ve taken over the shop just over three months ago. Business is relatively good. We’re getting a lot of service work coming through the shop and also we’re getting some good quality adult bike sales, rather than the children’s bikes.
We’re definitely keeping the same brands, both Cevelo and Focus. I’d like to allocate more of a mountain bike ranging, rather than just road bikes, which we’re starting to do now.
We’re also doing a bit of Apollo.
I’ve never been in a bike shop before. My background is general management. I was managing an educational furniture company, here in Melbourne, supplying Australia and internationally.
I’ve always been a keen rider and was very keen to take on a business of my own, which I felt was going to add to my personal requirements. One of those was getting fit again. That’s all started.
I’ve had to learn a bit but I’ve got some really good mechanics in the shop that take up where I might lack in a bit of knowledge.
Including myself there’s four staff. We’re not the largest of stores so I think that’s quite ample staffing.
We’ve got a mechanic on board six days a week so we can accommodate everyone’s needs as they come into the shop.
(Regarding January trading). I see more people looking to get back on their existing bikes. We’ve had a few customers who have had bikes in their shed for the past two to three years who have been a bit apprehensive to get the bike out, thinking that it has lost its capacity.
But once they get the bike in here and we give it a good overhaul, the next day they’re back on the road riding again. Getting back to fitness and getting mobile again.
A few more customers are now looking to upgrade their bikes.
Chris Jones of Cycles Bespoke in the Perth suburb of Bayswater WA said:
Business has been a little bit quiet of late. I think the mining sector downturn has a lot of people worried and holding back. I think that would be common across most retail in WA at the moment.
Certainly our front of house is not what I would expect for this time of year, but our workshop is really busy. A lot of guys, rather than getting a new bike this year, are going to keep their other one going for another year, but give it a birthday with some new parts.
So the money’s there, but you have to work for it. The easy money is hard to come by.
We’ve just made a fairly big switch from Specialized back to Cannondale, which we had previously done for many years, so we’re stocking back up on Cannondale bikes. A lot of road stuff. We’re making more inroads these days into touring and nicer commute bikes.
A lot of Surly. Some Salsa and on the mountain bike side we do Transition as well.
Transition are from Bellingham, Washington. They’ve been around 10 to 15 years. Very trail focused. Quite burly bikes. They have quite a niche, cult following behind them. It’s not a huge seller for us, but we’re hoping to build that up over the coming year.
We’re best known for custom wheel building. We do lots and lots of custom wheel building, just for customers (not trade). We never order in pre-built wheels. They’re all hand built. People seek us out for that. A lot of people come through the door who have been referred to us by someone else. We don’t have to advertise too much, which is nice.
(Regarding January trading). We get a pretty big surge at the start because a lot of guys are getting ready to head over to the Tour Down Under. We get more workshop work and accessories. Then right now, this week, we’ll be quiet because so many people from WA do go over to the Tour Down Under each year.
Looking back through the books, our busiest months have generally been February, March, April, particularly March and April.
So we pack a little bit now, then start stocking up for that period. It’s a cross over period between road and mountain so you get different types of riders in the shop at the same time.