As most of you know, once a month we speak to six bike shop owners or managers spread throughout Australia and simply start with the question, ‘How’s Business?’
It’s gratifying that most call recipients are happy to share a few minutes of their time and give very well considered comments.
So our main challenge is to simply catch the key person at a time when they can spare a few minutes. To increase our chances, we usually call mid-morning, earlier in the week when business is often a little quieter.
But this month’s, even calling mid to late Monday morning found about 90% of the dealers we called were busy with customers. Hopefully that’s a sign of a busy bike industry! But as we always stress, calling such a small number of shops is not a reliable sample size, so more than likely it was just coincidence.
It did make this month’s follow up question timely, ‘On which day of the week do you usually record your biggest daily total sales amount?’ As you might expect, the answer was not Monday…
Mark Mannering, of Bikes to Fit in Darwin, NT said:
It’s picking up quite nicely. It was a bit slow from October to late January, but it’s come back quite nicely. I think there’s a bit more consumer confidence and it’s all healthy.
It’s still very warm up here. The dry season hasn’t really kicked in nicely, but no worries, people are still out there burning around on bicycles. We’re getting nice sunny days, but it’s still a bit humid, that’s all.
Norco and Merida are my principal brands. I dabble with a bit of other stuff to fill in gaps, but Norco and Merida keep me alive.
(Regarding busiest day) Always a Saturday. Unless there’s something like an election or some major event which drags people away, Saturday’s usually a bit hectic.
It’s double to triple a week day’s sales. It’s very much a government town. They obviously work until 4:21 pm, that sort of drama and maybe they can’t get to me during the course of the week. Saturday’s their one day, because I don’t trade Sundays, that they’ve got to come and have a bit of a look.
Saturday can be a bit bloody hectic. It goes crazy. I just tell ‘em, ‘You’re in a queue, I’ll get to you when I can!’ I’ve only just taken on extra staff, primarily to help out in the workshop, but usually I just take it on the chin and just start running, that’s all!
Ordinarily we have three staff, but I go to five on a Saturday.
Emlen Wilson of AvantiPlus Unley, an upmarket inner southern suburb of Adelaide, SA, said:
Business is good. With the change in weather we’ve seen a change in atmosphere with the bikes, for sure.
Mountain bikes definitely have become more popular with the events taking place over the past few weeks. We’ve just had this weekend the national gravity enduro event round two, held at Fox Creek. A few weeks prior we had the Dirty Weekend 24 hour endurance race.
And we’ve got to look forward to in just a couple of weeks, the Fat Tyre Festival, up in Melrose. So with these events, that does trend very much towards mountain biking and we’ll see people perhaps pack up their road bikes for the wetter months and stick up their mountain bikes to hold the trails.
Absolutely servicing, but you’ll see more people come looking for mountain bikes. So sales on mountain bikes have increased. And also upgrades on mountain bikes. Tubeless systems, dropper posts, suspension servicing. We sell a broad range of mountain bikes. A lot over the weekend to younger kids. But those looking for top end to even mid-range mountain bikes are definitely seeing the advantages of tubeless with our rocky terrain here in Adelaide.
Not only does it cause less pinch flats but also it equals a lot more grip when we do have this wet and rocky terrain.
(Regarding busiest day) It would have to be Saturday and Sunday. Unlike quite a few stores, we are open, particularly on the Sunday. And a lot of people have the time to do a bit more shopping and also pick up their layby’s and generally just have a bit more time to spend in the store. Monday to Friday can consist more of servicing, but the weekends are where the sales come through.
Sundays during school holidays are very, very busy. You’re looking at sometimes double what you’d do on any given weekday. Considering that we’re only open for four hours on Sunday, that’s good figures to work with.
Martin Spong, The Bike Shop, Moonah in an industrial and commercial area about four kilometres north of the centre of Hobart, Tasmania said:
Business is slowing down a little bit at the moment with winter coming on, but it always does. Our workshop’s still ticking along, but bike sales and that sort of thing always slow down this time of year, especially today when it’s raining.
Other than that we’ve been kept fairly busy. We’re trying to get our shop ready for the BMC World Tour Sale at the moment, so that keeps us busy.
We’ve just finished getting an NRS (National Road Series) team up and running with Revive Health, so we’ve been really busy with that. It’s the Cycotix Team. John Kingston’s the team owner from Revive Health. Fuji Bikes have come in so they’re riding Fuji Transonics.
It’s taken up a lot of time to get it all sorted but it’s really been worth it. The guys are really doing well.
(Regarding busiest day) It would usually be a Thursday. I think it’s just because we’re in an industrial area and that’s when the guys around here get paid.
We trade six days. We’re out riding on Sunday.
Dana Monteith of Cottesloe Cycles in the suburbs of Perth, WA said:
I think it’s going great here in WA. We have the perfect weather for riding non-stop. We’ve got road season in the summer. Mountain bike season takes off in the winter. And cyclocross is going off here in WA.
We’re getting heaps of mountain bike customers. Lots of families getting into it. We have the Munda Biddi Trail here which is drawing people from all over the world to do some bikepacking.
In this shop we’ve worked really hard on trying to build the community around it. We’ve got family bikes, some high end road bikes, high end mountain bikes, mid-priced stuff.
We’re pretty happy overall. Our main brands are Giant, Merida, Apollo and Norco. Cottesloe is right on the beach. It’s one of the most iconic beaches in Australia. We have an interesting mixed population here. It’s a very well to do suburb. There’s a good clientele overall. Lots of families.
It also serves one of the largest cycling commuter routes between Fremantle and Perth. We’re pretty much right in the middle of it. We have a bike path 500 metres from the shop door. You can look at a Strava heat map and see Curtin Avenue is one of the most well-travelled cycling routes. So we’re very well placed, near the train, major roads, major cycling route, near the beach and we share a car park with a hotel and bottle shop!
(Regarding busiest day) I would say Fridays and Saturdays. And even Mondays can go off. Saturday is traditionally the best day. We’ve just started trading seven days so we’re experimenting with that. As soon as it rains in Perth everyone runs for cover. They’re not used to precipitation falling from the sky here.
John Pittendreigh of Epic Cycles in the inner Brisbane suburb of Paddington, Qld said:
Look, it’s a little bit quieter at the moment, coming into winter, which is actually the best time to ride up here. It has been quite variable. April was really good. Prior to that it has been quite slack.
We have an interesting thing with school holidays in our area. Things get really quiet. Everyone seems to leave!
You can never draw precise conclusions but a lot of people talk about how things quieten down when elections are called, and maybe it is a factor. I don’t know, but since the federal election has been called, it seems to be a bit quiet.
Our mix of bikes has not changed a great deal over the years. We’ve always done a mix of mainstream things and things that most people would consider are a bit on the fringes, like folding bikes and touring bikes.
Those things continue to go well regardless of what seems to be happening economically. Mountain bikes and road bikes do tend to fluctuate a little bit. It fluctuates as to which is the flavour of the month. I’m not sure what drives that. At the moment it’s mountain for us.
This time that’s largely driven by Specialized who have just done a promotion, to move a lot of stock - their Autumn Savings campaign which I think was quite successful for them and had a flow-on through the shops.
I haven’t yet gone into ebikes in any focused manner. It’s something we experimented with a decade ago. But we backed out of it at that point of time, not because we didn’t perceive a market for it, but because we weren’t happy with the products that were on offer. We didn’t like selling things that were a little bit dodgy. The bicycle components themselves left a bit to be desired and there wasn’t the backup for the electronic side of things.
I know that things have moved on now, so it’s something that’s just simmering below the surface for us. But I’d want to do it properly. We do have the Specialized (Turbo) ebike, but that’s almost a token thing for us. You have to have a critical mass of products to offer people and a critical mass of expertise behind it, so that people have confidence in what you’re providing them and they know that it’s worthwhile coming to your store for that particular product. The same goes for mountain bikes, road bikes, touring bikes, whatever. Ebikes are no different.
(Regarding busiest day) It’s usually Saturday. We’re not open Sundays. We trade six days.
Over the last two to three years it has changed. Prior to that, it was invariably Saturday. Now it’s not always Saturday. When it’s not a Saturday it’s either Thursdays or Fridays equally.
Robert Miller of Ferntree Gully Cycles which is at the base of the Dandenong Rages about 30 km west of Melbourne, Vic said:
Business is reasonable. We’ve had a reasonable season. It’s slowing down now that the colder weather is coming through, but overall business is ok. Bicycle sales are quite poor but service has been strong.
I’ve been here for 20 years and the mix has been strongly mountain bike and family. We’re not strong in road bikes, never have been.
The mix in our business in a general sense is leaning more this last season towards service and P&A as opposed to bicycle sales, which have been soft.
I’m talking about as a percentage of the business as a whole. Certainly the internet has a created a downturn in the certain sectors of the accessories market. That would be upper end lighting and upper end shocks, that sort of stuff, that you’d generally sell a few of some years ago.
But there’s still strong sales in rubber and helmets and some clothing. Not everything is bought on the internet, but certainly it has affected business.
It also depends on the suppliers. I’ve been in the business 20 years dealing with a lot of suppliers, but I’ve learnt that if you get hold of a supplier in a niche part of the market, who looks after their retailers – a supplier who gives you a reasonable area of sales responsibility as opposed to putting a dealer every five or two kilometres away which most of the bigger brand suppliers have done in the past, then you can do reasonably well.
You’ve just got to have room to breathe. That’s what I find.
(Regarding busiest day) Saturday followed by Monday. I don’t know why Monday. Maybe people shop on the weekend but don’t make a buying decision. They talk about it over lunch and dinner on Sunday. I’m not sure but they tend to make buying decisions on the Monday. That’s what I’ve found here in recent years. It hasn’t always been that way. But we don’t trade Sundays, either.