Welcome to our popular monthly column where I call one bike shop in each state and simply start by asking, ‘How’s business?’
As always, I ask them all a follow up question. This month I asked, ‘How much impact does the weather have on your day to day sales totals?’
I chose this question because I spent last week visiting a large number of bicycle dealers in Melbourne. Their common theme was to tell me how the long, wet winter they’ve had that’s virtually extended all the way to November has hurt their sales.
So I thought I would find out what other dealers across Australia think about the impact of adverse weather upon their business.
Damien Ploughman of AvantiPlus Hobart in the upmarket waterside suburb of Sandy Bay, Tasmania said:
Business is good. There’s a lot of variety of people getting onto bikes these days. We’re seeing a trend towards new cyclists, who want to commute to work instead of taking the car or even instead of public transport.
Mountain biking is popular down here especially with new infrastructure across the state which keeps it popular. But across the board there seems to be a bit more interest in cycling in general.
I think Tasmania doesn’t always follow the trend at the same time of what you see elsewhere. We’re a little bit more isolated. But as far as what I’m seeing here, I’m pretty optimistic with the growth that’s coming across the board.
The key for me is that it isn’t someone coming into the shop for their 10th bike. It’s someone coming in that’s new to cycling in general, whether it be to ride with the kids, for commuting or for recreation or cross training for other events.
We carry a range of ebikes. We have done almost since our inception (about four years ago). You’re starting to see more people finding that side more inviting, depending upon where they live.
If you’ve got someone commuting from a hillier part of Hobart, they might have an easy ride downhill into town, but the trip home is somewhat laborious. That has always been a turn off for some people. Having an ebike enables them to not find it as hard as they have previously.
The other side of it is people who are incapacitated in some format. They’ve enjoyed cycling in the past but they’ve now got bad knees or a hip issue and are finding it harder in the hilly terrain to get out and ride. The ebike gives them the opportunity to get out and do what they’ve always done.
Our ebike sales are steady, but there’s still a lot of people getting their head around the concept. Even this morning, I had gentlemen through the store, his ears pricked up and he said, ‘Gee! Electric mountain bikes!’ It was a new concept to him. There’s a lot of people still coming to terms with the fact that they’re now available and accessible to the public.
(Regarding the weather) Like the weather, it’s intermittent. Once again, people down here are probably a little bit different to what they are elsewhere… A lot of Tasmanians have broad interests. Someone who is a cyclist is also a runner, is also a kayaker. You have those things all on your doorstep here.
So you could have rough weather but still be busy in store. People take that opportunity to get things done because they’re not out there in the elements on their bike.
It’s a mixed bag. We’ve had some pretty heavy rains. Our sales season hasn’t really kicked in yet as far as the weather is concerned, but to be honest with you it’s not reflecting too much of a difference to us compared to previous years’ sales. It’s still been quite consistent.
By contrast in Melbourne when it’s wet the tram tracks become treacherous for cyclists, so that’s something that needs to be taken into account by dealers there.
Paul Nixon of Forster Cycles in the northern NSW coastal holiday and fishing town of Forster said:
Business is good. For the past three or four months, coming out of winter, business has been good actually. We’re picking up now into the busy season.
We moved premises in June this year. It has been really good. The lease was up on the old place. The building was very old and needed a lot of repair. It’s going to be demolished so we had to get out.
We decided to move to a location which is a little more out of town, but it has very good frontage to the main road coming into town and it has good signage. It’s working really well.
I’ve also got a small car rental business that I run from here. I’ve got the room here for the cars as well so we don’t have to rent any other premises.
I deal a lot with Advance Traders. They’re my main supplier. We’re an under $1,000 store, if you’d like to call us that. 75% of our bike sales are up to $1,000. That’s our bread and butter.
I like it like that. It’s quite good. We get a lot of different people coming in.
(Regarding the weather) The weather has an impact. It rained really heavily here on Saturday and Sunday. It rained really consistently for the first 2½ hours of trade and it was very quiet.
Some Saturdays can be like that and some can be really busy. It’s hard to put a finger on it, but if there’s heavy rain, the business is certainly slower for me.
Tim Oliver of AvantiPlus Navajo, in the historic Victorian gold mining city of Ballarat said:
Business is tracking along pretty well. We had a very wet winter here. That put a bit of a dampener on sales this year.
We’re an AvantiPlus dealer. Sheppards brands are our core brands. Mountain bikes have been selling very well and cyclocross bikes are taking off now. They’ve been good for us.
The local cycling club is promoting ‘cross bikes and people just want to get away from the hectic traffic congestion by going onto trails or bush tracks - off the beaten track, basically.
Cross bikes and gravel riding cross over.
(Regarding the weather) Significant! I can talk to local traders, café’s, restaurants, clothing outlets and they’ll say exactly the same thing. If you get a pattern for three or four days of the same sort of weather, people get used whatever the weather is. But all of a sudden if the weather goes wet or cold dramatically, or if it’s a hot windy day, then they get distracted and their shopping preferences change, unless it’s a birthday or they need to go out.
Road bike sales, because it’s been so wet, people don’t want to go out riding on the road. We’ve been selling a lot of mag trainers and electronic trainers this year. That’s increased. But wet weather gear - jerseys, arm warmers and rain jackets haven’t been selling.
Tony Russell of Wolves Bike Den in Caboolture, 55 kilometres north of Brisbane, Qld said:
Business is looking better now. The middle of last year was our best three months in business, followed by a major downturn and non-existent Christmas.
So I restarted in my trade in the construction industry – plumbing and tiling – and got inundated so I struggled to get back into the shop.
Things are starting to pick up again now. We’re getting a few layby’s for Christmas, bit more positivity. So I think it will get a little better.
There’s a lot of bike shops in Queensland. I think we’re all battling for a smaller market so it does make things a bit hard.
We’ve been here 25 years. The company is still Caboolture Cycle Sports, but we changed the trading name about 10-12 years ago. A friend of mine had a swimming club on Bribie Island called the sea wolves. Then the local triathlon club changed their name to the sea wolves. We decided to do a bit of marketing with them and call the mountain bikers timber wolves and team wolf for the road riders. With that we changed the shop name to Wolves Bike Den. It’s where all the wolves come back to. It’s just a marketing thing.
We also found that for kids working in the shop it was a bit of a mouthful to say, ‘Caboolture Cycle Sports’. It doesn’t roll of your tongue like saying, ‘I’m going to go to Wolves.’
I also wanted a name that was completely outside the bike industry, so that it was a bit different.
I started this shop in November 1990. I came over to Australia (from the UK) in January 1990. I’m a plumbing and heating engineer and was a racing cyclist.
I couldn’t find anywhere to buy singles unless I went all the way down to Edward Street (in Brisbane’s city centre) and saw Lawrie Cranley down there.
I thought, ‘This is mad!’ so I opened a bike shop up here. I’m still working on my first million…
Trek would be our main brand, followed closely by Cannondale. It was funny, we kept all our data on Excel spreadsheets. We went through Trek (continuous improvement training) and they said, ‘You’ve got to crunch all these numbers and find out what sort of a shop you are.’ And it came back that we’re a $400 BMX shop. With all the dual suspension, high end bikes, by the time you do the discounts… when you look at the volume and turnover, that’s what came out.
I think it’s the demographic we’ve got here, because we’re a fair way outside of Brisbane.
We still do quite a few high end bikes because people know us through racing and we’ve been around a while. Denise, my wife, she’s been a state and Australian champion on the track and the road and I’ve been state champion on the road so we’re sort of known and we do get a few good sales. We sold a $7,000 Trek this morning, which was good.
(Regarding the weather) It’s been so hit and miss. When we get a scorcher, when it’s in the 40’s we notice that people don’t want to come out and play. They go to the shopping centres.
And of course when we get the torrential rain, people don’t want to come out and play.
So it spikes. On a hot day or a wet day your sales will be down.
We went to Chandler yesterday for the opening of the velodrome (the new Anna Meares Velodrome, an indoor velodrome that will be used for the 2018 Commonwealth Games). When we got out of the car I thought someone had chucked a bucket of water over us. It was an absolute downpour! It’s just Queensland weather. But generally, as we get warmer, sales pick up.
Christmas, I think is going to be late. We’ve only got a few layby’s. Usually January is quite good for us.
Steve Harcourt of Elite Racing Cycles, in the Northbridge precinct of Perth’s city centre said:
At the moment business is very good. We’re finding that now that the sun has come out here in Perth, business is ticking along very well, almost to the extent that I need to find another sales staff member and a mechanic.
We’re running the shop fairly light at the moment because we’ve had a very hard winter. But I do feel that things are back on track.
We’re starting to sell some very high end bikes again, between $12,000 and $15,000 each, which I’m very happy about. We’ve had a couple of very tough years mate – very tough years. The economy hasn’t been so good, but I do feel that things are on the rise now.
I know that my workshop is pretty much booked up for the week coming and we’ve got people starting to buy bikes again.
I normally run my shop with five staff, but we’ve been running lean with just three staff over the winters. I could certainly get at least one more but I’ll continue to run it quite tight.
I’m certainly looking for a good mechanic for sure. I’ve got an awesome mechanic here but we’ve got the volume of work where I need someone else.
We sell 90% road bikes 10% mountain bikes. Our best-selling brands are Bianchi, Colnago and Gios.
Bianchi, we do very well with. Gios, I direct import so I’ve got reasonably good margin and sell them well through my own store. Colnago, we’ve only had for a little bit but we’re really starting to gain traction on them.
(Regarding the weather) A lot! Massive! When the sun’s shining I seem to think we’re busy all day and when it’s raining we’re not busy at all. So I do think the weather has a big impact.
Peter Moyle of Standish Cycles which has multiple locations across Adelaide, SA said:
It’s on the pickup at the moment. There’s five stores plus a franchise. They do vary. It gives as a broad feel for Adelaide so we know what’s happening where. Your poorer areas quite often pick up before your wealthier areas because as soon as they get some income, they spend it. The wealthier ones want to hold onto it as long as possible.
Your inner city (wealthier) stores do better high class product sales than your outer stores.
As for summer, as long as it’s not going to be 40 degrees for two straight weeks, it should be quite good! We still hold the record for the capital city with the longest, hottest heat wave and it was about two weeks of over 40 degrees, about two years ago.
(Regarding the weather) Quite a bit. The first day when it was really nice weather on a Saturday, there was no-one around because they’d all gone to the beach! I asked a few customers on the Sunday when the weather wasn’t as good and they came shopping, and they said, ‘Oh yeah… we’d been to the beach.’
I think the biggest thing it (extended bad weather) is impacting is the amount of online stuff on special. I would say some of those online sellers are suffering because the amount of specials I’ve been getting from even some of the local suppliers who are online…
I would get an email every day of stuff on special on web shops, whereas going back a few months ago I might get one a week.
It’s interesting to see what they’ve got and what they’re clearing, to see what the opposition’s doing.
(Peter subscribes to multiple sites as a consumer so that he can keep track of what online sellers are doing.)