• Georges Bike Shop, Balcatta, WA
    Georges Bike Shop, Balcatta, WA

Once again we called six bicycle shops, a mixture of city and country stores spread throughout Australia and asked them, ‘How’s business?’

Now that the major brands have all held their season launches and the weather is warming up, this month our follow up question was, ‘How do you think the new season is going to go for you?’

There was certainly a wide range of responses. 

Gary O'Connor of Georges Bike Shop in the Perth suburb of Balcatta, WA said:

We’re tracking pretty much the same as last year, which wasn’t a bad start to the year, so we’re about on par with that.

Things have been tough in Perth - lots of discounting. What we’re doing is good customer service. That’s what we’re focussing on. Making sure the bikes are built properly.

When someone comes in the door, we grab them straight away and give them what we consider to be good customer service. You don’t think your conversion rate is terribly good, then all of sudden you see them again a couple of days later. They’ve been around the traps and had a look at other bikes, I guess and they come back to us, so we’re doing a pretty good conversion rate.

We stock just the Giant brand. We do a full range of kids bikes, all the entry level stuff, through to dualies and road bikes up to mid range, around three and a half grand is our top price.

(How will new season go?) I wouldn’t say the weather is warming up in Perth yet. It’s supposed to be 21 and we’re still tracking around 17 or 18 degrees.

But the bikes are all good this year… there’s always one or two where you go, ‘Mmm, possibly…’ but they still sell. The dually rage in particular looks fantastic. We’ve got a new model called the Fathom which has gone to a 29’er. There’s a lot of interest in that one.

We’re pretty confident about this year. Some of the bikes have been a bit slow to get here. We’re still waiting on some of the bikes, but most of the stuff his here now.

We’ve got a new website that’s also paying dividends. It’s optimised to be mobile phone friendly. It took a long time to develop. We had to make a lot of design changes. 

Georges Bike Shop, Balcatta, WA
Georges Bike Shop, Balcatta, WA

Ken Barnes of Wheel Heat in the Victorian country town of Wonthaggi about 100 km south east of Melbourne said:

Business is very quiet. It’s worse than 12 months ago. I think the weather, being in a small country town, lack of economic activity, it’s a low economic demographic around here.

Of course in the cities you’ve still got commuter bikes, so there’s still people riding commuter bikes and getting their bikes fixed, but there’s not commuter cycling here.

There’s about 6,000 or 7,000 people here.

We sell Merida, Norco and then we do a few niche brands, Felt, Bianchi. We do a bit of Specialized and a few Apollo.

We don’t stock anything over $1,000. People come and if they want a Bianchi or a Lapierre, we just get it in for them.

Most of the mountain bikes we sell are around $600 to $700. That’s 80% of our bike market. I’m better off shifting the lower priced bikes.

We’ve had the shop for six years. We started it from scratch. There’s one other shop in town. There’s one too many! (laughs) But he’s very quiet as well. It’s not like he’s doing all the business.

(How will new season go?) I’ve really got no idea. I hope it will go well. Some of the bikes are priced a little bit better than last year. I’m just going to sit back and wait. 

Darren Martin of Border Bikes in Tweed Heads South, NSW just south of the Queensland border said:

Business is great. It has been great all year. Normally we see a lapse between Christmas and Easter. That’s when you get time to do everything. Shuffling around and making things look pretty again for the busy season. We didn’t have that quiet period this year.

Busy season is October,  November,  December. But this year I haven’t had time to scratch myself all year. Which is surprising because we haven’t had that… I’ve been here nearly nine years. Previous to that I opened up Brisbane Road Bikes at Labrador and you’d always have a quiet period.

I’ve been shifting some electric bikes. I can see the growth in ebikes. I’ve also gone special needs. I’m looking after a lot of the special needs market with trikes, so I’m doing a lot of different stuff.

It’s not just bikes, the easy stuff, get ‘em on, sell them. It’s the time consuming stuff now.

It’s three or four visits before you’ll get a sale out of an ebike customer.

Anything that’s special needs related… they normally charge triple, just because they can. And I’ve filled the market there by popping in and not tripling my money on it.

I’m trying a few different things. Previous things haven’t really worked. I’ve tried road bikes. I’ve tried hiring mountain bikes. It dribbles along but it doesn’t make you money.

This year I’ve backed off that higher end stuff over three grand. I’m just in the process of getting cargo bikes in. I sell a few tandems. I sell the stuff that other shops don’t want to bother with.

I’ve just had Amart Sports open up next door to me in the past two or three weeks. I’ve got a lot busier in foot traffic but it might just be people window shopping whereas before I was a destination.

I’ve just extended my mezzanine floor in the shop and put a container out the back to get some storage space. I just want to get everyone when they come in the door.

It’s just a broad range of everything. Having that bike in stock, or having a different bike to compare is also great.

(How will new season go?) For what I do, there’s not a huge change. The prices and spec’s haven’t changed that much, only really the colours. I think it’s going to pretty much run on par with how it has been going.

Giant have changed their suspension design, but I’m not really trying to go for that higher end market. Because we’ve had the Giant store open up at Ashmore, so you’ve got Ferry Rode and Ashmore banging heads against each other trying to get the best deal away. I’m not concentrating on that market otherwise I’ll be locked up in that fight with them.

The Trek guys have got three shops now. They opened up around the corner from me about a year ago now. I heard that when they opened a shop up at Southport, Ferry Rode (Giant dealer across the road) got busier and the guys from Ferry Rode took them a carton of beer at Christmas time. I thought, ‘That’s so rude!’ but now I actually feel like doing it.

I don’t know if they’re bringing more people to the area to shop on brand, but if you go to their shop you’re going to see Trek. If you come to my shop you can try several different brands. 

Greg Turtur from Mike Turtur Cycles in the inner northern suburbs of Adelaide said:

Business is ok without breaking any records. Servicing is starting to pick up in the workshop, but still bike sales, especially in road, are down. It’s hard selling a road bike at this stage.

But this time of year we’ve got a bit on. The Royal Show, football finals, the weather has been pretty bad, so not a lot has been in our favour.

Going to the Royal Show’s not cheap anymore and the football finals, especially when the Crows are playing, it’s not so bad when it’s a night time game, but people sit at home and watch the footy.

Traditionally for us after the Royal Show has finished, towards the end of September, October especially, that’s when things start picking up.

The new 99 Bikes store (that we recently reported about here) is just about to open. It’s walking distance down the road. A hundred metres or so. I would say there will have to be some sort of effect.

I don’t know if will affect my workshop. We service a lot of bikes each year and I think our customers will stay loyal to us. I don’t think they could offer anything more than we offer. The main difference here is that the guy who runs the shop is actually servicing the bikes! (laughs) I’ll be doing that.

But bikes sales, that could affect us. We don’t do kids bikes or mountain bikes. We’re purely a road shop and recreational, your 700c flatbar bikes and that.

Only time will tell I suppose.

(How will new season go?) Honestly, going on the past few years, I hope it’s better! It’s probably a bit early to tell. Our busiest three months of the year here are January, February and March. We don’t have that much of a Christmas nowadays, but we get a lot of service work from October through to December. Then into the Tour Down Under month.

It won’t have to be a lot better to be better than the past couple of years, which have been pretty poor. 

Mike Walsh of GR8 Ride Cycles in Devonport, Tasmania said:

Business is becoming a little more buoyant now with the better weather. It has been a rough winter. It’s been quiet. But now with the sunshine and a lot of new mountain bike trails it’s becoming a bit more buoyant.

I’m looking forward to a better future because it has been a bit quiet with a lot of businesses closing in the area. Manufacturing and that sort of thing.

We’re looking forward to getting a few more people out on bikes.

Our main brands are Apollo, Scott and BMC. We sell a fair mixture of bikes. The road bike market is a bit quieter, but the mountain bike market, with all the new trails around here, mountain bikes are becoming a stronger market.

We still sell BMX and that sort of thing.

I went to Launceston trails with a group this weekend. A pilgrimage happens fairly regularly to go there. I’m looking forward to better local ones at Latrobe and Railton. They’re not at the same level as your Launceston and Blue Derby tracks, in the way they’ve been set up.

The people who have created them have done a pretty good job. Hopefully we’ll get trails to that standard here too. There has been a lot of talk.

(How will new season go?) We’ll go well… we’ll make it go well! 

Evan Corry from Corry Cycles in regional city of Mackay, Queensland said:

It’s going really good mate! We’ve faced some tough challenges in the past few years with the downturn of mining in the area. We’ve had a big population loss. It went from about 60,000 people up to about 110,000 and now back down to about 80,000 in the past sort of eight years. We’ve seen the boom times and the down times and still going well.

In Mackay there’s three main bike shops and three of your department store style shops.

We’ve got new competitors in town, but we’ve stuck to our core, which includes events.

We organise a number of community cycling events, both road and mountain biking. Just working with the community I think has helped us to stave off those issues.

Our biggest event is coming up on 1st October which is the River to Reef Ride. This will be the sixth year. We’ve grown that event from 650 riders to 1,600 riders in the last two years.

We also organise the Mackay Mountain Marathon which is a mountain bike event that attracts 300 to 400 riders, plus a number of smaller events.

It is unusual for bike shops to run events, but I think it’s something that there should be a hell of a lot more of. I think cycling events are one of the biggest stimuluses for bike sales these days.

I’ve got now doubt that our competitors do very well off the back of our events. Likewise we do well out of some of the things they do. If you worry about the $2 you lose and not the $200 you make, then that’s your fault!

(How will new season go?) Quite well. We’ve got some really cool colours and what not this year. I think there’s some new technology coming out from Shimano and SRAM which will help our sales. We’re confident with the new season’s models.