Do Bike Shops Deserve Your Money?

Yesterday I was setting up a stand at SCROPS and it struck me how small and slightly insular the bike trade is. We all know each other. It also struck me whilst talking to people how badly the bike trade does retail.

Most local bike shops are family run or by an old ex-pro, this is great as it is a traditional way to own a bike shop. The problem is these people generally have no business sense or acumen.



Gordon Gekko wants a bike
Greed is good, possibly not


Now I am not saying that everyone should be like Gordon Gekko but you do need a little bit of his thought process.

Singletrack magazine ran an article called “10 Ways to be a Dick in Your Local Bike Shop“. Most of the things it lists, are annoying if you work in a shop but it happens in all aspects of retail just now. By writing and publishing an article all you are doing is antagonizing people. The people that may be guilty of these behaviors are not going to stop because of an online article, you are however convincing people that niche shops are staffed by people who will look down on you and be patronizing, why then would you give them your money?

This article may be an attempt at humor but it does put new people to the sport off visiting shops and they then turn to using the net. If someone is in your shop, use your customer service to turn them into a customer, do not expect a customer, you have to create one.

If someone is price sensitive, it is up to the shop and its staff to prove that this is a false economy. Offer advice, be friendly and most of all do not complain about the internet stealing your customers.

Since I stopped working in retail I have been dropping into various Scottish shops and buying small bits and pieces and all I can say is that the overwhelming majority of shops do not deserve my money. You walk in and there will be a member of staff glowering behind a till asking them a question about something and it seems like you have disturbed their important glowering time.

I can then see why people disappear off to the internet, it just seems a nicer place and you do not have to go out of your way to buy something.

As we turn into an area of new “standards”, no shop can expect to keep them all in stock, as such glowering at people, telling them the full retail and “I can have it in 2 to 3 days”, is not good enough. The staff need to engage the customer, ask the bike they have, check the part will fit correctly and be appropriate for what they want and you can fit it or even show them how to fit it themselves. Now you can tell them it might be a wait and guess what as you have offered a service and been human and helpful, you are now way more likely to have made the sale. If you do not make this sale, when the customer needs help they will be back and over time you will have a customer that is loyal.

The customer owes a bike shop nothing, it is their money and they can spend it as they see fit. It is up to the bike shop to prove that they deserve that customer’s money and by being unapproachable, writing articles calling a customer a dick and not offering a service it is no wonder that the local bike shop is disappearing.

The other one I always hear shops complain about is the shop along the road that discounts everything. Fine, let them. Do not engage in a race to the bottom because both shops will lose in the end. You will buy no customer loyalty by taking 15% off of everything, you will just lower your margin, making it harder to pay staff, electricity, rent…

The way around this is to go back to what I have said, offer a service. Be the most knowledgeable, be the most friendly, make sure every bike that goes through the workshop has cable ends fitted and leaves clean. The small things will make shops successful, leaving the small things out is what kills shops.

As a shop, you have to buy your customer loyalty.




7 thoughts on “Do Bike Shops Deserve Your Money?

  1. As an old so monkey, there are very few things I hate as much as going in to a shop. I did finally find a shop that I like. They listen, provide advice and recommendations, fix things when i have bike in there for other reasons, and treat my family and family with respect when I’m not around (meaning they do that for everyone). Now I go out of my way to give them my money. They get first shot at everything and there are things they will tell me they can’t get or is more work to get than is worth it to them (and I respect that). The end of the day they have earned my respect and business.


  2. I don’t know about the area you live in, but Bristol has some wonderful independent bike shops. Our cycling culture is huge and the shops are filled with people who are knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and love to help people with their bikes. I know some bike mechanics who get paid to fix people’s bikes, but still happily impart useful tips to their customers to help them be more self-sufficient in the long term.

    In my experience the problem lies with large chains (Halfords, Evans, etc.) who are only out to make a sale. I’ve been ripped off so many times but a particular bike shop (I won’t name it) because they just want to close the deal. I’ve been sold the wrong size tyres despite having the exact size that I needed written down, and on top of that, the wrong size inner tubes. £85 down the drain because the sales person didn’t know what he was selling, just that he had to sell it.

    It’s true, a lot of independent bike shop owners lack business acumen, I know one personally. I honestly don’t understand how he’s still in business, and he’s been in business for over 30 years. But he’s also extremely helpful. When I was looking for a new bike and didn’t know what I needed, he pulled out all the bikes he could find that fit my description and were the right frame size. We went through them together, he let me take one home over the Christmas period to try it out, and trusted me to bring it back. In the end I bought it. He did the same thing with a new saddle recently.

    I think the kinds of shops you’re talking about, with the gormless staff who don’t want their glowering to be interrupted, are the large scale retail outlets, where people get jobs because they need to pay their bills.

    The old-fashioned independent bike shop is where you’ll find people who have spent their lives riding and tinkering with bikes, and want to enthuse about them with others. That’s where you’ll get a great service, that’s where they’ll go out of their way to help you, and that’s where you’ll even pick up some maintenance tips. Those places definitely deserve your money.


    1. I have spent 10 years working in the tradional shops and find this closeted way they are going.

      This conversation came from talking to distributors, who have increasingly been finding this problem when they go in shops. It appears they had some good years and trust me the last 5 years were amazing money wise.

      I am happy for people to have a great LBS but I feel the attitude of we deserve it is a problem. The shops you have sound like they deserve your money and I would back them. This is more about the ones who do nothing and complain. Trust me I have had to sit at many trade things with these people.

      I tend not to shop in big box shops for anything. I have tried a few and find the robotic staff really annoying.

      Liked by 1 person

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