For many retailers, Christmas trading can be the difference between a good year, and a disastrous year. The latter is becoming more likely to result in under-performing companies going into administration, with inter-company debts and job losses the visible signs of failure.
We are all by now more than familiar with the effects of the economic downturn and it’s unlikely that this Christmas will see us spend more than we did last year. So how are cycle shops to survive and prosper? It is of course, a matter of survival of the fittest.
Survival of the Fittest Bike Shops
‘Survival of the fittest’ is of course a reference, by Darwin, on nature’s natural selection. He described it as “better adapted for immediate, local environment”.
So in order for the Cycling Industry to survive, it must adapt, and it must do so in the local environment. For local bike shops, this means serving the community in which it belongs, being open when customers want you to be open. At Christmas this may mean staying open slightly later or opening slightly earlier, and most certainly will include trading on a Sunday. Christmas Eve this year falls on a Monday, which means many people are likely to be off work, making finals plans for the big day, and probably doing last minute shopping. So think carefully about closing early as shoppers are likely to be out until later afternoon.
For online bike shops, it means fast, affordable delivery. It may also include a click and collect service where customers can order online but have the bike delivered, for free, to a local store. It means having a Christmas delivery date as close to Christmas day as you possibly can.
For all, it means offering a range of bikes that are appropriate to the customer you are aiming to serve, at prices that are affordable. It means being in stock for as long as you can towards Christmas day and ensuring, above everything else, that your service is outstanding.
In a cash-strapped environment, many of us look towards finance options, with 0% interest rates a popular option with shoppers.
So what does good look like this Christmas from a customers’ point of view?
- Low Prices
- Choice of Products
- Stock Availability
- Outstanding Customer Service
- Free Delivery
- Free Finance
- Free Click and Collect
- Free Bike Build
- Hassle Free Returns
- Local Shop
- Informative Website
Online Bike Shops
Whether you’re a national chain with hundreds of stores or a single site owner, a website is an essential part of an effective retail business.
However, poor quality websites are not what consumers are looking for, why would we? Despite this, far too many retailers, large and small, put little or no effort into creating a website that they can be proud of, and customers will buy from.
So what does good look like?
- Informative, Unique Content
- Easy-to-follow Navigation
- Effective Search Functionality
- Fast-loading Pages, 100% Availability
- Simple, Clean Design
- Clear Reasons to Buy
- Easy-to-find Delivery & Returns Info
- Customer Interaction via Social Networks, Blog & Newsletter
Too often, companies see good as being how a website looks, rather than how it performs. Performance is of course in the eyes of the user, which may be functionality, features or the more basic idea that a web page should load quickly.
We recently published a survey of the Top 10 Bike Websites by Page Load Time, which to many may not be the sexiest part of a website, but to some, it’s one of the most important. We were pleasantly surprised at how well the Industry fared in this area.
Best Bike Shops for Christmas
So let’s assume that the nation’s cycling retailers have got the right bikes, at the right prices, have a decent website and have ensured their staff deliver great customer service. Who’s best?
Well, it depends on what we mean by best. We’ve already listed a lot of what this could look like but to consumers, it comes down to just a few things; Price, Choice, Availability and Service.
It’s too early to make a judgement on availability and without investing considerable time in assessing service standards (unfortunately we don’t have the resources to do it), it comes down to Price & Choice. Here we take a look at a few fundamental questions;
- Who has the Cheapest Bikes?
- Who has the Best Range of Bikes?
- Which is Better, Supermarkets or Bike Shops?
To try and make this as fair and unbiased as possible, all the data shown was taken on the same day, 1st November 2012. But how did we choose the bike shops to review?
According to Yell.com, there are 2,900 bike shops in the UK whereas ACTSmart list 8,300. It’s fair to say that there are thousands. So we did what many consumers will do this Christmas, we searched on Google.co.uk for “bikes” and took the top 8 results (Note: we took the top 8 ‘bike shops’.);
- Evans Cycles
- Winstanleys Bikes
- Chain Reaction Cycles
- Leisure Lakes Bikes
We also looked at the top 4 supermarkets, along with Sports Direct and Argos. Note: as Sports Direct now own the JJB Sports website, we did not think it required us to also include JJB.
Is this fair, yes and no. The last thing you want to read right now is a statistical analysis of thousands of bike shops. So, as we said, we chose a method that many customers would choose. There are probably as many variations on this as there are bike shops, which phrase to search, which search engine to use, what time of day, day of week etc etc. It’s not scientific but it is a fair snapshot. As you’ll see from the list, there are some of the big boys listed and some lesser known retailers, perhaps. Feel free to leave a comment below if you think we could have done it better (note, better, not differently). Anyway, enough of this and on to the results.
Best Bike Shop Online for Choice of Bikes
|1.||Winstanleys Bikes||2,225 bikes|
|5.||Leisure Lakes Bikes||915|
|6.||Chain Reaction Cycles||670|
Note: This is based on Adult Bikes only, and is the total number of bikes shown online from the following categories; mountain bikes, road bikes, bmx bikes and hybrid bikes. All other types of bike (time trial, single speed etc) are excluded.
Note: Due to their Marketplace, the Amazon total also includes bikes from other retailers but as this is part of the appeal of the Amazon website we have included the total number of bikes available as this is what you will see on their website.
There is quite a stark contrast between those at the top of the list and those at the bottom. The clear leader is Winstanleys Bikes, a Wigan based mail order company, founded 15 years ago.
Following hot on their heels are Tredz and Evans, two well-known bike retailers. However, two of the Industry’s best known online players, Wiggle and Chain Reaction, are perhaps not as high in the list as we’d have expected.
The battle between Supermarkets and Specialist Bike Shops has a clear winner, with non of the leading Supermarkets having a significant choice of bikes. In fact, Sainsbury’s have just 3 adult bikes, quite remarkable.
The following tables show the results for each of the types of bike analyzed; Mountain Bikes, Road Bikes, Hybrid Bikes and BMX Bikes.
Best Bike Shop Online for Choice of Mountain Bikes
|1.||Winstanleys Bikes||735 bikes|
|4.||Leisure Lakes Bikes||400|
|6.||Chain Reaction Cycles||330|
A few positional changes here but no real changes from the overall list, other than perhaps Wiggle having just 15 mountain bikes on their website, which is less than Asda, Argos and Tesco.
Best Bike Shop Online for Choice of Hybrid Bikes
|1.||Winstanleys Bikes||940 bikes|
|5.||Leisure Lakes Bikes||220|
|7.||Chain Reaction Cycles||85|
Again, no real surprises, and as expected, generalists Amazon and Halfords rise slightly in the list.
Best Bike Shop Online for Choice of Road Bikes
|4.||Leisure Lakes Bikes||240|
|8.||Chain Reaction Cycles||95|
For the first time, Winstanleys is knocked off the top for this category, with the leader changing to Tredz. Once again, the Supermarkets are not the place to go if you are looking for a road bike.
Best Bike Shop Online for Choice of BMX Bikes
|1.||Evans Cycles||275 bikes|
|2.||Chain Reaction Cycles||160|
|5.||Leisure Lakes Bikes||55|
Relative to it’s other successes, Winstanleys perhaps shows us it’s weakness in this category by dropping to fourth place, behind a strong Evans Cycles. Chain Reaction Cycles gains several places and achieves it’s highest position at joint second, with Tredz.
In part two of this article, we’ll take a look at Who has the Best Choice of Childrens Bikes?
In part three, we’ll look at price, and specifically list the Top 10 Cheapest Bikes.