It’s Women’s Fault

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After my post yesterday about cycling’s difficulty addressing the needs of the female cyclist we received a lot of great feedback. One of the tweets we got (from a female cyclist) really summed up the issue, and now I see that we’ve been looking at this all wrong.

“@specializedwmn @bikehugger a lot of women walk in not knowing what they want, they need to do research and ask the right questions”

Ah yes, it’s the fault of the women. They walk into bike stores without having done the research. Why, they should find out more about the products.

Where might they do that? Oh, how about at a retail establishment that sells the products they’re interested in, that has employees that surround themselves with the products (often going to take expensive classes in fit and selection) and that are in the business of selling bikes?

Nah, let them read a few years of Bicycling magazine and Road Bike Action, that’ll give them all the info they need. Then they can march into the store, demand exactly the frame and components they want, recite their measurements and build and fit the bike themselves.

Luckily, men never walk into stores without educating themselves first, imagine if we had to have a salesperson actually help us?



25 Comments

Or Women Don’t Know What they Want. Especially when asked by an Angry Shop Monkey who can’t keep his eyes off their cleavage. What you def want is a bike that has a 650 wheel in front and a 700 in back. Or they want shim shifters or stubby stems.

How is this any different for women than men? Men get screwed all the time buying bikes.

Do you have any female cyclist friends? Ask them about this. What part don’t you understand? David’s post tapped a nerve here, on Twitter, and Facebook. Same can be said of the industry’s struggle to talk anything more than sports marketing.

If only there were some sort of “international network” containing all the world’s knowledge (including bicycle terminology, bike types and brands, plus expert reviews of same) on which these female (or male) shoppers could do their pre-purchase research and learning! ;D

It behooves anyone making a sizable purchase of *any* item to do some research on their own beforehand. And it’s up to websites like Bikehugger and others to provide independent reviews of bikes, links to neophyte resources, and an atmosphere of welcoming for potential new cyclists.

If you’ve got LBS elitism problems, I’ll bet that a message (perhaps anonymous) to their boss explaining why your purchase won’t be happening at their shop will go a long way to changing that culture. And if that doesn’t help—find another shop.

@daeley - right, the Internet is always the most accurate, complete and easily navigable source for information.

I always think that people should research things before they buy them, but one of the best ways to research a product is to go to a store where it’s sold and ask questions. There’s no requirement that entering a store compels one to make a purchase.

When I bought my first mountain bike decades ago I went to six or seven shops, asked questions, got info. There was no Internet. And I ended up with a great bike that fit me well and did everything I wanted.

I know plenty of women cyclists that are working mothers and barely have time to enter the bike store let alone do research on every website for independent reviews of every possible bike. First of all, what’s being reviewed online doesn’t always equal the inventory at the local shops. And the Internet doesn’t answer your questions.

It takes on average six trips to a retail establishment for a customer to spend over $2000 on a product (this might have changed since I was taught this in 2001 during retail management training) so a store has to assume that a customer’s going to come in and ask questions.

The point of this post isn’t that people should not do research, it’s that saying that a woman should enter a shop and have questions answered even if no research has been done, because everyone starts somewhere. And for many customers it might just be walking by a shop and seeing a dreamy looking bike in the window and thinking “wow, I should really get back into shape, let me go in and ask a question.”

The bike industry has been, to date, the boys club.  It is intimidating to walk in for most women as shops are run by guys, decorated by guys and speak like guys.

There are shops growing and expanding, educating their staff and making their shops less dark and more organized.  All things that most women would enjoy.

The bike industry needs more women, needs to pay women well to deal with the boys club bull crap and, finally, stop treating us like a foreign object.

www.BikeShopGirl.com

Reminds me when bike shop managers would kick you out of their store if you brought in your dog-eared copy of the Excel Sports Boulder catalog and then later offered to match each price and then offered deals online and then moved old inventory via ebay and then there was various “ship bikes to your local bike shops” model all of which failed, including SWOBO who brought that business model back last year and Airborne who failed at it once, brought it back. None of these models account for women most likely, [as Mark said](http://bikehugger.com/2010/05/women-as-outcasts-in-cycling-i.html), because the numbers aren’t there and we’re talking fit relative to a “performance bike” v. a medium city bike where you just sit on it and ride. Have never seen a fit contraption in [Henry’s Amsterdam shop](http://www.workcycles.com/). I would expect though that Triathlete shops flourish in fits for women.

While we’re on a roll here, should also bring up the lack of marketing and representation of bikes in the gay community. Sports marketing “ain’t gay” for sure. 

Want to also note, from the publisher’s perspective (that’s me) that this is a dialogue. We support and believe in your Local Bike Shop. Consider these convos ones we’ve had over coffee or beer if we came to your town to ride.

It is up to the shops to provide a level of customer service to female and male customers that will keep them shopping. There is a load of research that shows how much of the household spending is influenced by women, and how much they talk to each other in terms of referring friends when they have either a positive or negative shopping experience. Until shops recognize the buying potential of female customers, they aren’t going to do anything to attract them into the store. As a result, shops are their own worst enemy, as by ignoring this segment of the riding population, they are also minimizing how much they could be earning off male customers as well.

Shops that get it right, such as the ones that Arleigh mentions, are making money hand over fist because they are providing a high level of service to WOMEN, and by default, to men as well.

Customer service is the key to a lot of things. A well-trained staff will know how to communicate more effectively with women, and will recognize that it’s important to address them in different ways than men (no, I’m not suggesting a patrionization, but more the idea of ‘listen more, talk less’).

I do not agree that women should be responsible for their own research. I feel that it’s much more important for well-trained shop staff to have a simple conversation with their women customers to suss out what sort of riding they want to do and what their goals are.

Creating loyal female customers will take longer than with male customers, but the payoff for the shop will be greater in the long run.

It is up to the shops to provide a level of customer service to female and male customers that will keep them shopping. There is a load of research that shows how much of the household spending is influenced by women, and how much they talk to each other in terms of referring friends when they have either a positive or negative shopping experience. Until shops recognize the buying potential of female customers, they aren’t going to do anything to attract them into the store. As a result, shops are their own worst enemy, as by ignoring this segment of the riding population, they are also minimizing how much they could be earning off male customers as well.

Shops that get it right, such as the ones that Arleigh mentions, are making money hand over fist because they are providing a high level of service to WOMEN, and by default, to men as well.

Customer service is the key to a lot of things. A well-trained staff will know how to communicate more effectively with women, and will recognize that it’s important to address them in different ways than men (no, I’m not suggesting a patronization, but more the idea of ‘listen more, talk less’).

I do not agree that women should be responsible for their own research. I feel that it’s much more important for well-trained shop staff to have a simple conversation with their women customers to suss out what sort of riding they want to do and what their goals are.

Creating loyal female customers will take longer than with male customers, but the payoff for the shop will be greater in the long run

I do exist. 5 foot 8. Best fit for me is a 56cm seat and 53 top tube. I modify with a men’s 54cm frame, a super tall seat tube and an 80cm stem.  I have a 32” inseam and a waist that’s just barely under my boobs.

It must surely be obvious to all small LBS owners that launching a focused and sophisticated merchandising campaign towards attracting a demographic which will obviously outspend 30-50yr old white males will yield immense financial benefits.  So will doubling the SKU#s for all the clothing accessories.  After all, LBS owners as a whole are like big time financial investors…so much time and money on their hands.  If a couple individual shops have demonstrated success, without a doubt every market, neighborhood, and location will be able to repeat if not exceed that success. 

None of this would work if there wasn’t a huge pool of potential sales people who are knowledgeable, considerate, patient, nonjudgemental, and are willing to work for less than McDonald’s cashier.  Yep.

The one thing that confuses me is why more women don’t want to work in that environment.  I guess it’s the unfriendly male ego, good ol’ boys environment and not the fact that a waitress’ tips totally spank bike shop wages.

Word. That’s another post about making money (or not) in this industry—some will tell you there’s a desire not to make any money.

Ooof! Damn double post.

I could be wrong Mark, but I detect an ever so slight degree of sarcasm in your last post. Huh…Must be my imagination because surely I wouldn’t be naive enough to make a suggestion that even the smallest shop owner should invest shed loads of money to bring in women and neglect their ‘cash cows’. Although I would argue that the real cash cows are probably not setting foot in their store.

It doesn’t take a large investment by a shop owner to at the very least make the store more women-friendly. It starts with little things, like using store displays to show women’s products (women shop based on what they see on mannequins and in windows), cleaning the bathroom, removing the pictures of the chicks wearing next to nothing, and having a door on a changing room instead of a curtain.

The Gap is a good model to follow. You’ll see more women shopping in there than men, and you’ll see them on both sides of the aisle. There’s a reason a Gap exists in every mall in the universe.

I won’t bore you with a series of statistics about women and money. Sure, that guy that comes in and drops 5K on a bike is the person you see, but who do you think he talked to before making that purchase? If a store owner doesn’t at the very least pay attention to how many times a dude says ‘I have to get permission from the wife/girlfriend’ to spend that’, or something to that effect, then they are missing the boat. Women control A LOT of the household income. Make no mistake. The amount of money that women spend is more than the salaries of all the major sports leagues combined. It’s shocking.

But, if you think it takes sacrificing the bread and butter customers in order to bring in women, then I’m afraid that line of thinking is archaic and won’t do much to keep the doors open. Sure, not every store owner is in it for the money, but let’s be realistic. What store owner wants to fail just for the sake of saying ‘I did it for love of bikes’? Plus, it doesn’t serve the riding community all that well if a store owner is narrow minded enough to not try to stick around.

Here is Denmark about half of bike buyers are women and shops and makers that don’t cater to us don’t do well.

Are you sure the GAP is a good model to follow?  Maybe it is in fact hardware stores and similar that are the proper model - you have to ask yourself why there are no WSD power tools for instance…even if they are just the same basic design but painted a different color and with slightly smaller grips. ;)

Part of this whole intimidation thing (and it is bilateral IMO because both genders experience it) is that a lot of it is in people’s heads.  We could all probably be well served by getting over ourselves.

why must we use The Gap as a model? why not American Apparel? there’s more women than men shopping there too, they have curtains rather than doors on their fitting rooms, the restrooms are for employees only, and the walls are plastered with softcore porn. oh, that’s right…we were shooting to put a bike shop in every mall in the universe just like The Gap. 

please, if i’m sarcastic it’s because i’m tired of consumers expressing their desires as if meeting those conflicting requirements ALONE was the secret formula for success that no one except “this one shop I know” has figured out.

The Gap fails as a useful model when you consider that it is part of a large corporation with tons of dedicated marketing personel whereas most LBS are indepedently owned.  your local LBS isn’t hiring out Aerosmith to perform a jingle on their commercials. also, Gap employees may smile and be courteous, but let’s not consider the staff to be technical experts just because they can attest that black is “slimming”. kahki slacks don’t have shifter compatibility issues and even if consumers risked a horrifying crash due to a tear in their jeans, The Gap doesn’t service your pants.

let me tell you how it is. i have a limited budget for bikes i can buy on pre-season. let’s say i buy 50 units of bikes spread out on price points $800-3000.  some bikes, like cyclocross, don’t exist as WSD, but how much WSD should i get?  just like men’s bikes, i’d prefer to buy a size run of bikes rather than just a single example. why? because i could spend an hour talking with a customer about a bike on the floor which isn’t their size and that person will simply drive across town and buy the right size from someone else.  guy or girl, it doesn’t matter. then my single example sits around till next season, to be sold a little above wholesale.  or the person agrees to special order it from us, but now the distributor doesn’t have any left because i didn’t buy it on pre-season.  you need a critical mass to start selling bikes.

you can’t just dabble a little bit, it’s better to commit.  but the bike industry doesn’t get fat margins.  you guess wrong in the fall when making out pre-season orders, and you’re screwed for a year or more. May/June rolls around and you get hit with all the financing for stuff that just sits on the showroom floor. that stuff seemed like a good idea last fall, all the magazines were peeing themselves over the innovations and attention to customer demand, but in the end that inventory is an albatross around your neak that is sinking your business. but enough about Civia…

do some shops make mad money catering to women?  i’m sure they do, and more power to them, but they ain’t necessarily representative of my location, market, and established clientel. i hope those pioneering shops change the world for a better place, but right now i’m worried that if i don’t pay that last invoice to my distributors i won’t be able to buy product to sell to people who have already demonstrated a willingness to fork over cash. if i felt safe committing more resources to women consumers, i would, but i’ve got a lot of customers that i am already honestly trying to serve well (and hopefully i’ll profit from it).

i’m not going to say that bike shops should be dirty and smelly, but just because a shop is clean and had an interior decorator choose the carpet and paint colours doesn’t mean a shop will be successful.  i can think of a least one shop in this area that seemed super cool last year and now is gone.

the point is this: consumers, please DO express what you want, but don’t be surprised if retailers are conservative with their money and efforts. shops will chase your money, but they want to really see it and smell it, not just hear about your money. be careful about making generalizations from other industries or geographical markets.  there is a huge difference between hypothesizing what would happen if the all retailers made a coordinated effort to change the approach to women consumers and actually owning a shop with responsibilities to creditors and employees.

I’m not just a consumer. I also work for ‘A Bike Company You Have Heard Of’, and in that role I have worked on the women’s side of the business. One of my jobs was to consult with stores on how to improve their women’s business with an investment they can manage, so I’m not simply spouting off at the mouth about what I think you should do because it’s what I’d like to see. This is actually an area in which I have a significant amount of experience because it was my job to do it. We used the Gap as a model not because of their larger business practices or their marketing budget, but simply because the way they lay the store out is done in a manner that draws in women, because they recognized a long time ago who was walking through the door to shop. The other examples I gave you were simple things I would tell stores that they could do, which involved nearly nothing in terms of money spent. How hard is it to have a clean bathroom? How hard is it to not show pictures of half naked chicks? Are you running a business, or a locker room for the boys?

At the end of the day, you have to run your business the way you see fit. Taking risks is part of being a store owner. You win some, you lose some. In this particular case, based on nationwide-experience in bike stores, I know that doing even the bare minimum to make your store more women-friendly can yield results. Does it work 100% of the time? Probably not, but there are lots of factors involved, such as staff training that I eluded to previously. If you make a small effort to promote yourself to women, by using tools at your disposal like hosting a ladies’ night or a women’s demo, can you reap benefits from that? Absolutely.

Having bought a new bicycle six months ago, and hitting all the bike shops in Seattle while doing research, I was surprised how unseriously I was taken by the majority of salespeople, who were all young men. I will never return to those shops.

Once I stepped into a store owned and run by a woman my age, I actually had a real conversation about my needs. So, of course, I bought from her, even though the same bicycle was sold at many other stores for the same price.

It might behoove bicycle shops to have female sales staff who cater to the increasing number of female bicycle commuters.

@Punkass

I think Mark basically blew your GAP example out of the water with AA; having “scandalous” changing rooms and pornographic/sleazy/exploitive advertising imagery doesn’t turn away the huge female client base.

The female segment of the population is hugely diverse and I’m pretty confused by your attempts at painting the female cycling community as some homogeneous entity when it emphatically isn’t.  Basically all of the female racers (or similar) that I know are well served by “male” frames with components swapped out, most of my female friends into recreational cycling are far more worried about a certain aesthetic (think city cruiser that matches their outfit, or fixed gear fad bikes).

That’s a huge range of clientèle right there that has little to do with them being women per se.

@PJ88

The female cycling community isn’t homogenous. And I’m not attempting to brush it with such broad strokes. I speak in generalities, which is just what they are: observations based on a majority. It’s a Bell curve, like anything else. I’m talking about the big, fat part in the middle.

I disagree that the Gap example can be so easily dismissed.  What is the target demographic of American Apparel? It’s not people who fall in the middle of the Bell curve. They are after a particular type of customer, and it ain’t soccer moms. This is why The Gap had earnings of $1.1 billion in 2009, vs. AA’s $558 million.

Going back to the Bell curve, you will always have people at the ends of the curve. They are the racers, or people who aren’t put off by select types of imagery, or women who aren’t intimidated by bike stores in general. Again, do you want to try and draw in the extremes? Or do you want to sell to the people who make up the majority?

What I find hard to understand is the resistance here to take eamples on board that I have seen work in many places. It’s as if people are taking it personally that I’m hinting at the idea that they could actually make more money for their store if they made a few minor changes. Perhaps my vernacular has made my message get lost, but I’m trying to encourage stores to become a resource for women who want to be bike riders, in much the same way as they probably already are for me.

Who doesn’t want to see more women, or people in general, on bikes? It is A Good Thing.

David/Mark

Not to steal or derail, but my thoughts couldn’t be held in a comment box.

http://bikeshopgirl.com/2010/05/women-in-the-bike-industry-who-is-to-blame/

@Punkass

And total sales are the sole measure of corporate success?  What school of management or economics did you graduate from? Yikes.

David—Thanks for opening up this discussion. Biking’s a dude’s world right now, but I’m encouraged at the inroads that many women have made in the past few years.

A few observations:
—Love my LBS. Yes, there are a couple of punks, but I have to say that the majority of the guys there have listened, been helpful, and tried hard to help me figure out what I needed rather than telling me what “should” fit. They also carry WSD bikes and gorgeous cruisers for women with diverse biking needs. It can be done, even in this industry.

—I tell my friends and blog readers that if a bike doesn’t fit, your body will tell you, but you have to get out and ride a few bikes so you can feel what works. It’s much more important than knowing about gear ratios. Nice point that it’s harder for women with kids to do this necessary piece of research, which no one else can do for them.

—I swear by my WSD Felt frame. I’m not saying it’s the fix for every woman, but it made THE difference in being able to ride for more than 15 minutes for me. My next road bike will be custom, though, just because of the fit issues.

—Alternately amusing and frustrating to see the men in these past couple of posts argue about whether women’s fit is really different. Come on.

—Nice job, Specialized on your efforts for women’s bikes.

—I always tell my friends and readers that if any bike shop employee responds to their complaints that something doesn’t feel right by saying “You’ll get used to it,” they are to walk out immediately. There are many other options out there.

—Natalie Ramsland rocks.

Thanks again, bikehugger, for bringing attention to this important issue in the bike world. We women want to spend money supporting good companies and getting a great product. Bike industry, pony up.

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