Local Bike Shop plea - continued

A New York Times article from this week highlights some of the challenges of the bike shops these days. I recently posted a call to the Hugga’ community to get out there and support your local shops. The article provides more insight into some of the struggles. The credit pinch certainly isn’t helping.

What’s hurting the Local Bike Shops?:

  • Inventory costs
  • Bad assumptions on the size of the Commuter market
  • Tightened wallets
  • Low gas prices (doh!)


I’m with you.  Here in Santa Monica Helen’s & Performance do the big business, But Veloworx on Lincoln is the place to go - Sugon knows what he’s talking about and shares his knowledge in a great way, and they carry a select inventory of good stuff.  I love that place.

I have a small shop in Bournemouth, UK and things are not too bad for us at the moment, though price increases in the UK due to the dollar/pound collapse and euro/pound collapse will hurt in the future.

Internet shopping is doing better and better for us, without it we would be behind last year by a pretty margin.

We have seen a 25% growth in repairs income per month vs last year, with a slight decrease in sales of new bikes.

It is quite evident in our area as that people are getting out on their bikes more for fitness, cuts down on gym bills, to commute, save on parking and fuel, as I am seeing more and more new faces in the shop. Sales of accessories and commuting clothes and accessories are increasing fast.

To survive the next few years LBS’s will definitely need the support of local riders as well as be agile enough to accommodate any new openings in the market.  Great Customer Service will also go a very long way when times are hard. It’s always nice to speak to a friendly face when times are hard!

Great Blog BTW. Thanks.

I’m kinda with you, but have to say that finding an LBS to support is not always easy.  Let’s just say there’s often a caste system for customers, with favoritism bestowed upon alternatively the spandex-clad, the carbon-addicted, the females whose appearance is accentuated by their spandex, etc.  In short, it’s sort of like high school all over again and I’m way too old for that.

I suppose there are LBSs that are more egalitarian and I continue to shop around trying to find one.  I have to say, however, that I’m hard-pressed to justify a 30%-50% premium just to buy local.  Additionally, some of my favorite on-line sources (Peter White, Harris) are really just LBSs (for other local areas) with a clue.  Frankly, my local LBSs just don’t carry a lot of stuff I’m looking for anyway (another source of irritation with my selection of LBSs).

So, bikehugger, maybe it’s not the customers that are at the root of LBS’s problems.

Hugger- After a dozen years working in IBDs, I’m an IBD guy through and through. I also support the local stores and core skate and snowboard shops whenever possible. I agree with many of the comments above. Here are some thoughts…
*Bad assumptions on the market in general, not only commuters. I’m sorry but even if gas prices stayed high there’s no way Americans are going to become bike commuters. Just isn’t going to happen. Majority of people aren’t interested in all the effort required to commute by bike.
*Shops need smaller inventory with quicker product turn. Shops need to keep key inventory in stock and all else in limited amounts. If not, all their available cash is on the sales floor or in the show case. It’s hard to satisfy all possible customers with limited inventory. Shops need to choose a market and keep inventory that market needs in stock at all times.
Thanks for pointing out the NYT article!!

Well, I’m doing my part. My wife and mother-in-law bought me a new Long Haul Trucker from Freerange (Seattle) for Christmas. And of course now I need accessories and supplies. Freerange, Recycled, R+E, Counterbalance, here I come.

The closest LBS to me is very small, and caters more to the neighborhood cruiser type rider. He has a very small selection of parts & bikes.  Very nice guy, though.

The next closest LBS is my preferred shop, and just happens to be a Performance store.  Why do I prefer them over the other LBSs in the area? Great selection, and they treat my wife and I like people. At the other LBSs in the area, we’re pretty much ignored, because we don’t fit the spandex-wearing profile of their “preferred” customer.  I’ve wandered around their stores for upwards of 30 minutes, and not once been approached by a staff member, whether I needed one or not.  At Performance, they’re friendly & attentive, regardless of one’s appearance.

I think there might also be more “mixed use” bike shops that crop up in order to survive. There are a few shops in/around Minneapolis that follow this mold, combining a cafe or other not-purely-cycling business along with the shop so they’re not totally reliant on selling bikes/parts to make rent. See One-on-One (www.oneononebike.com) downtown, or the new Bikery out in Stillwater (www.thebikeryshop.com)

My two cents…

Ignoring non-“cyclists” is a huge mistake for any shop.  We have to love the low-end: that’s where every shop makes it’s money.  Even high-end “pro” shops typically make more on their lowest priced bikes, and sell more of them.  The phrases “low-end” and “entry level” are terribly demeaning to average riders.  The manufacturers and retailers have figured this out to some degree—making bikes comfortable and convenient for first time riders, but there are real barriers beyond snooty staff. (And really, we should give the snooty staff a break, more on this later.)

If we want more people in the U.S. to ride bikes, we need to create infrastructure that supports them, we need to teach our motorists to repect them, and we need to teach the bike-riders themselves how to ride.  How many kids get appropriate traffic safety education in school?  How many bicyclists know how to ride safely?  Things are getting better, but it’s slow going.

IBDs are among the few types of independent retail stores that have remained viable.  Still, it’s hard to raise a family in a metropolitan area on a wrench’s or even a manager’s salary.  My experience working in shops for almost ten years was that staff are often underpaid, overworked, not well managed, too young, and/or poorly trained.  That was my experience, in general, so I tend to cut them some slack.  Who me?  Burned out and grouchy?  Naaa. 


If your LBS sucks, then by all means I’m not saying to patronize them, but for the example of the part that costs an extra $20?  I think there’s a case to be made for shopping there. 

Rather than go with Amazon for gifts, I bought pretty much everything from my local shop (it took a little creativity to find something for mom, but I think it worked out).  I probably paid a little more, but the guy works EVERY DAY and lets me sit in his shop, use his wifi, and talk bikes whenever I want.  I can’t do that at Performance Online. 

As for the cost problem - QBP is where most shops buy their parts from.  There is an online retailer out of the Isle of Mann that can sell you a DA 7900 group for $12 more than QBP.  $12!  They avoid VAT tax, they use super cheap shipping, no US tax, and you’ll be hard pressed to beat them.  If I need something that this site sells, I’ll even ask the shop owner what he can do for me (it’s special order anyway) and he can usually come close.  In that case - I’m definitely giving it to my LBS.

Very ironic that the group that spends the least is the one that cyclists think bike shops target. Talk to any shop owner and I’m sure they’ll tell you racers don’t spend dick and always want the bro deal. I bet it’s the cyclist chip on their shoulder about lyrca-wearers that prevents them from connecting with the shop. Seriously? You think that 1% of the market drives that much business? They don’t. Tri-athletes do, as do masters, and bmx, and so on.

Um, the one with the chip on his shoulder here.  What’s an IBD and how does it differ from an LBS?


Same thing. IBD is Independent Bike Shop (v buying a bike at Gart Sports or Costco) and LBS is local bike shop, (v. Buying online, like Colorado Cyclist or Excel Sports Boulder).

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