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  1. #1
    mtbr member
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    Need Bike shop owners help (x post)

    A friend and I are considring opening a bike shop. I have some questions for the owners or people directly involved in the business aspect of this. These questions involve location, type of business you do most, types of bikes you carry, types you sell most of. I also have some financial questions. If you are an owner or manager and are willing to help me please post here and I will PM or E-mail you some questions. All Questions and Answers will be kept private between you, me, and my potential partner. Not to worry, he wont be talking to people about it either.
    I have a Marketing degree, he has a Management degree, and will be getting his MBA in May. The questions we have may contain some advertising and related questions as well. We are trying to see if this will work in our area. Thanks you for your help, and if you know of another place to find info, please feel free to post it up.

    Thank you

    Matt

  2. #2
    Just Give'r!
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    matt, i'm not an owner or manager, just a lowly salesperson but i'd be happy to answer what i can about the non-financial kinda stuff (bikes we carry, typical customers, advertising, busy times, highest mark-ups on products, etc.) so feel free to drop me a line if it would be helpful.

  3. #3
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    There's really quite a bit to answer in an email. I'd be happy to talk about some of those things with you. Give me a call
    I sell bikes here. Check out the Blog here. Facebook.

  4. #4
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    Thanks for the quick responses. I was talking to my friend, and I think what we are going to do is sit down and creat a survey, if you will, so that we dont forget things.. It will have all the questions we can think of. we will then send it to people that are willing to discuss, and you can just email it back filled out. we will be working on this over the weekend.
    (Benwitt, Ill call you next week sometime) we will leave a space for other comments and suggestions too, and if you dont have an answer you can skip the qustion. We will send it in a .txt format so its easy to reply to. thanks for the help.

    Matt

  5. #5
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    I look forward to talking to you.
    I sell bikes here. Check out the Blog here. Facebook.

  6. #6
    Baron of Gray Matter
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    I think a lot of bike shop owners would say "just don't do it". It's like any other retail business, there's good and bad. My dad was a small business owner for 30+ years, so I seen some good and bad.

    If there are other bike shops in the area you need to know what brands they sell as you probably won't be selling the same bikes they do and what they concentrate on. Decide what type of shop you want to be. High end, low end, or a mix of both. Road oriented, mtn bike oriented, or a mix of both. Kid's bikes, BMX bikes, triathalon, hybrids, cyclocross are all in the mix. What about mail-order/internet sales? And remember people will buy mail-order and want you to install it, I say acccept this fact with a sermon to the customer. Big deal, you make more on labor anyway. But tell them what you could have sold it to them for, you may have been competitive (or maybe not). Most people think mail-order is cheaper, but not always since there is shipping and they may get the wrong part(s). And you might have been able to suggest something better for the same price.

    If you carry kid's bikes and low end bikes (not cheap bikes, just lower priced bikes) you probably will have a harder time with the high end stuff as you get a rep as a shop that caters to the lower end stuff. Image is every thing in retail.

    A finding a real good mechanic could be problem. Most good mechanics are not good salesmen and vise-versa. There are exceptions though. Set fair prices for mechanical work, and if your mechanics do good work, you can charge more. Low wages can save you money, but can lead to employee turnover. A good employee is worth a little more money. Keep the sales floor and shop clean and neat. Makes it easier to find things and women tend to notice a clean environment more than men do.

    Computerize your inventory and keep it updated. This way you won't tell someone you have it when you don't.

    ALWAYS greet any one who comes in the door. Sell the customer the bike they want, not what you think they need, unless you can convince them of why your choice is better. I know of a local shop that people can go in to and never be spoken to, yet they are very successful, but I don' know how, but they could be more successful by being friendly. People remember good service, but they tell others about great service and tell even more about bad service. If you have a problem with an employee, talk to them, not someone else at the shop, and hope they hear it by word of mouth (messages get changed in the telling). Keep employees informed as to what is going on, policies, pocedures and the like. Don't fight (verbal or physical) in the shop with each other (especially if customers are present), this happens.

    Will you sonsor a racing team? Road or mtn or both? Will you associate with a local club? What about discounts? We (I was a bike mech/salesman/monkey) gave a 10% discount to all military pesonnel. And what about discounts on accessories when someone buys a bike, how much? Free helments with a kid's bike if you sell kid's bikes?

    Location, location, location. But that being said, you should be somewhere where people can test ride bikes without fear of being run over by a car and maybe they can even ride in a little dirt. But this is not always possible. And have a place where people can try on clothes, preferably not the restroom, unless you keep it very clean. People really remember a clean restroom.

    Be open to road, mountain, 29er's, single speeds, cyclocross, you'll create more customers this way.

    Make it fun, when it becomes not fun for a long time, do something else.

    Good luck. Hope this helps a little.
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  7. #7
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    Great response. I have seriously thought about retail, and decided its worth a try. As far as local shops. There is one about 15-20 miles south, dealing in mostly low-mid range bikes, but they also deal Yeti, and Intense. Mojor brands are Jamis and Raliegh. To the north there is a huge specialized dealer, that also carries Haro and some others. There is also another that deals in Cannondale, but they are rude and from my talks not too customer oriented. Both those shops are at least 10-15 miles away. The specialized dealer is (ive heard) one of/or the largest in the state, so we wouldnt compete. The closest trails to the location we are looking at are about 30-45 minutes, but there are at least 3 different state parks in that distance, and within 1 hour at least 6 places to ride. The city is currently arround 75k people, but growing quickly, lots of expansion in the area.

    I dont know about interent sales. I currently work in the internet field, and know alot of people in the computer/web design/telecommunications world, so that is a possibility. As far as discounts, promotions, deals, and advertising, those will all come after we are sure what we want to focus on. It will be MTB oriented, but there is quite the road following arround here, so we will definatly do some business there.

    Mechanics: One of our buddys worked in a local shop, and both myself and my partner were considering taking some of the different bicycle institute classes so we can a) know what we are doing, b) know if the people we hire are knowledgable, and c) do the work ourselves if needed.

    Customer service: Both of us have jobs in the customer service arena, mine being in both medical and technical areas, and he is a manager at some apartments, so he deals with unhappy people all the time, and *hopefully* we have this down pretty good.

    The teams, location, and other things will be covered later. Thank you for the thoughts, opinions, and ideas.

    Matt

  8. #8
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    A couple thoughts

    When you sell a bike especialy a high end or custom build set up a data base on that
    customer and his bike .i.e an itemized component list for his or her bike or bikes and a general idea of what kind of rideing they do also what kind of cash they have to burn on there hobbie.

    Set up an order form for customer orders and use it every time include a contact phone #
    so if there is a problem you can let them know right away.or if it comes in early you can let them know.But mostly so you will not forget to order there part!!!!



    Sorry about spelling / grammer not my strong point.

  9. #9
    Just Give'r!
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    pelon- not sure if i agree with some of that. for one thing, all bike purchases should require attaining the customer's name, phone number and address. special orders as well. but documenting things like the amount of money you speculate that they have to burn is, in my opinion, crossing the line. you will, or at least your salespeople will, remember every customer that purchases a bike. i know this both from being a customer and a salesperson. i have remembered customers right away even after not seeing them for months, and when seeing them on the street. and i have been recognized from just one purchase at some very big shops by the salesperson i dealt with. don't let technology replace the basics, like developing real relationships with customers. plus, recording how much money customers have to spend is just creepy.

  10. #10
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    Yea I'll retract

    That point the cash is getting a little carried away but a data base on customer bikes and the type of rideing they do would be a good tool for showing trends and stocking your shop.
    As for the order forms I state that as personel experance with my LBS and don't get me wrong my shop and the owner and his crew are great and treat me very well but I have ordered things from them where they forgot to place or ordered incorrect or did not recieve when expected and I drove 20 miles for nothing.Again they don't require that I sign anythig or put money down and have handed me new tires , pumps and rideing aparel and said here try these and let me know what you think so a shop that should be getting 5 flameing chilis only gets 4.

  11. #11
    stay thirsty, my friends
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    I thought about it too but decided to go another route. Guess I didnt' want to take that much of a risk. Good luck to you though and let us know how it turns out.
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  12. #12
    Start slow and taper off
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    Some other thoughts

    Regarding employees: cultivate and train your employees. Treat them the way you want to be treated. I know you said it was you and a friend, plus a buddy as mechanic. If you end up with more employees, and you like them, find ways to make them want to stay, to make them feel like they own the job. A happy employee can usually mean happy customers. Often, pay scale can be lower in a bike shop than somewhere else. Get creative with scheduling (consider 4 10 or 12 hour days--many work in a bike shop to ride, and the extra day off means more riding).

    Regarding customers: besides treating them right, find ways to cultivate them. Clubs, customer appreciation night/sales, summer bike related bbq. Make them feel like you want them to come by. Go the extra distance. There are a couple of shops that have created excellent word-of-mouth via mtbr--I know myself I've shopped with them, and though they might have a slight web presence, I have no quams picking up the phone. I know a lot of others feel the same. Find a way to get people to want to shop at your shop.

    Don't sell brands--sell the shop. Its a tough thing--die harders tend to know the product and want specifics. You can getter to these but at the same time you want people to think your shops name rather than a specific bike brand. Don't get sucked into the "we're a trek shop" or "specialized shop". Sell you store first(meanin market your store--not literally "sell" the store).

    And you should track your customers sales. There are plenty of retail computer programs, including bike specific ones. Have your register hooked up to the computer and track what customers buy, how much, etc. Besides being able to monitor inventory and over time find what is selling and what isn't(sometimes you THINK something sells better or worse than it really does) you can easily track customers that spend over "X" amount of money (and these aren't always the high end clients--often family's spend more). Once or twice a year, target these customers with a little extra thank you (a note with a special sale coupon or the like). Technology can be you friend.

    Regarding mechanics as salesmen: Everyone in the shop should be able to do everything to a degree. Train your mechanics to sell and your salesmen to wrench, at least the basics. At the same point, find what people are good at and let them do it. At one shop I worked at, we'd have repairs lined up out the wazoo, and promises to customers they'd get done. But even though we knew the day would be busy, all three mechanics would end up having to spend more time with customers at the counter or selling product than being able to fix bikes, and every customer suffered. Much of this was to do with how the shop was set up, a separate sales and service buiding, but the service buiding had kids bikes and racks (and tools, of course), so a busy day meant less time fixing bikes and more time selling kids bikes. And the entire spring and summer might be busy. Then the mechanics would get reamed by the owner for being behind on bikes. So make sure mechanics CAN sell well, but try and give them the opportunity to do what they do best.

    Don't cultivate elitism. Even if you target a higher end, don't let you employees fall into the mindset that the customer is a dummy. Happens way more than you think, even at top notch shops. As someone else noted, sell the customer the bike that works for them, and you'll be more likely to have a lifelong customer.
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  13. #13
    jcw
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    Matt, feel free to send me that survey if/when you get it completed. I'm in my second year of shop ownership and will be happy to share what I've learned to date.

    Quote Originally Posted by el_chupo_
    Thanks for the quick responses. I was talking to my friend, and I think what we are going to do is sit down and creat a survey, if you will, so that we dont forget things.. It will have all the questions we can think of. we will then send it to people that are willing to discuss, and you can just email it back filled out. we will be working on this over the weekend.
    (Benwitt, Ill call you next week sometime) we will leave a space for other comments and suggestions too, and if you dont have an answer you can skip the qustion. We will send it in a .txt format so its easy to reply to. thanks for the help.

    Matt
    "The question before the human race is, whether the God of nature shall govern the world by his own laws, or whether priests and kings shall rule by fictitious miracles."
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcw
    Matt, feel free to send me that survey if/when you get it completed. I'm in my second year of shop ownership and will be happy to share what I've learned to date.
    Thank you. I should have it complete on monday or tuesday.

    Matt

  15. #15
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    a bump for more people. If you have already posted, and were interested in helping, check you PM's. If you want to help, post here or PM me your email address. thanks again

    Matt

  16. #16
    Tear it all out! SuperModerator
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    Dig through the archives here, this question comes up every couple of months.

  17. #17
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    great, ill check that.

    Matt

  18. #18
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    Bump for people to send me email addresses. Thanks again

    Matt

  19. #19
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    bumping in hope of getting some responses to the PMs I sent. Benwitt, Im still planning on calling you, having some issues and havent got to you yet.


    Thanks

    Matt

  20. #20
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    Matt, no problem. I know how it works! I hope everything is going well for you. Take care.
    Ben
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