State of Retail: How did you differentiate your store and what are your best business practices?
A version of this feature was published in the July 2021 issue of BRAIN.
BOULDER, Colorado (BRAIN) – For our July edition of the magazine, we asked our State of Retail panel members: How did you differentiate your store and what are your best business practices?
KANSAS CITY, Missouri: Christina Baanders-Decker, Owner Midwest Cyclery
Honestly, it doesn’t matter what brand of bike you sell. It’s about providing personalized service and creating a personal connection with above-average care. We provide personalized, friendly and non-judgmental service. Our team welcomes customers with a sincere desire to help them find the right bike for the ride they are about to do. We interview with simple questions and offer useful information on the different styles of bikes. We also all ride and love the lines we sell, and our customers can see and talk to the owner. I am on the sales floor and I assist each client with the same respect.
A best practice that I wish I had learned earlier is how to say the word “no” without the word “but” following it. Saying no and holding on is important; if not, I have learned that a brand or sales rep can intimidate you into stocking their product.
SYOSSET, NY: Howard Chung, Co-Owner of The Bicycle Planet
In times of COVID, our main differentiation is unfortunately very simple: we have products available. Our larger than average space allows us to hold more inventory and we manage our cash flow so that we can engage in large purchases. Due to back orders we placed last year, we have a fairly large inventory of bikes and parts. The breadth and depth of our inventory is a hallmark of our store.
My team always strives to be the best, especially mechanically. Our goal is to do good for the client, and that means making the best recommendations that fit their budget. Sometimes it comes at a financial cost to the business, but it’s good for the customer.
Some lessons I’ve learned: You can’t win all sales and you can’t please everyone all the time, especially during COVID. Over the past year, we’ve had to say no to major overhauls and tune-ups and yes to endless tube and tire repairs. It was not a popular decision, but it was the right one. I have learned over the years to listen to other opinions but to make my own decisions. Ultimately, as a homeowner, I’d rather make my own mistakes than someone else’s.
HOOD RIVER, Ore: Jodie Gates, Oregon E-Bike Co-Owner
Many of our customers haven’t ridden a bike in years or are venturing into the unknown with e-bikes, and it can be intimidating. We meet them wherever they are in the process and make them comfortable in the store and on a bike. Keeping the atmosphere light and friendly is a must. We love to laugh. Maintaining a fun, empathetic, and customer-focused store environment is key to building our community. We offer multiple channels of communication for customers to contact us and try to be as accessible as possible. From the first interaction to the after-purchase, eliminating as many barriers as possible for communication and logistics is our goal.
My personal “good practice” is to listen to your clients and your team, and to be generous whenever I can. Investing in your own team will pay off later. And: Smile while you answer the phone!
JOHN’S CREEK, GA: Brent Noisette, owner of Twisted Spokes bikes
We treat everyone well, whether they buy parts or accessories, a $ 500 bike or a bike that costs several thousand dollars. Our customers say our level of service is what sets us apart. We strive to make customer service the # 1 priority. I’m also a firm believer in not selling products that I don’t believe in. It is our reputation at stake for the products we sell and the service we provide. The main good practice I use is to be honest with my customers and treat them well, even if they have a department store bike. If you treat people well, they will continue to support you. One lesson I wish I had learned earlier in life is better stress management. I closed an auto shop I owned because I didn’t know how to effectively deal with the stress of owning a business.
SUMMERVILLE, SC: Michael Haldeman, Owner SpokeWorks Bicycle Workshop
It is imperative for us to provide the best service and to ensure that the customer feels informed, but not looked down upon, regarding a repair product or service. We often receive compliments that we are warm and friendly and serve as a resource for customers even after purchase. I think this approach is not only welcome, but necessary to help the cycling industry continue to attract new customers and longtime riders. We also offer an exclusive locally roasted coffee and six locally brewed craft beers. It’s not a huge revenue generator, but it improves the culture of the store. Customers feel a little more at home when working with us and a little more welcome when they return from a trip to the store.
One of our best practices is to under-promise and over-deliver, and this is especially critical during COVID. Emphasizing that ETAs and product / part availability are fluid and can change at any time is certainly essential to providing excellent customer service.
BENTONVILLE, Ark. : Shawna Macan, Mojo Cycling Manager
Some of my best practices are to identify my own strengths and weaknesses and surround myself with a good team accordingly. Also: Know your market and your competition, and reward your team and include them in decision making.
We set our store apart by researching and testing the products we carry to make sure they are the best brands available. They must meet our standards and be useful to our customers by giving them value and options. No brand tells us what we can or cannot transport. We have enough options for the customer to come in and make an informed decision to get exactly what they want, which outperforms online shopping on any day. We also love the color options for bike parts and accessories to make the bikes shine. Our knowledgeable and inclusive staff make everyone feel welcome. We take the time to make sure our customers know where to ride in town, what tires to ride, where to eat and any other questions they may have.
MEMPHIS, Tennessee: Karen Malogorski, Co-Owner Bikes Plus Inc.
Bikes Plus is a full-service, family-owned store offering quality brands and quality service in three strategically placed locations in our market. We are a family-run, customer-focused business. We consistently deliver an exceptional customer experience, offering respect, enthusiasm and expertise to all. We take a team approach to interacting with our customers. It is common for each client to work with all of the staff working that day. Our long and constant history of involvement with the local cycling community brings new and existing customers to our doors.
Some of our best practices are to never stop learning how to ensure financial security by making good business decisions, and to partner with brands that match our beliefs. We build relationships inside and outside our market to learn and continue to improve best practices.
CLAREMONT, California: Dale Mattson, owner of the Velo
As a small used bike shop, I offer quality, fully rebuilt second hand bikes at half the retail price. Our tune-up and repair service is renowned for its excellent value for money. For example, all bikes over $ 250 come with free service and other perks. Some of the best practices I’ve learned are buying used bikes for cash, including a free U-lock, anti-theft registration, and free lifetime service for every bike sale over. $ 250, and donate children’s bikes. I help clients in need. If a rider shows up in need of a repair or a flat repair and has no money, I will do the repair anyway. They always come back to pay, and usually bring cookies. I think every store owner should put a “Cash for Bikes” sign in their window and be picky about what they buy. Encourage customers to donate children’s bikes to you, so you can return them to the community. And be nice to everyone (within reason).
WHEATON, Illinois: Muneer Radi, Managing Director, Spokes
Our shop offers a unique mix of everyday bikes and high-end “bike culture” bikes. We organize group road, gravel and mountain bike tours, and there is an inventory in stock. Our staff ride all styles of bikes and have the ability to advise any type of client. Our best practices are to use the products we sell, encourage our staff to ride, take pride in what we do, treat the newbie with respect, and charge what we are worth. We have seasoned technicians and sales staff who know every riding discipline, whatever it is, for our passionate customers. Our recreational sales staff really want to get people into the sport. They are great at guiding the customer to the best product for the customer, not for themselves. Smile! We sell freedom and fitness!