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What will the typical LBS be like in 10 years?(12 posts)

What will the typical LBS be like in 10 years?Spoke Wrench
Feb 23, 2002 3:57 PM
2001 was a record year for bike shops going out of business. The general consensus is that few, if any, bike shop owners are getting rich.

At the high end, internet sales and mail order are taking an ever larger share of the market. Local bike shops can't compete with many mail order prices on components and with selection on things like clothing. If that wasn't difficult enough, the field isn't even level because local bike shops also have to collect local sales taxes.

The low end doesn't look very bright either. Big box stores are gradually offering better equipped bikes at lower prices and are taking a piece of what used to be LBS market. Also, for a variety of reasons, kids don't use bicycles for transportation anymore, so that market is actually shrinking somewhat.

The repair business is still going strong, but is very seasonal.

I'm wondering what people think is going to happen to today's LBS and how people think shops can best compete in today's market.
I'm guilty too...DrPete
Feb 23, 2002 10:04 PM
I have to confess- I've done my part in snubbing the LBS. I bought my bike from one, not because I was getting the best deal but because I got great service and got to tweak things around the way I wanted them. Otherwise, I do all my own mechanic work, so when it comes to buying components I have no reason to pay the LBS mark-up for components. It's a shame because the profit margins from what I hear are much better on the components.
The low-end buyer feels even less loyalty because they want the bottom line for the bike AND the parts. Granted, when Performance tells you it'll take a week and a half to get a tune up, people go to the LBS, but when it comes time to buy clothing, accessories, etc., it's back to the big chain store to save a couple bucks.
I think the answer for the LBS will be volume. Franchising and single ownership of multiple stores will build the buying power needed to compete with the big chains. And when all is said and done the mail order houses will still be cheaper, but if LBS's can bring their prices down, more people will appreciate the advice and service they provide.
Or we can just hope that bikes will go the way of the car, becoming so complex that people are scared to go under the hood. That new 14-speed XTR cassette isn't too far off in the future... :)
Service, service, service!Marlon
Feb 24, 2002 7:55 AM
One thing that big box stores and internet companies can never bring to their customers, whether they like it or not, is service: a LBS brings a personal touch, a human equation to the factor, and I think this will be key to their survival in the future. Repair and maintenance service usage will see increases if the current pace of work for your average white collar person continues, as more time will be desired to spend riding instead of maintaining.

I think I'd predict a return to the road as a trend for bikes in general, at least for the next 2-3 years before the cycle begins its downturn - mountain biking, while continuing to be popular, has hit a bit of a lull and has drifted off into too many sub-types (downhilling, freeride, XC, urban, etc.) In this sense, each individual discipline has almost become like high-end road biking: a highly technical specialty. Also, guaranteed, many of the current crop of mountain bikers will probably convert to road either for training or for riding as knees and body wear and tear begin to take their toll. LBSs will gradually shift (if they haven't already) to cruisers, hybrids, and entry-level sport road bikes - bikes that can go fast on pavement and are perfect for commuting or just riding along, and most importantly, are bikes that big-box retailers don't sell.

Got some other things to say, but gotta ride... just saw the sun outside:)
re: What will the typical LBS be like in 10 years?TJeanloz
Feb 24, 2002 12:21 PM
First of all, the going out of business statistic is skewed because the late 1990s saw a record number of new bike shops open, and the crappy ones are now closing.

That aside, here is my treatise on the bike shop:
1. The High End Market

The high end market is insignificant to most bike shops. In all of my travels, I can think of only a SMALL handful of bike shops that really do big high-end business. And most of those shops cater to people who do not care about price. The majority of shops will sell one or two Dura-Ace/Record groups per year. The middle shops (like the one that I worked at) do good business in the high-end, but the margin is so small that the high-end market accounts for a fraction of a percent of profit (and a large percentage of headaches). If Campy and Shimano announced tommorow that they were going to sell Dura-Ace, Ultegra, Chorus and Record parts directly to customers (and not through bike shops), it wouldn't materially effect most shops- except in their ability to do repairs. The sdeals.com and totalcycling.com sites are a much bigger worry for Excel and CC than they should be for the LBS.

2. The middle market.

Big box retailers have a really hard time turning $600-$1500 bikes. They just aren't going to sell them. This is a pretty sweet price range for the bike shop. Enthusiasts might buy a frame and parts from Excel or sdeals, but most people who buy bikes in this range aren't price sensitive, and aren't really knowledgeable about bikes. They NEED the retailer to tell them what they need. Bike shops will continue to hold this market pretty firmly.

3. The low end.

Low end (<$500) bikes will primarily be purchased at Wal-Mart, but they'll still be serviced at a LBS. People know that Wal-Mart isn't where you take a bike to be fixed. The bike shop is.

The problem with most people posting here is there own self-centeredness. Believe it or don't, not everybody knows as much about bikes as you all do. There are plenty of people in the world who own Record equipped bikes that don't know a chainring from a cog, and they'd rather ask their salesman at their LBS than try to figure it out on some web page. And they'd rather pay $60 for the right chainring from their LBS than $30 for the one they think is right from Excel.

Bad bike shops are an endangered species, and well they should be. Good bike shops will be around until their owner gets sick of it, and then they will close. Being in Colorado during the Internet revolution, people would constantly ask if we were going to be in business the next week. The shop had been in business for 25 years, and sales were consistently growing at 20% a year while I was there. And yet the Internet was somehow going to put us out of business. Good service, even with lousy prices, will be enough- because enough people are willing to pay for service.
re: What will the typical LBS be like in 10 years?jason in nh
Feb 24, 2002 3:29 PM
what they will be able to provide is what big box and mail order can't...personal service and just plain knowledge. I agree with this post alot....in the shop we see alot of people who bring in those 99$ bikes they just got a k-mart, but they need to have them assembled properly. When you have a k-mart worker building bikes, you have a death wish.

The lbs will still be around, but maybe not as many, maybe less but the ones that survive will be those that are those gems with great service and reasonable prices.
re: What will the typical LBS be like in 10 years?_Marty_
Feb 24, 2002 4:21 PM
then again.. why dont we _ALL_ just shop there?i mean.. i have never shopped online.. reviews.. get info.. yes.. but buy.. heck no! the owners of the shops here know me.. know that i dont shop online.. heck.. they know darn well that i go from one shop to another to get the best price.. they want my bussiness *SP?* and they gladly slash their price.. i end up [paying what it would have cost me for whatever doohickey plus shipping from any online store.. are they really the ones to blame? i cant figure out why peoples with 5 6 grand bikes cant afford to support their LBS.. I'm a college student for crying out loud! have 2 bikes.. mid end MTB.. and i dont even want to talk about my road bike.. youll all make fun of me! lol just my 2 cents :)
It's not just price, it's also availability.McAndrus
Feb 25, 2002 6:54 AM
Usually when we talk about web versus LBS buying, we talk about price. Price is often important but it's not the only issue. Availability is a big deal with me.

There have been several occasions where I want something the LBS doesn't stock. The LBS can special-order it but a) sometimes they don't want to b) their lead time is very long on special-orders or c) sometimes they just forget.

For instance, recently I wanted a 25 tooth cog for my cassette for my mountain riding. I wanted to take my business to my LBS and they said they'd be glad to order it for me. Two weeks and three phone calls later they still hadn't even ordered it. So I bought one at Branford Bike.

Is it a good LBS? Absolutely and I do business there often. I just think it was such a minor item for them they had no interest. And this is just one example.
Availability was the WHOLE issue for me...cory
Feb 25, 2002 8:29 AM
Before I bought my Atlantis from Rivendell, I tried for nearly a year to find something similar locally. There are three bike shops in town owned by knowledgeable, experienced people and one owned by a semi-knowledgeable guy with a good staff. I know the people at all the shops, have done business with them for years--and I couldn't get anybody to listen when I said "64cm, fairly relaxed geometry, room for big tires and the handlebars as high as the saddle."
Sounds like an ordinary touring bike, right? But nobody stocks anything that tall, and they'd try to fit me on a 62 (a 60, in one case), or they'd tell me I didn't need tires fatter than 25mm, and I didn't want the bars that high... It got to the point that I finally said, "It's my money and I'm willing to risk making a mistake with it. Can you get a bike or not?" They showed so little interest I finally sent my money to Riv. I still shop at all four places, but they lost a fairly big sale by not listening to the customer. And I LOVE the Atlantis.
But the Atlantis is so unique,TJeanloz
Feb 25, 2002 8:38 AM
If you'd come into my shop and asked for that, I'd have probably said: "The Specialized Sirrus is the best we can do for you, but you probably ought to look into a Rivendell."

The Atlantis is a completely unique idea- I don't know anybody else who makes a bike like it that a shop could sell.
re: What will the typical LBS be like in 10 years?hayden
Feb 25, 2002 7:15 AM
I think that soon customer service will decide where the bike shops will be. I had my last dealings with a bicycle shop owner this weekend. I went in on Saturday with a bike I'd bought off ebay. I was the only customer in the shop. I know I got an absolute steal on the bike. Rather than tell me the bike looked nice and maybe make a suggestion or two, he (bike shop owner) was pissed that I didn't buy a bike from him. He told me my group (campy chorus) was a "not bad" group. Later he shows me his bike. He to is running the chorus group...hmmmm, guess its better than "not bad". He also mumbled something about shimano while looking at my bike. The nearest shimano was 10 feet away on a trek he was selling.

The thing is, about a month ago I was going to buy a bike from him, but when I asked him about a bike that was last years model, he gave me this years price and said he couldn't come down any. Completely stuck his guns.

Now this guy has a computer system and keeps up with every purchase I have made there. He knows when he sees me that he can type in my name and see that even though I haven't purchased a bike from him, I've spent over 600 dollars in the past 3 years there. I always do my research and go in and buy. I don't take up his time and ask a bunch of questions. He has lost all sales from me in the future and has apparently lost sales from others as well. The past 3 times I have been in there, I've been the only customer. I hope other bike shop owners will read this and become more customer geared. That is the ONLY way smaller shops will survive.
I agree!!spdplayr
Feb 27, 2002 6:25 AM
Totally with thefact that customer service will tell the future of the LBS. There is a high-end bike /ski shop near me calle ERA and they love italian snooty sh!t! an that's fine because they cary some of the nicecest stuff from overseas that is great to admire and drool over. They have plenty of parts and nice apparrel and so forth. But when you go in to ask a question, browse, or for heaven's sake buy something, the owners rarely deal with you. Instead you get some overweight punk slob know-it-all treating you like yesterday's trash! God forbid you have a question before you buy or need a repair done. Yup that place is like high school prom queens--they look nice and you want them but their attitude totally turn you off. Luckily, there's another shop down the street, that is totally different. they talk to you, hang out, give you real thoughts on products, and if you can find a better deal they'll match it ( if they can). they treat you like a consumer and a friend, not like some piece of trash. i spend about $3,000 on bikes and parts a year, and ERA will never see a penny of it. They may be able to build a custom euro-dream but i would rather give my $$ to some one who cares. i used to buy online to avoid ERA thinking this was the only choice, but when I was introduced to this other shop, i haven't spenty another dime online and don't plan to. buiying online puts you out of the cycling community, it isolates you. Buying at an arrogant shitty store like ERA turns you off to the sport entirely, especially to those newbies out there that don't know they can do better. My advice, find "the other" bike shop in your area, dump the "era" shop, and you will never buy online again--what you save on one part here and there, will be made up to you through attention, service, and more than likely some other benefits along the way that will more than make up for your having saved $30 on your $3,000 rig.
slight tangentweiwentg
Mar 1, 2002 4:57 PM
>>you will never buy online again<<
maybe later, but not while I'm a college student.
the place that sponsors my college's cycling club is cool. I had to take my cane creek aeroheads in for servicing today - the mechanic was willing to true them on the spot when I asked. another guy was willing to let my friend (the mountain biker who got a TCR) try on the size M TCR in the store knowing that he wasn't going to buy it. if anyone gets the chance to go to Great Lakes cycling in Ann Arbor, MI, you'll be in pretty good hands.
but still, I am going to get most of my stuff online, and I am going to do my own maintenance where possible. can't afford to patronize the LBS TOO much. I certainly am impressed with them.