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O.K., I admit it, I own an LBS...(49 posts)

O.K., I admit it, I own an LBS...Marketing Dept
Sep 24, 2003 11:44 AM
and I have found the posts regarding the pro's and con's to be EXTREMELY helpful.

So, I am coming to you with my suggestion box open wide. What can my shop do to:

1. Raise cycling awareness/image

2. Benefit the community

3. And beleive it or not, I do need to make a living, but not a rich one, just enough to support my family. How can I accomplish #1 and #2 and still remain in business?

How about adding off season spin classes. I have room for about 10 bikes. Or should I supply only the trainers and make it a BYOB(ike) affair?

I do what I can to match prices when asked. But like the rest of the working world, my time and expertise is worth something.

What about fitness assessment. Would you be willing to pay for that type of service?

What ideas do you have??
How about this...Greg B
Sep 24, 2003 12:13 PM
1. Stay open on SUNDAYS...most of your customers work all week. (Close on Wednesday)
2. Furnish your shop for casual comfort and invite your customers to hang-out on the couch(es) and read the cycling mags and have a drink, etc.-Make your shop a DESTINATION for group rides. Think about the SOCIAL aspect of riding.
3. Stock as much unobtanium as you can afford so as to provide customers the opportunity to make spontaneous emotional purchases. Most shops really don't have crap.
4. Create a big bulletin board for notices, fliers, used stuff for sale, etc.

Just a few thoughts.

Greg
How about this...Fatnslow
Sep 24, 2003 12:22 PM
I second the "hangout" aspect, but make sure you keep the small, expensive stuff locked up. When there are lots of people "hanging around" stuff tends to walk out.

Also, go easy with the "unobtanium" Don't keep more than one...say...Campy record gruppo on hand because 1. easier to inventory and 2. it may take a while to sell. Unobtanium is a nice conversation starter, but not an impulse sale. People have to save up for that kind of stuff.

Also, don't give out deep discounts on bikes only to bend us over for parts later. I know that parts is where the LBS makes a good portion of its money, but, as I stated in an earlier thread, I'm willing to pay more at the LBS, but maybe twenty dollars more, not fifty.
My $0.02Zman
Sep 24, 2003 12:17 PM
I believe that a bike shop should be much more than just a place to buy bikes and parts, that can be done anywhere.

I want a place that welcomes me when I come in and treats me like a special person (not that kind). I should be able to come in and just talk once in a while without feeling the pressure to buy something.

When I need parts, I need them, and I expect the shop to support me. If I have a race on Saturday and my bike needs repairs on Thursday I expect special treatment and my bike to be fixed, no 2 week waiting period, no questions.

I am willing to pay for this feature, but it must happen. I need a owner to be flexible and work with me.

If I feel good about the shop, if they sell the bikes and parts that I want, and if they work with me on the bigger ticket items, that is all I can ask and I will support that shop.

I do not draw the line at the all mighty dollar, I want "customer satisfaction".

Oh yea, I found a shop that fits the bill. Will they beat Performance or Colorado Cyclist on all pricing situations, no, but I get what I want when I need it and a smile to go. I get many little things for free, service, advice, knowledge.

Z
re: O.K., I admit it, I own an LBS...ONCE in a life time
Sep 24, 2003 12:18 PM
How about helping out a college or high school clubs and teams ?

A shop here and giant bicycle helped out my high school club, in return they get free advertising from buncha high school kids and there business.

Im in college now but i still use that lbs since they kindly donated there time to us in past (and still do).
OK, I'll bitePaulCL
Sep 24, 2003 12:19 PM
How about what I look for in a LBS? Plus ideas.

I would like my LBS(s) to:

....sponsor group rides. No freebies, just advertise in-shop
....give me good service, good wrenches, without exhorbitant prices
....be straight forward with me about prices. I know you can't match the online companies, but do your best.
....be involved in the community. Be a face at club rides, organized centures, etc...a benefit for your business.
....try to have my bike finished when you promise. This problem has driven me from two shops who promise one day, have me come over, only to turn me away for several days later.

Spinning classes?? Good idea. Supply the trainers, we'll supply the bikes.
When asked to match a price, don't just say "no" in a huff, explain you can't match online prices then tout your service.
Fitness assessment?? I'd be afraid of how bad my fitness really it!!
re: O.K., I admit it, spend $$$ at an LBS...ms
Sep 24, 2003 12:24 PM
Most of my cycling dollars go to my LBS. Here are some things that my LBS does or has done to win my loyalty:

1. Service, Service, Service. Face it: if I just wanted things, I could shop online and get them cheaper. An LBS has only one advantage over online sales, service. There are many facets to the service angle:

a. Have good workers, even if you have to pay a little more than your competitors. One of the things that I appreciate about my LBS is that service and customer relations are good even when the owner is not in the shop. If you cannot be in your shop for every minute that it is open you need to make sure that someone is at the shop that will treat customers as well as you do.

b. Keep good customers happy. I try to schedule work on my bike for down times and be considerate of the LBS workload. But sometimes things happen and you need something NOW. I once had a problem with my bike the day before I was to leave on vacation (which also was a crunch time at the LBS). The owner and a mechanic stayed after normal working hours to get my bike ready for the trip. You don't forget things like that.

2. Off season spin class is a good idea. The off season spin class that my LBS began two years ago has become my summer riding group. The LBS is our meeting point and place where we swap messages. At our spin class, we bring both our own bikes and our own trainers/rollers.

3. Start a tape/DVD/book lending library. My LBS has a fair number of tapes, DVD/s and books that customers can borrow (there is supposed to be a nominal fee, but the "regulars" don't pay). You are supposed to keep a tape or DVD only for a few days. Thus, if you want to keep borrowing tapes for winter workouts on the trainer at home, you have to make visits to the shop. A visit to the shop usually means spending some $$.

4. Treat spouses/significant others/children well. My LBS is in the same strip shopping center in which we do our grocery shopping and where the local pizza place, Starbucks and ice cream place are located and across the street from my one of my daughter's school. My wife and kids are at the shopping center almost every day for some reason. The guys at the LBS have treated them well when they have been in the shop (usually to buy some Clif Bars, or just to see if I am hanging around). My wife may complain sometimes that I spend too much on my bike. But, she would be p!ssed if I were spending the money someplace where she did not feel welcome.
re: O.K., I admit it, I own an LBS...bimini
Sep 24, 2003 12:26 PM
1. Supporting the local bike clubs. 10% member discounts, allowing club flyers, a few sponsership $s, etc does get you some membership loyalty to the shop.

2. Helping out with bicycling related fundraisers / rides, being active in supporting trails, etc.

3. That's the tough one in this age of mail order, internet, megastores. I remember buying my first road bike from the little shop down the street way too many years ago as a kid. I spent all my paper route money on the bike and the owner took great care of me. I'm sure those days are gone, but, if you can get that level of service into your business I am certain it would get you some loyalty even in this age.

To compete in any business today you need to be able to have a niche or service the mega stores can't supply or a market niche that is not covered. You can't compete head to head with the big guys with on price or inventory. You need to find a service or specialize in a small segment of the market. You need to look at what is available in your area and what is needed. Ask the local bike clubs what is missing in the local bike stores. This board may have some good ideas but you have to look closely at your local market.

Around here if I ask for a campy part they go find "Joe" in the back and he comes out and tells me we can order than for you. I say, "Let me look around some more" and then order the part off the internet for a lot less. If they had the parts in stock I would pay extra, but if it needs to be ordered I can do that and save the money. Finding a good Campy wrench around here is also a problem. Only one guy in the whole area that really knows his stuff (but the shop doesn't stock much in the way of parts) So around here a shop that has a good stock of campy stuff and a good Campy wrench could fill a hole.

If you are in a big metro area you need to be the best there is in the area for the market segment you want to cover. Racing, MTB, touring, cuisers, etc. Pick one to be the best in. (Best = Bikes, parts, assesories, knowledge, service). The megastores and mail orders will always beat you if you try to cover all the bases.

If your in a smaller area then a wide range of products with good service makes sense. You need to go for the market that wants something better that what Walmart is offering.

Spinning and Exercise classes I'm not sure if those would fly around here.
social aspect is huge...funknuggets
Sep 24, 2003 12:45 PM
for some reason, it seems that some people dont have anything to do. There are "regulars" at the LBS I go to that I swear are just in there hanging around every single time I go. Not that you should cater to those types, but there are at minimum two rides that start and finish there. Often they cookout, or have a few assorted beverages afterwards. For whatever reason, that kind of stuff brings loyalty. Then yes, support a team, but don't lose your butt on discount either. Sponsor at least one race, and help host events (such as MS 150 training rides), or host a charity ride. Then, I hate to say this, but can you be something to everyone??? Are you going to cater to bmx, mtn, road, cruisers, etc??? That can make a difference in attaining a specific clientel. Its hard for a hardcore roadie regular to get excited watching you work on a pink barbie bike...

so sayeth the funk.

Chris

All in all, what do you want your shop to be?
respect of and honesty with customers, andJS Haiku Shop
Sep 24, 2003 12:35 PM
a genuine interest in the community, cycling and otherwise.

and everything that PaulCL said.

and most of what Z said. there's a local shop where i'm made to feel comfortable, and special, and there's no pressure. aside from big stuff, they get my money for any tools, parts, or service. i have alot of exposure in the local cycling community, so things work both ways. i feel it's not a back-scratching thing, but more mutual respect.

there's nothing worse than dishonest shop owner or employee. i've never bought a bike in-shop without that slimy feeling of buying a car in a dealership with clowns & balloons and "free" hot dogs & soda.

gary hobbs gets my big-ticket business because his prices are good, his work is good, he does what he says when he says it'll be done, and he's honest and trustworthy after the sale--i feel like he's trying to keep me on the road *and* retain my business, not screw me for 20%.

most imporatntly, mutual honesty and respect are the cornerstones of a good shop. build honest relationships with customers and support the community, and you will have a fiercely loyal, ever-growing customer base.

fwiw.
re: O.K., I admit it, I own an LBS...mohair_chair
Sep 24, 2003 12:42 PM
I rarely want to hang out at the shop. I'd rather hang out with my friends, either riding bikes or anything but.

I rarely want what some people deem "service." I almost always know what I want, and if I have any questions, I'll ask. Otherwise, let me shop in peace.

I don't care about support of the community, local racing, blah blah blah.

I don't want to be a "friend of the shop."

In an ideal world, I'd never have to come in your or anyone else's shop. In a perfect world there would be no reason for you to exist, because bikes would never break and parts would never wear out.

So, what I want from an LBS is quite simple: reasonable prices, competant work, and quick turnaround on repairs. Do those three things and you'll have a successful shop, and none of the other "feel good" stuff will matter.
This is a Joke, right??? nmGreg B
Sep 24, 2003 12:47 PM
why would you say that? nmmohair_chair
Sep 24, 2003 12:56 PM
wow, forrest grump....sheeshfunknuggets
Sep 24, 2003 12:54 PM
Some people meet friends through riding and sometimes shops sponsor rides where people meet for the social aspect. These may be hard rides, these may be slow rides, but remember different people cycle for different reasons...

I think he is trying to ask how to build a positive image to his business and for cycling, and image is built several ways.

One, by doing the things you suggested, and two, by selling and reselling into a loyal customer base of satisfied riders who tell their friends who tell their friends. And if the prices, work, and turnaround you mentioned are not there... he will not be in business long anyway, cause the core group will stop coming back.

so sayeth the funk
Chris
I represent most customersmohair_chair
Sep 24, 2003 1:11 PM
I don't hang out at the car dealership where I bought my car, even though they have couches and donuts and TVs and the latest in cars. I don't know anyone who does. But lots of people want to hang out at the bike shop.

At my LBS, they know me, they know my bikes, they know my name, and they are basically cool guys. I talk to them and "hang out" in a sense whenever I go in. But the LBS is not a destination for me. I'm there to conduct business and when I'm done, I leave.

Call me grumpy if you like, but I think I am more representative of the average LBS customer base than anyone else who has responded. Most people don't care about all the great stuff a shop does--they just want the best deal for their money. That's why shops exist, not for social reasons.
I'm with mohair..MrDan
Sep 24, 2003 3:43 PM
You have to remember that his board DOES NOT mirror the full cross section of your business.

1) Stock stuff at somewhat reasonable prices
2) Get better than average help/wrenches - they'll get it
done faster and right
3) Never B.S. anyone - play it straight - read your customer
the guy who is all hyped-out on Ti frame and trick wheels - he won't believe its not about the bike - and it's
not in your interest to convince him otherwise...
on the other hand... those of us who have been around - don't ever try to B.S. us - WORSE than a used car salesman... (apologies to any used car salesman here...!)
4) It's Quality, service and price ... a hard road for a LBS - I;d just never run that kind of business - too many hassles! Hats off to you!

-D
Somebody's a little anti-social here...Ignore him n/mGiant_Tom
Sep 25, 2003 1:02 AM
We've seen your type before...biknben
Sep 25, 2003 5:46 AM
You sound like the guy who walked into a store with a flat tire insisting the tire/tube was defective and demanded a new set. When he didn't get it, he stormed out screaming that he would never return.

The LBSs will gladly give you a Performance catalog and offer you the best of luck.
nice to see different opinions are allowed heremohair_chair
Sep 25, 2003 6:10 AM
Sorry to burst your rather large bubble, but you're an a--hole if you think you know anything about me. Frankly, you're an a--hole just for posting that idiotic crap. But I guess it makes you feel good about yourself and superior to us all, so keep up the good work.
All we know about you is what you tell us...biknben
Sep 25, 2003 7:10 AM
Let's see, you said earlier,
"I rarely want what some people deem "service." I almost always know what I want, and if I have any questions, I'll ask. Otherwise, let me shop in peace.

I don't care about support of the community, local racing, blah blah blah.

I don't want to be a "friend of the shop."

In an ideal world, I'd never have to come in your or anyone else's shop. In a perfect world there would be no reason for you to exist, because bikes would never break and parts would never wear out."
---------------------

So, by your own account, you enter the shop annoyed that you have to be there in the first place. You already know more than the wrenches. You don't talk and want to be left alone. You want repairs done ASAP and you want rock bottom prices on everything. That sounds like a LBSs worst nightmare.

Now you splatter obsenities to those on-line who have differing opinions. You're right, I don't know you. Your words paint a "lovely" picture. Have fun riding by yourself!!!
classicmohair_chair
Sep 25, 2003 7:48 AM
You are the classic fool who sees what he wants to see, hears what he wants to hear, and isn't smart enough to know the difference. My post preached pragmatism that no one else here seems to think is important.

If you read my post with any comprehension, you'd remember the important part, which was:

what I want from an LBS is quite simple: reasonable prices, competant work, and quick turnaround on repairs

Now, if your understanding of my post is that I enter the shop annoyed, that I know more than the wrenches, that I don't talk and want to be left alone, that I want repairs done ASAP and I want rock bottom prices on everything, well then you are an idiot, because I said or implied nothing of the sort.

Enter the shop annoyed? What an idiotic thing to say. I go to the LBS when I want to buy a bike or something bike-related, or when my bike needs maintenance. I can think of no other reason to make a trip down to the bike shop. You, on the other hand, apparently go down to the LBS simply because you are lonely. Find some friends.

Do I know more than the wrenches? I never said that, and I don't believe it is generally true. However, when I go to buy a big-ticket item at any store, I usually have done research ahead of time and pretty much know what I want. Therefore, I don't like salesmen hovering around me.

I want repairs done ASAP? I want rock bottom prices? Well, who doesn't??? But that's not even close to what I said, and you know it. I'll repeat: what I want from an LBS is quite simple: reasonable prices, competant work, and quick turnaround on repairs. Is there anyone who can argue with that? Apparently you can.

I'm every LBS's worst nightmare? Quite the opposite. I'm their wet dream. I come in, I know what I want, I don't get in the way, I don't bother anyone, I pay my money and I let them get back to their work. Next time your LBS says a repair will take two days, ask yourself if you and all the other people hanging around the shop weren't there, would it only take one?
Think about this.DustBowl
Sep 24, 2003 12:56 PM
I moved to a new city last year. Of course the first thing I wanted to do was get out on the new roads. I looked in the local cycling bullitin and found out that there were group rides on Sunday morning out of a local shop. I went on that ride my first weekend in town. After getting back from the ride, I took a look inside the shop. The staff was willing to talk to me about other places to ride in the locale. Since my initial experience with them was good and I was allready visiting them weekly for the ride, I have had no need to go to any other shop in the last 13 months. If they did not have that group ride I likely never would have visited them. Suddenly it makes sense why the owner of the first shop I ever worked in showed up every Sunday morning to lead a group ride.
A Biker's wet dream...eschelon
Sep 24, 2003 1:05 PM
As far as price goes...make it fair. But most of all...make service and quality of employees paramount. Have cool stuff in your shop...I love just visiting the shop to look at the cool bikes...none of that sub $1000 bikes...I just love coming into my favorite shop to look at them...and as a consequence of stepping into the shop, I will always just out of impulse buy something...anything. There is no way, I will ever want to goto some shop that doesn't have anything that I wouldn't look at over and over again in a bike magazine.

Second: like some of the other guys said...MAKE IT A HANG OUT DESTINATION...the whole couch/hangout place is too cool...have bike videos or races playing on the television...and as an added bonus, offer for sale refreshments and some convenient snacks...Get OLN!...I would definitely call up my friends and get together after work at your place and watch a bike race among people who get excited about watching bike races.

And the whole spin class thing is an awesome idea! BYOB...baby! Be like Borders Books...just because you are a bike shop doesn't mean you have to only sell bikes and the like...make it a hang out destination!
Get a good espresso machine.orange_julius
Sep 24, 2003 1:08 PM
You can charge, but get a good super-auto espresso
machine and open on Sundays (close on some other weekday).
Learn from the bookstores like Borders or B&N.
Having some reading / watching material would be
good too.
Employeesfiltersweep
Sep 24, 2003 1:09 PM
1. Remind your employees to have a welcoming attitude toward everyone- when we were shopping for a bike for my wife, I encountered all sorts of bizarre attitude from shop employees. Some shops REALLY rubbed her the wrong way- like the salesperson only talking to ME when SHE was doing the shopping, or just the complete and utter crap coming out of some of these guys' mouths (sure, my wife may be a newbie, but I'm not).
Totally Agree!BigFatSal
Sep 24, 2003 6:50 PM
I took my girlfriend out to get her first bike a couple months ago. Even though we spent $800 on this bike (a decent C'dale), all I got was a snobby attitude, not even a thank you. Can you believe this??? Geez, sorry we only spent $800 in your shop!!!! And, the strange thing is, these guys knew that I was also thinking about dropping about 4 grand on a new ride. So, did I buy the expensive rig there? No way. Went elsewhere because of how we were treated with the measly $800 purchase.... This really rubs me the wrong way so I had to vent. And I went out of my way to spend the money at this shop because I thought they seemed like good guys and specifically wanted to support them.... Oh well, not any more.
trying to be everything can be a mistakeColnagoFE
Sep 24, 2003 1:24 PM
Who is your main clientele? Do you have a thriving road racing community where lots of people are more than willing to spend thousands on bike gizmos or are you in some podunk town where you are competing with Walmart and are more likely to sell comfort bikes to fat out of shape people and BMX to the kiddies? I live in Boulder, CO and have probably bought something in nearly every decent and not so decent LBS in town at one time or another. I don't just shop at one usually but pick them for what they are good at. One shop I buy from because they have a good cruiser bike collection. Another because they have such good service and have a huge inventory of quality kids bikes and accesories. Another because it specilizes in service and knows wheelbuilding and Campy inside and out. I shop Excel for hard to find parts because they almost always have what I need in stock. And finally the local Performance because they can't be beat on price on stuff like tubes, tires, lights, etc. If I can't find it in town I have no problem ordering off the web. So basically I think you have to decide what you want to become, but be realistic about it if your client base isn't going to be big enough to support you.
re: O.K., I admit it, I own an LBS...Stockli Boy
Sep 24, 2003 2:00 PM
All of the above are great suggestions, and I want to add:

1. DEFINITELY make it a hang-out. My LBS has a core group of people who hang out, make the place seem friendly and inviting, and spend a lot of money. We're in a heavy tourist area, so when they come into the shop, they immediately feel the 'localness' of the shop. It's interesting how having people hanging out makes the place more inviting. The only problem is, no one likes the owner, so when he shows up, his core clientele leave. In spite of this, they are usually backed up 1-2 weeks for repairs.

2. Have some high-zoot stuff, but for the quality stuff people want, make sure you have enough inventory. Sometimes the LBS does not have the part I need, so I end up having to order, sometimes online.

3. Have a used parts area. A shop in Portland, OR has a 12'x 12 room FULL of God-only-knows-what, neatly sorted into bins, so when you need a Sturmey-Archer hub or French threaded cottered bottom bracket for that townie project, you can find it. I used to bring in parts to trade, and I never saw the room unoccupied. Plus, it gives you a chance to sell the stuff you just took off some other bike.

4. Friendly atmosphere, good products, and fair (not give-away or schtupping) prices and people will shop at your place instead of online.

Good luck.
please be professional...FTMD
Sep 24, 2003 2:01 PM
True story.

GF buys road bike one month before we meet. We meet, things are great. Shop owner calls her and says your stem's been recalled, please bring bike in for me to inspect. She drags it in and leaves it there for one week waiting to hear back. All the while I think this is fishy. She gets a call to come pick up your bike, it's ready. She gets there and "oh, by the way, there was no recall, I just needed an excuse to get you in here so that I could ask you out, want to go for dinner sometime?."

That's 2 trips to the shop and one week w/o the bike folks, so this dude could ask her out.

I'm comfortable in the relationship, so I'm not bothered in that regard, but this was shockingly unprofessional and trust me, they are losing business over this one. I guess the moral of the story in more general terms, treat women as seriously as you do men.

Everyone else's suggestions are great, btw.
LOL! that takes some real ballz to try and pull off!ColnagoFE
Sep 24, 2003 2:15 PM
So he actually admitted to her that it was a scam to get a date? Or was he found out later? Is the dating scene really that cutthroat these days?
LOL! that takes some real ballz to try and pull off!FTMD
Sep 25, 2003 8:42 AM
Yes, he admitted to her that it was all a scam as he was asking her out. Don't know if that's cutthroat out there or not. His co-owners were there and were all in on it too and thought it was hilarious. She didn't.
re: O.K., I admit it, I own an LBS...My Dog Wally
Sep 24, 2003 2:24 PM
Forgive me if someone else has already mentioned this, but I haven't read all the posts. I used to be a wine retailer. My business did okay, but I wanted bigger things -- although I didn't have much of an ad budget. So I decided to make better use of my customer database. What I started doing was capturing the email address of every single person who walked through the front door. Once I'd built up the list to about 50 names, I started sending out a weekly e-letter.

The key to communicating with people is NOT to send them a bunch of advertising, otherwise they just feel like they're getting spammed. What you want to do is focus the e-letter on information your customers will find valuable. Include a section on how to make a simple repair. Another section can include some cycling trivia. And another can be a quiz, with the first person sending you the right answer getting a 10% discount (or whatever's comfortable for you) on an item. Once you've given people some value in the e-letter, you can close it with some sale items.

If you do this right -- by that, I mean if the writing is personal and entertaining -- you'll increase store traffic and sales exponentially. I found that people enjoyed my e-letters so much, they forwarded them on to friends, who then became my customers. My business doubled sales in one year as a result, at absolutely no out-of-pocket expense to me.

Give it a try. But make sure the writing's good.

- Dennis
re: O.K., I admit it, I own an LBS...Spoiler
Sep 24, 2003 2:26 PM
Make life easy on the employees. I worked at an upstart shop. I had to supply my own cable cutters. I had to bring in my own grease. Nothing is worse than not having the right tools, or only having one of the right tools.

Make the spin classes BYOB. Lots of people are very fussy about their setup. You'd probably waste 1/2 hour of class time with some people fine-tuning another bike to fit them.

Hook up with a local coach and have him provide in-shop fitness assessments, possibly with a discount price for customers who purchase of a new bike.

One question. Why are special orders screwed up most of the time? I live in Tucson. There are tons of shops. In most of them, special ordering somehting is a nightmare. They either don't want to make the effort in the first place, don't know how to find the item, forget to even order the item, lose the item when it comes in, or order the wrong item. If one LBS stood out, and showed they prided themselves on accurately fillng special orders, they'd get a lot of return business.
A slightly different suggestion...Matno
Sep 24, 2003 3:25 PM
This is what one of my buddies (LBS manager) does that seems to work quite well. Together with another of my riding buddies, who is a physical therapist, he organizes a yearly 3-4 day bike trip for a group of physicians. (They mountain bike the White Rim trail, but you could just as easily do a group road trip). The physical therapist benefits by getting to know many of the doctors in the area (i.e. so they'll send him referrals) and in turn, he brings them all to the bike shop to buy new bikes. It works incredibly well for all involved. Recently, one of the doctors was in the shop to get a new tube and before he left he wrote a check for a brand new Cannondale Scalpel 3000! (They didn't even have one in his size, he just decided he wanted one on the spur of the moment!)

This idea mostly only raises awareness among a specific group of people, but you could expand on it... Just a thought.
A slightly different suggestion...Bill B
Sep 24, 2003 4:21 PM
About a month ago I printed up 50 business cards with my shops address on it with "Bring this card for a FREE tube" I then gave them to customers buying tubes and had them number them and put their name in a log with that number. Then I told them that if they gave that card and a tube to somebody on the road with a flat that I would give both of them a free tube. Most of them bought another tube right then "just in case" word got around and I have gotten great buzz from it and acouple of new customers who came in because they thought it was such a cool way to treat people.
re: O.K., I admit it, I own an LBS...gtx
Sep 24, 2003 3:59 PM
I worked in six shops from the mid 80s to mid 90s. Here are a few random thoughts in no particular order

1. Hire only the best and most enthusiastic people and pay them fairly so they have a good attitude.
2. Make sure all your wrenches are top notch.
3. Consider an employee profit sharing plan (NOT commission).
4. Make sure the shop is CLEAN.
5. Get rid of all the crummy stuff that has been lying around for years not selling. Blow it out. Donate it, whatever. Don't let it clutter up your shop.
6. Have a good supply of small parts. If you can always be counted on to have or at least get that small weird part chances are you'll get more business.
7. All bikes taken in for service should leave spotless, even if it's just a flat repair. Takes very little effort and makes a HUGE impression on customers.
8. Have a weekly or bi-monthly meeting with your staff. Make sure they are able to communicate with you openly and make suggestions.
9. Work in the shop yourself.
10. Spin classes are corny IMO. Instead maybe do a repair or wheelbuilding clinic or get someone to do a cyclocross demo or something like that.
11. A good buyer and a good service manager can make or break a shop.
12. Don't cut everyone's hours in the winter. Put them to work making the shop better.
13. Make the shop look cool, appealing, etc. It should be easy to walk around the shop without tripping over bikes or getting snagged on jerseys.
14. Know your customers. Keep it simple. Be friendly and competent.
disagree about the classesCritLover
Sep 24, 2003 5:36 PM
Spin classes are a good way to bring your customers together. I attended a weekly spin class using Spinerval tapes, mixed with a new tape that someone would bring in. Usually there were 10-15 people there and I saw purchases around the class time almost weekly.

There are 2 tv's in the store and we all found room to squish in around them. It was really great, except that right after they'd lock up and there was little time to socialize. But then again I guess the feeling of standing around in puddles of sweat is fairly nasty.

The library idea is also great. I would pay for that, not tom mention stopping by much more frequently.

Good luck!
I like the classes idea, but here are some additions:sn69
Sep 24, 2003 8:27 PM
1. Make sure your employees are familiar with the QPB catalog and offer it as a reference for a wide variety of parts and components.
2. Make sure your employees realize that the bike buying process is quite involved and not a quick sale. Proper fit education is a must, and if it's financially feasible, I'd recommend at least one person go through the Serotta course and another go through Dan Empfield's FIST certification (if you're going to do any tri stuff). Make sure that everyone is conversant in bike fit theory, including frame size, stem length/rise, saddle position, tire selection, bar reach, trail, etc. Finally, make sure that knowledge is passed along to customers who buy from you and express an interest in knowing the "why's" and "how's" of good bike fit. That's a sure way to bring 'em back.
3. Totally agree with the clean bike theory. Any service should include a chain/casette cleaning. Make it presentable.
4. I also agree with the espresso/coffee/juice/water idea. When somebody comes in to buy a bike or a wheelset, they typically want the shop to make them feel welcome. If I come in to buy a bike, I want you to take an interest in me, my fitness, my riding desires, etc, and a down-home welcoming atmosphere will do wonders to facilitate that. It'll also keep people coming back for other "non-capital" items like clothes, tires, etc.
5. Take a high/low mix. I don't agree that you should avoid low-end bikes. 'Dale, Fuji, Giant and several others make great price point bikes. Still, a nice balance of high-end frames/bikes is nice too. Don't focus too much on mountain versus road. Be equally conversant. It's important.
6. Depending on where you are, don't forget the triathlon crowd. I'm one of those too, and I can assure you that they spend money like it's going out of style. BUT, they have some special needs, particularly relating to fit and aerodynamics.
7. Be able to recommend other LBSes in the area who carry other comparable brands. The concept of mutual respect is rare these days, and while I might buy the other component elsewhere, I'll certainly return to the first location for service out of sheer respect for their honesty.
8. Be friendly and honest. I'm willing to consider end-of-year stock that needs to be cleared from the showroom floor, but not at the expense of fit.
9. Make it a fun place. Here in San Diego, Nytro is a total drag--they take themselves way too seriously (and I'm a long-time customer). B & L, however, is a great shop that is brightly lit, has a fun atmosphere with friendly employees and the wrenches work in the open, chatting with customers.

Thanks for listening. If you're in the SoCal area, let us know. I'd love to swing by.

Scott
re: O.K., I admit it, I own an LBS...CFBlue
Sep 25, 2003 5:19 AM
All bikes taken in for service should leave spotless, even if it's just a flat repair. Takes very little effort and makes a HUGE impression on customers.
************
One local shop here, one that spends a lot on radio advertisment, has a sign in the shop to the effect that servicing the bike does not include cleaning it. That really made a poor impression on me. Sure, we are at the base of Mt Tamalpias, birthplace of mountain biking and I have seen some very dirty bikes, but this reeks of bad attitude.

*********************

Spin classes are corny IMO. Instead maybe do a repair or wheelbuilding clinic or get someone to do a cyclocross demo or something like that.

*********************

I have driven 400 miles twice to buy from a certain bike shop (recumbents). I have dropped about $7000 there this year. He had a wheel building class that he charged $75 for that included a compact wheel truing stand. I would have considered doing that drive just for that class, and that was before I found out the stand was included.

it wouldn't surprise me that one of my many LBS offer such a class, but I haven't heard of them, and I stop in to many shops in the area, looking for unusual items as well as common parts.

My favorite LBS I love because they have so much unusual stuff, more than one occasio I impulsed shopped close to $100 when I just needed a tube.
Host a Cheetos carbo load the night before a century (nm)firstrax
Sep 24, 2003 4:01 PM
Be only a Bike shoppitt83
Sep 24, 2003 4:24 PM
No snowboards, skis, in-line skates, boards, etc. That's called a sporting goods shop. Don't do that! Hire and retain bright, customer oriented people.

Teach them to quickly find out what the customer deems important and teach them to point the customer where they'll be satisfied. Price, durability, reputation, etc. Get the customer what THEY want. One shop (I like the owner but don't care for his business) will push C'dle down your throat w/o regard for what you want. Suggest a bike, he'll find a C'dale which will substitute and spend 30min. convincing me why I should buy it. Hell, I wanted an intro CF bike and he was dissapointed when I didn't consider a R2000 he said was similar.

My rant; welcome to it.

Sounds like you'll do well; you at least have learned how to listen.
re: O.K., I admit it, I own an LBS...toomanybikes
Sep 24, 2003 5:39 PM
There's a shop I go to in Vancouver where they have a Saeco espresso machine. You walk in, they hand you an espresso and you get talking. I usually get out of there about an hour or more later, usually a hundred bucks or more lighter.

It's fun and relaxing though.
One thing no one has mentioned...biknben
Sep 24, 2003 5:53 PM
If your working on a customer's bike while they wait, invite them into the wrench area and let them watch. They usually walk away with a new appreciation for bike maintenance.

I have picked up some awesome tips and techniques by watching guys do what they do best.
Another cool thing,c722061
Sep 24, 2003 6:28 PM
My LBS even asked if I want to use their tools to wrench my own bike in their shop. How cool is that?
some other thoughts ...bianchi boy
Sep 24, 2003 7:03 PM
Lots of good suggestions. Here's my 2 cents:

-- Get a good fitting machine and train some employees to become proficient at fitting customers on bikes, either for making their existing bikes fit better or selecting new bikes. This is one of the big reasons why I quit buying bikes from the shop I had used for years; they just fit people by the hit-or-miss method. Quality bikes are just too expensive for must of us to buy something that doesn't fit. The last time I bought a new bike, I drove to the other side of my metro area to pay for a fitting at another bike shop. I ended up ordering a new bike from Excel Sports halfway across the country because my regular shop couldn't fit me properly, the shop that could do fittings was inconvenient, plus it saved me $500.

-- Don't mark up the prices on your parts, clothes and bikes exhorbitantly. I don't mind bike shops making a profit, and I don't mind paying a reasonable amount more locally than from a large mail order business. But many shops charge $70-100 for jerseys that I can buy over the interest for half that price. Some goes for tires, saddles, and other parts. Why should I pay 50-100% more for parts than anyone can install themselves?

-- Let customers try out certain parts (like stems, saddles) and exchange them if they don't fit right (assuming they'restill in good condition). Stems and saddles ought to be big sellers at bike shops, as much trouble as it is getting ones that fit. However, I buy most of these items on-line from places that allow returns or I get buy them used for a substantial discount.

You hear a lot on this board about how bike shops are struggling. That may be true, but a lot of your customers are struggling too. Cycling can be a very expensive hobby. Most of us have lots of other bills to pay, families to support, mortgages to pay. Cycling is a hobby and a passion, but lots of other things take precedence when it comes to spending our hard-earned cash. In my community, lots of cyclists I know have been laid off from well-paying high tech jobs over the past few years. State employees haven't received a raise in 3 years, at the same time their health insurance rates have gone way up. Most people just don't have as much disposable income as they did a few years ago. Something to always keep in mind.
Offer a drive-through/while-u-wait headset installation!!Synchronicity
Sep 24, 2003 11:29 PM
ARHAHAHAHA!!
Rename your shop, "Friends" and---->>>>>ZenJones
Sep 25, 2003 1:51 AM
Serve free expresso, free crumpets, free scones and with a purchase of a saddle throw in a free bicycle.

Make Thursdays, "Free Ride Day", by offering your best road bikes for all day long free rental rides. Regardless of credit or proof of ID.

On Fridays have a "Cash Back Day" where everyone gets 20 dollars instant cash when they walk into your shop.

Make Saturdays, "We Love You Day" and offer you and your staff for any and all errands, chores or lawn work for your customers for free.

On Sundays have a non-denominational service that begins at 5am and lasts until 12 midnight in 22 different languages with a All-You-Can-Eat Fried Chicken Buffet thrown in for good measure.

Close on Mondays...

and on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, charge triple for everything including adding air to some little brats tire. Also, refuse to even consider working on someones bike unless it cost $6,700.00 minimum and was purchased at your shop(don't worry if you don't sell that brand... it's of no concern to you).

PS. Charge HUGE for bike decals, after all, it's how you make a Huffy into a Klein for that special Back-To-School Ebay sale.
Start a club ride.KG 361
Sep 25, 2003 5:33 AM
One of my favorite lbs's has a balls-to-the-walls ride early Sat am-they get back in time to open up at 10. Often there are 20 or more riders. These guys are ex-racers and are now starting a racing team. They keep their shop going in the winter by selling ski equipment. They treat me like a friend-I'm not there a minute until someone says "hi" or asks if there's anything they can get/do for me.
My thoughts~STI
Sep 25, 2003 7:49 AM
1)I like the idea of a destination shop. With a couch in the corner and maybe a couple of chairs. I realize space is limited. I think the idea of a place to relax and BS is better than a place for a spinning class.
2)Don't charge for everything. Something that needs a little tweeking should be done, free gratus, and get the rider back on the road. I'm more inclined to frequent a shop that helps me with the little things.
3)Sponsor an evening ride during the summer months, if not year around. I don't mean give away merchandise, just a place to meet at the start of a ride and a place to hang afterward. We have an LBS here that does, and there are regularly 20-30 riders. Often times they need a spare tube or some adjustment either before or after the ride.
Good Luck ~ I think it was a great idea coming to this forum for some advice.
Keep the rubber side down.