BikeBiz catches up with Chris Reilly, owner of Berkshire Cycles, which won Best Independent Bike Dealer at last year’s BikeBiz Awards, to find out how it adapted to COVID restrictions and what’s in store for the year ahead
How has the past year been for Berkshire – how did you adapt to COVID-19 restrictions?
The past year has been like no other year we’ve traded. We acted quickly at the beginning of the pandemic to implement the changes to the shop.
Floor markings, screens on the counters between staff and customers. PPE made available to all the staff, and we asked customers to queue outside, whilst only allowing a couple of people at a time in.
How do you think retail has changed in recent months and what trends have you observed?
We made early predictions last year that it couldn’t go on the way that it has. Luckily, we remain very busy. The voucher scheme was launched, which has contributed to the workshop being very busy.
Like the rest of the trade, it is becoming harder to replenish the stock. There is a shortage of raw materials, which has a knock on effect, so now we’re seeing long delays on parts as well as bikes.
The demand for new bikes is still there, but bike repairs are extremely busy, and this seems to be keeping people riding.
Berkshire Cycles won Best Independent Bike Dealer at the 2020 BikeBiz Awards – what did it mean to win?
It meant everything to be nominated. First of all, to have our name put forward by a customer was just incredible, we’ve been in business 44 years and never been put forward. Response from customers was so positive, we can’t thank them enough.
Why is it so important to celebrate businesses within the cycling industry, especially during this time?
Everyone is working so hard, long days and weeks. With all the difficulties along the way, it’s nice to recognise and celebrate the hard work people are putting in.
What are your expectations for the year ahead, both for the business and the industry?
We expect a continuation of what we’re experiencing at the moment. Some normality will resume, and stock will catch up a bit as we go into the second half of the year; but we still won’t be satisfying all of the demand.