MD Peter Kimberley on tweaks to the store concept, branching beyond London, appealing to women and how many shops the firm has planned...

Cycle Republic: ‘No other cycle retailer has matched our pace’

It’s been a little over 12 months since Halfords’ resurrected the Cycle Republic brand. BikeBiz catches up with Cycle Republic MD Peter Kimberley on tweaks to the store concept, branching beyond London, appealing to women and how many shops the firm has planned for the near future…

It’s just over a year since Cycle Republic launched. How has it gone so far and has it met with your expectations?
We are really proud to open our ninth store in just over 12 months – the pace of growth for Cycle Republic has been huge with no other cycle retailer matching its progress – and the customer feedback has been fantastic.

How has the concept developed or been tweaked?
Our ambition was always for each store to be unique, both in terms of the design and concept and also how we look after our local cycling communities.

Back in the summer we launched our reward scheme, believed to be the first of its kind in the UK, which offers excellent rider benefits like free puncture repairs and a half price annual service, plus access to other offers and VIP exclusives. All shops operate a free “try before you buy” option and can also arrange zero per cent finance plus provide a free courtesy loan bikes to customers while their bikes are being serviced and repaired.

We’re doing more for our customers in all things cycling, including through interactive free bike maintenance workshops. We’ve also been piloting ‘Bike Nights’ which offer customers free bronze servicing, SIS nutrition seminars, discounts on clothing, refreshments and just generally a bit of fun with free giveaways and a Turbo competition.

In the New Year we also launched an exciting partnership with cycle to work provider Cyclescheme so all nine shops are now accepting Cyclescheme vouchers, to help more people choose the right bike for them and to get cycling.

Has there been a difference in how the new stores have been received outside London? Or a difference in the stores themselves?
All our stores are unique – the locations and in store design, but first and foremost, the store colleagues. The new Fenchurch store, aside from looking after its own community and commuters in a new part of London for Cycle Republic, is our largest store and the first over three floors. It also houses our biggest repair workshop, so we can offer comprehensive and convenient repairs to more urban commuters in London. Our passionate colleagues are all cyclists. Cycling is in our DNA, this is reflected in the servicing and expertise provided to all our customers.

Store nine is opening now, in the City – can you tell us a bit about the new store, its main features and your hopes for it?
With over 180 bikes on display ranging from new and exclusive premium Basso bikes, the Haibike 2016 range, Gocycle electric bike, new 2016 Pinarello road bikes and the 2016 Boardman Elite range, the store will have something to excite every city cyclist.

Cyclists can drop in for bike servicing and repairs and will receive unrivalled service, delivered by fully trained expert mechanics – with free loan bikes on hand for more extensive repairs. Cyclists in the market for a new bike can also take bikes on a free test ride in a new ‘try before you buy’ scheme, ensuring they make the right choice with their purchase.

How successful has Cycle Republic been in appealing to women so far, generally?
Female cyclists are hugely important to us and we have a fantastic women’s range across all shops including the exclusive Pendleton and Haibike range. Fenchurch store continues to increase its range of female specific cycling products, leading the trend with a 30 per cent female-specific offer including brands like Assos, Pearl Izumi, Gore and Giordana.

Each month every shop runs free women’s workshop sessions which are practical and interactive, providing women with the opportunity to learn the basics of taking care of their bike.

You mentioned the new store be operating ‘try before you buy’?
Cyclists in the market for a new bike can use our free ‘try before you buy’, to help customers choose the right bike for them.

The team will also provide unrivalled bike servicing and repairs, with free courtesy bikes on hand for more extensive repairs.

It has been mentioned that you could open as many as 100 stores nationwide. How many do you anticipate will open in 2016?
This is our ninth store and we anticipate having around ten by the end of the financial year with a further five to eight shops the following financial year.

Can you sum up the Cycle Republic concept?
Cycle Republic is a local one stop bike shop, catering for all cyclists. 

We offer customers exclusive premium bikes, with an extensive range of parts, accessories and clothing. A full range of female-specific bikes and accessories have been chosen to appeal to women cyclists. Our shops have an experienced team of cycling specialists who are on hand to help with essential servicing, maintenance and with repairs; plus they provide a free courtesy bike while customer bikes are in the workshop.

We are passionate about rewarding our customers and last year launched the first ever Reward Scheme for cyclists providing free puncture repairs and a half price annual service, plus access to many other offers and VIP exclusives.

Brands available in-store include: Boardman, Basso, Gocycle, Pinarello, Cinelli, Quella, Haibike, Pendleton and 13 with accessories from Pearl Izumi, Gore, Assos, Giordana, Dare2b, Altura, Lake, Northwave, Sealskinz, Hump, Proviz, Giro, Bell, Lezyne, Kryptonite and High5.

Cycle Republic: Bluffer’s guide
Halfords has actually owned the Cycle Republic brand for a number of years, but closed it (temporarily, we now know) in April 2009. At the time Halfords was looking to reduce costs and so rebranded the stand-alone pilot under the Halfords name.

Fast-forward to summer 2014 and Halfords swooped for a couple of key appointments for its cycle business, including Peter Kimberley as divisional director. Kimberley joined from Evans Cycles, where he’d worked as regional manager and then head of retail.

The news then broke that Cycle Republic would return, with Halfords announcing it would take the concept to London as well as major towns and cities across Great Britain. The news followed financials that showed cycle related sales now accounted for over a significant third of Halfords’ retail business.

Kimberley became Cycle Republic Director around this time, before being appointed managing director of Cycle Republic in August 2015.

The first Cycle Republic store opened at Euston, while the first outside London opened in Norwich in March 2015.

Matt Rudd became Cycle Republic area manager in September last year.

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