Under the skin: Proudly bearing a name that has been in the business for over three decades, Skinnergate Cycles’ owner Grant MacIver tells Jonathon Harker how customer loyalty and being part of Cyclelife has affected business...

DEALER PROFILE: Skinnergate Cycles

How’s business generally at the moment?
We had a very good summer last year, but we were disappointed when things came to a grinding halt during the bad weather. We are back on track again now.

How many employees does the shop have?
We’ve got four full-time and four part-time staff at the store.

Does the store specialise in a certain sector?
No. We have around over 170 bikes on display and that allows us to cover most sectors.

You took on the Skinnergate name – what was behind that and how has it been?
Skinnergate has been a well-established name on Teesside for over 30 years and was actually one of the original Raleigh ‘Five Star Dealers’.

The reputation and customer loyalty in the area gave me solid foundations to build upon even though we were opening in a new location.

And did the previous customers come with you to the new store?
Yes –from day one they came to the new shop. Some actually held off buying until we opened.

How long has the shop been a part of Cyclelife?
We opened under the Cyclelife banner in March 2008.

What was behind the decision to jump into the Cyclelife franchise?
Having access to large advertising campaigns and a wide product range.

Do you get involved in local events or initiatives?
We will always try to support local initiatives run by Local Authorities and Sustrans.

How much of the business revolves around the workshop?
The workshop probably accounts for 25 per cent of our business.

What sector do you tip for success in 2010?
I think this year is going to be good for road bikes.

What forms of marketing do you use to entice customers?
In the past year we have done a lot of radio advertising and some local press adverts in addition to the Cyclelife national campaigns.

And what are your short and long-term ambitions?
Since taking over the business two years ago we have grown almost 60 per cent – which has created some growing pains.

In the short term we need to finish off some of the changes we’ve been making to the shop layout and also to the presentation of stock and the website. For the long-term we may possibly look at acquiring another similar business which we can go on to build up.

What’s in a name?
Skinnergate Cycles owner Grant MacIver started out in the bicycle retail business as a Saturday lad at Skinnergate in Bridge Road, Stockton. Working there while at school and college for four years, MacIver benefited from tuition from proprietor Tim Stephenson.

Despite leaving the trade for a short spell after finishing college, MacIver remained passionate about cycling – participating in the Coast-to-Coast charity bike ride with a group of friends.

One of his responsibilities was to purchase kit for the charity ride and, fortuitously, MacIver headed to Skinnergate Cycles to acquire those spares.

While at the shop MacIver’s old boss Tim Stephenson revealed that he was looking to retire and move abroad. MacIver grabbed the opportunity to create a business of his own and, after numerous discussions, it was agreed that on Stephenson’s retirement Grant would open his store in Stockton-on-Tees and take on Skinnergate Cycles as part of his store name.

Telephone: 01642 606520
Web: www.skinnergate.co.uk
Owner: Grant MacIver
Address: Brunswick Street, Stockton-on-Tees, TS18 1DU
Opening times: Monday to Saturday 9.00 to 5.30, Sunday 10.00 to 4.00pm

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