Sales trainer to the cycle trade says he sees all too much pointless trimming of margins

“Discounting a needless practice,” argues Colin Rees

Words by Colin Rees

"It’s pretty clear that 2011 is going to be a much harder year in retailing as the cuts bite and tax rises feed through into people’s pockets. That’s not to say that people won’t be buying new bikes, but they may well decide right now, the mortgage is more important and if interest rates rise and unemployment kicks into the mix, it means retailers will have to work harder than ever to keep their margins up, as well as their turnover.

This compendium of impending bad news begs the question, can owners carry on just waiting, hoping, praying customers will come in to their shop?

The bike trade generally seems not to be pro-active in customer encouragement. When I ask some owners: “If I buy a new bike from you, when’s the next time I will hear from you?”, the usual honest answer is never. Often, I will not even be phoned to remind me my new bike is ready for its first service. “Costs far too much and who’s going to do it?”

Most owners will agree the best situation to create is the customer, their wallet and their bike in your shop. Yet so many miss a chance at that first service point. After that, surely a bike will be better fun and last longer given regular servicing. But how many times is the rule broken to book a next service each time the bike comes in?

I had occasion to visit my local bike shop straight after New Year as the chain was slipping badly on my bicycle. Their service was brilliant, done the same day for £25, including replacement parts. “Well”, he says, “we’re not busy till March now.”
If only he had just told me I really should have a regular service booked and put a date in the diary, that extra maintenance cost him nothing to get. If he made it for January, or February next year and asked everyone who comes in for a repair this year, he certainly wouldn’t be reading the paper in the first two months of 2012.

How about establishing a marketing plan? What are you going to concentrate on promoting each month? What do we need to highlight in the window this week? Someone said that those who don’t plan are, in fact, planning for failure.

Let’s start with the window. Why not select one product a week, say lights or helmets, pile it as high as possible in the window and get people (anyone) to guess how many there are. Send a picture and details to the local press. An eye-catching display always creates excitement so more people come in. If you change the product every two weeks, get all staff to offer it to everyone as the ‘current special’ (you only have to knock 10p off to create a ‘special purchase’), you will sell more.

Stop giving discounts. These payments to customers come directly from net profit. It could be going in your pocket rather than theirs and right now is the best possible time anyone will have to say no! For ever. Using the excuse of the difficult time everyone is going through is totally understandable and customers will not press you if you post up a sign in the shop explaining that. Saying no to discounts extends to your mates as well. Chances are, your staff absolutely hate giving them and a policy to discontinue would make their job ten times easier, and your bank balance higher.

So far, we haven’t spent any money, but allocating a promotional budget and formulating a marketing plan will bring a planned response of greater foot flow.

A leaflet from Domino’s Pizza dropped through my letterbox early in January offering me a two for one deal. I have lived in this isolated village (three buses a week) for 42 years and not once have I ever heard from any local bike shop. If I did eat pizza, where would I go for my next one?

Manufacturers can steal a march on competitors by providing leaflets ready for over printing by the dealer.
There are lots of ways to increase sales and customers without spending shed loads of cash. Introduce a friend scheme, open evenings until 10 pm with blue ticket reductions.

Another freebee will come from training your staff how to sell properly and that just costs your time.

Colin Rees
Cycle specific sales trainer
07540 351 530

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