IBD Focus: Picking your battles

Tell us a little about the Big Maggy’s team.
We set up in 2009, privately owned by myself and Richard Tanguy. We’re both racing cyclists. It just happened! We’re a team of three now with the arrival of friend and race teammate Aaron Gouveia.

What makes Big Maggy’s successful?
Well, firstly, thanks! It’s great to hear we’re perceived as successful. For us, the feeling of success is being able to come in every day, sitting with regular clients at 8am for coffee and a few laughs while watching the previous day’s cycling on the TV in the cafe, before enjoying a busy diary of workshop endeavours. Being busy keeps us on our toes.

Cycling has become a really multi-tiered cake; you’ve got club racers and sportive riders, leisure and fitness riders, charity/major endurance challenge riders and the ever-growing cyclocross, MTB and triathlon markets. We try to keep ahead of the curve by innovating and being the leader in our area. For example, we were the first to run shop rides, creating a culture and community around the shop so people had many reasons to be in the building, rather than only if they need to make a purchase. On any given day, there are cyclists sat in the cafe chit-chatting. We think you need to be proactive and create a market, rather than waiting for it to come to you. If people only need to make a purchase,
they can do that on the internet at ease and more conveniently. You have to create reasons for people to come into the shop – expertise, as well as a friendship.

One of our biblical rules is we do a bike fit for every bike we sell – we will not sell a bike to someone if it is not the optimal fit. We match the correct brand to the rider, based on the outcome of the fit, and have developed a reputation for this level of care.

Another contributing factor is that we have worked hard to make ourselves visible and to be seen as a partner for local clubs, academies and the business community. We run a corporate cycling day (think golf day on wheels!) for a big multi-jurisdictional law firm. We run three ability groups throughout the day and they have a BBQ/beers at the end. In return, we are fortunate to get support from their staff and they think of us when they need equipment or help.

Similarly, with the youth academies for cycling and triathlon, we’ve worked hard to support them and their events by offering mechanical support and expertise on the day of the Jersey Triathlon.

We also provide free rental bikes to other businesses to run cycling-based corporate challenges for charity. All of these go some way to ensuring we are visible and integrated with the business community.

Why are bike shops struggling and how can the industry move forward?
We don’t know. We are stumped and bemused by this, as are our suppliers. We are told that it’s the whole industry i.e. online and in-store.

All we can say here is that our own efforts have very much been focused around making sure we are accessible, and that we make doing business with us simple and easy.
We have to be flexible. For example, we asked customers what opening hours they needed, and found that being open later – until 6pm – is important. It allows them to collect their bikes after servicing when they finish work. Many shops close at 5pm or 5:30pm, which is of little use to someone who works 8pm-5pm. We open at 7am for service drop-offs. It’s tough for us and means long hours, but it’s critical and respectful of what customers need.

Many shops spend too much energy complaining about online pricing. It’s a battle that can never be won. They have to realise like us, that it’s not the same offering. It’s a completely different business model and there is a big place for bricks and mortar shops – you have to find your niche and focus on that. Trying to compete with shops that have low overheads (online) is futile. Innovating is the answer.

How can an IBD go about safeguarding its own future?
Creating your own markets, this is how the bike shop industry moves forward. Shops with communities built around them, relationships with distributors who exist for the IBD market, not those that focus on volume and turnover, that is a mismatch. There is room for both IBDs and the internet.

It’s about focusing on the right things and prioritising. This is our plan for safeguarding – having the right mindset and using our energies constructively. Oh, and drinking coffee all day!

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