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If you can’t find it, build it: Brink on developing its own EPOS system

From distribution to the shop floor, Brink mountain bike store in Bedfordshire operates across the off-road market. Alex Ballinger hears from Mat Clark about how the team developed its own EPOS system to meet its needs

This piece first appeared in the August edition of BikeBiz magazine – get your free subscription here

There are few retailers in the UK that operate across the same breadth as Brink mountain bike store. Based in Bedford, right on the doorstep of Chicksands Bike Park, Brink is a specialist mountain bike retailer, with side businesses in suspension servicing, and more recently distribution.

Being positioned across retail, servicing, and distribution presents unique challenges for the Brink team, which resulted in it developing its own Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) system, to manage all aspects of the business.

Brink stocks a variety of mountain bike-specific lines, including Specialized, Marin, Juliana and Santa Cruz bikes, Fox, Rockshox, and Ohlins suspension, as well as plenty of apparel and accessories.

While Brink is the retail face of the business, the brand also offers specialist MTB suspension servicing under the business name Plush, and has most recently established its distribution wing Apex, with a portfolio of four brands specific to the mountain market – most notably frame protection specialist DyedBro, which remains the biggest seller for the distributor.

Mat Clark, director of Apex and partner in the Brink side of the business, said: “In general, I’m very positive about our industry and especially the MTB market. When you look at wider business developments like Warner Brothers taking over from Red Bull to broadcast [UCI mountain bike] World Cups, or retailers being purchased and developed by bigger corporations, or brands moving towards worldwide B2C models, you can see our industry is maturing and it’s an exciting place to be right now.

“Short term we have some supply chain challenges, but this is true for all industries right now and it’s our job as the service centre to balance these supply issues with good service. This is probably our biggest challenge for the next year or so with some service kits from Rockshox with late 2023 delivery dates for instance!”

Plush, the mountain bike suspension service business, is also the UK service and warranty centre for all Specialized suspension products, an Ohlins warranty centre, and offers custom suspension tuning and set-up sessions.

Apex, distributor for DyedBro frame protections, Ohlins suspension, MountainFlow cleaning products, and Sensus grips, is now in its third year, and the team has plans to continue growing.

Clark said: “We started Apex in 2020 to support our service business Plush Suspension as we felt we had a great opportunity to combine our immense technical knowledge and pure passion for all things MTB with our understanding of modern bike retail and brand management.

“Our main goal is not just to bring the best MTB brands into the UK but also to provide our dealers with the tools needed for those brands to succeed in-store and online. We try to focus on quality rather than quantity and work with dealers that have a solid online presence as well as high-quality retail space and excellent workshop ability.”

With a number of dimensions to the growing business, Brink/Apex/Plush had an assortment of complex needs when it came to managing its online systems. Having previously used Lightspeed EPOS, and after exploring other potential systems including Citrus-Lime, the Brink team took the bold decision to develop its own EPOS.

Clark said: “All the system logic relates to physical processes in the shop environment. Our workshop module talks to our sales module which drives all our website content including, online workshop booking and payments, moving stock values, automated purchase orders, reorder points, customer accounts etc. It’s all there with huge automation at every step and every possible process has been designed by us to perfectly fit a bike shop with a very active workshop.

“It took us two years and wasn’t without its problems but we have been operational now for a year and the system is going from strength to strength and we’re super proud of it!”

Clark also said he sees serious potential for improvement in the MTB market, particularly closer collaboration between brands, retailers and distributors. He said: “I think the biggest opportunities right now are with ‘route to market’ integration. The time of giving a shop some margin to sell a product and leaving it at that as your relationship is long gone. The brand/distributor/retailer relationship needs to be much closer both system-wise and marketing-wise.

“Stock APIs (application programming interface) development from distributors into retailers’ systems outside of Citrus-Lime needs to happen more, joint marketing efforts between brands and dealers with localised paid ad campaigns need to become the norm, and brands launching products without stock or even delivery dates needs to stop.

“I think if the industry can get those things nailed there will be a better route to market efficiency for all involved and we will have less margin shrinkage and brand-damaging sales activity.”

Alex Ballinger

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