This time last year, the sun was shining and it looked set to be a lucrative summer. Sadly, it was a washout. Mark Sutton asks, now spring has turned, who is allowing optimism ahead of summer and who is staying cautious..?

INDUSTRY OPINIONS: Dare you be optimistic?

“I’VE BEEN in the cycle trade for about 18 years and this time of year is normally fantastic. However, with Easter as early as it was and the weather looking unsettled, I daren’t predict much, especially after last year.
Last year we became a Giant concept store and since then things have been a hell of a lot better. It was perhaps the best move I’ve ever made. I’m not hugely concerned by having to book stock in advance as with the Giant scheme I’m guaranteed product within a day or two of my order. Before I became a concept store however, stocking up in advance was a nightmare; you could never tell how things were going to go.
I’m hoping to do up to ten to 20 per cent more revenue than last year. However at present I think we are slightly down year on year. I’m hoping to achieve this by cutting silly costs and managing the money we do see more efficiently. I’ve decided to invest more money in attracting my existing customer base to the store more, as opposed to sourcing one-time customers.”
Roy Pink Cycles, Newport

“WE are always looking on the bright side. I believe trade will at least be as good as last year. This time last year sales had begun to pick up, following winter, and the workshop was very busy. This year seems to be following a similar pattern, so far.
Obviously a period of good sunny weather is a big help to any shop’s sales, (if too hot potential custom goes to the seaside) but media talk of a slump in the stock market, house sales and rising inflation does not help consumer confidence.
Weather forecasts are generally wrong for this area, so I can’t shape my stock levels around reports.
As for myself, in summer I hope to attend the Ten Under series and 24-hour MTB races in Scotland as mechanic for our local team.
I think it’s best that dealers make the most of sales from April to May. You can’t wait for sun to come out and then stock, the customers want a bike there and then. I like to attempt to convince people what fun it is to ride in all weathers.”
Stuarts Cycles, Moray

“WE ARE always optimistic – we work in the cycle industry! Actually, our sales are way up on last year as a result of having more to offer and dedicated guys full time on the road. We know that we have a lot of opportunity out there, so are really pleased with the next few months’ potential for sales. Plus the days are longer, more people will be out on their bikes and the sun is starting to shine more (hopefully).
Historically, we always have a strong few months around March, April and May. It’s when our Race Face spring/summer clothing goes into the stores. This year because of the massive improvement in the clothing particularly, we have had a bumper clothing drop improving sales on this time last year. Added to this we have just had our first drop of the new ‘One’ Full Face helmet that we introduced at Core Bike. This has to be one of the hottest items for us this spring and has all but sold out in most styles and sizes – totally amazing. We have strong new additions from Race Face with the new ‘Next’ carbon cranks and ride finishing kits, a killer deal on SDG I-Beam posts and saddles, a huge reduction in the SRPs of the Rocky Mountain range, an extended e13 line-up, featuring a more comprehensive range and colour options, much better continuity of stock with Cove frames, and a larger and more organised warehouse and office premises. You could say that we are way over where we were last year, both in current sales and potential for future growth.
With the introduction of the ‘Silverfish Live’ B2B site, dedicated guys in the field and additions and improvements to our current line-up of products, we are confident that both ourselves and our dealers will have a huge summer. We have also committed to more advertising this season than ever before to support the product lines we carry and of course improve the sales potential for our stockists. We have excellent dealers and we are pretty convinced that, between us, our prediction is very positive both in terms of improved service and sales growth.”
Operations Manager, Silverfish

“WHEN it snows on Easter Sunday and the global credit crunch is on everyone’s lips you could be forgiven for being cautious. That said, the dealer reaction to our 2008 ranges has been terrific and we are seeing distribution growth in key sectors, so we have to stock with faith that our products will sell well when the sun does shine!”
Managing Director, Raleigh

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Next months topic is ‘to eBay or not to eBay, is shifting stock in online auctions worthwhile?’

High Street gloom?
ACCORDING to the Retail Traffic Index, the month of March follows the downbeat results from the Easter fortnight. Monthly footfall numbers (people actually entering shops) in the UK declined by 3.2 per cent year-on-year and were up by only 0.8 per cent on February’s figures.
Retail psychologist Dr Tim Denison said: “We all knew what was coming, I suspect. All the tell-tale signs were in place for poor results – an early Easter, a disrupted school break and nervousness about rising inflation, the general economy and personal wealth circumstances.

“The coup de grace were the blizzards and unsettled weather which simply piled misery upon misery for retailers last month. In January and February there were at least people out there in the shops, tracking down the best deals, but even this trend has fallen away in March. The dampers on shopping now seem firmly in place."
Denison added: "I suppose the most positive point from the statistics is that if we take Quarter One as a whole, retail traffic was only marginally down on 2007: by 0.4 per cent. I, for one, had fully expected the quarter to be far quieter than that."

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