BikeBiz: Bikelab seems to have a unique approach to displaying bikes – can you tell us more?
Clive Gosling: Before Bikelab I was the marketing manager for Cannondale and I would be personally frustrated, and feel consumers’ disappointment, that the brand was represented so poorly in store. Hanging bikes by the saddle from a bit of scaffolding or squished up in a big row doesn’t excite consumers. I decided when I opened Bikelab Poole nearly ten years ago that each bike would be displayed side on, individually and well lit to give consumers a good buying experience. The down side is we are then limited as to how many bikes we can stock. But I think the trade-off is worthwhile.
And you’ve chosen BM7 stands to help display the bikes in store?
Yes, in Poole we went with the best bike displays we could find at the time, but things have changed in ten years and there are now some excellent merchandising opportunities available such as the BM7 stands we have in Richmond. They display the bikes extremely well and give a very nice boutique feel to the shop.
How do you train staff so they’re able to provide a good bike fit service to customers?
We have been bike fitting customers since day one and all of our staff are encouraged to get involved. I still do a lot of fits myself. Obviously there are customers at an elite level who require a more sophisticated fit or have specific issues with their cycling that need more experience, so we have staff that can accommodate these clients. We are constantly looking at new fit systems to see what will provide us with a competitive edge and the customer with a better fit. However, fitting isn’t suitable for a lot of retailers. Bikelab’s model is built around spending more time with a smaller number of higher quality customers to achieve a higher average transaction and this model simply wouldn’t work for a lot of dealers. We also need long term stable employees so in areas where there can be a high level of staff turnover, spending thousands of pounds getting an employee trained is a risk.
Have you seen other stores follow your lead since Bikelab first opened?
Even though Poole is in its tenth trading year, the shop still looks very smart and modern. The fact that the new Richmond shop doesn’t look too dissimilar is testament to how well we got the environment right on the first one. I think we encouraged shops to raise the game ten years ago and today I would say that we offer two of the nicest shopping experiences in our industry. You don’t have to spend a lot of money either – it’s not hard to sweep the floor and clean the windows.
I think this industry still has a long way to go in order to better meet consumers’ expectations. My long term goal would be to have staff trained up to Cytech, bikefitting but also complete a barista course and have proper coffee machines in-store. It’s all about the consumer experience.
How long has the sister store in Surrey been open? And why did you open in Richmond?
Bikelab Richmond opened mid January. I have partnered with a long-term Bikelab customer on the project who has a very strong commercial and financial background. We opened it because people would travel far and wide to visit Bikelab. In fact my partner used to drive over 100 miles just to shop with us in Poole. We also had a high volume of customers from Surrey and London so it made sense to look at that area. But it was just really that the right premises came up at the right price. There are a lot of shops around there already but we’ve got an amazing location right on the A316 coming into London and that is already proving to be a key sales driver.
Bikelab has just been announced as Rose Bike’s exclusive UK retailer – that’s a big endorsement for the shop.
Rose approached us as we have a very good reputation for customer service and technical prowess. In Germany they are huge and they have a strong focus on the UK market and are already doing some good business here. The relationship allows them a storefront where people can see and ride the product and it gives Bikelab access to an exclusive brand that offers great value for money that will complement our premium brand business. Even as a retailer of slightly posher bikes, we have seen a requirement from certain parts of the market for an increased value offering.
How long have you been in the cycling industry? And why did you decide to get into bike retail?
I’m 42 this year so there is your answer. When I was a couple of weeks old I was in a basket in the back of a delivery van as my mother used to do the deliveries for our family’s cycle wholesale business (Edwardes Cycles). My nan ran the warehouse and at 86 still knows more about bikes than most of my customers. My family’s shop Edwardes of Camberwell this year celebrates 103 years in business and I worked in the shop pretty much from leaving school at fifteen. Apart from a six-month break I have only ever worked in the bicycle industry.