London retailer Flying Dutchman was founded on the idea that life is better by bike. Alex Ballinger spoke with store manager Rich Armstrong to hear more.
This piece first appeared in the October edition of BikeBiz magazine – get your free subscription here
Can you give us a little background on Flying Dutchman and yourself?
Flying Dutchman was started around 10 years ago by Harry Walton in Camden, following his belief that there was a need for bikes that can do more than the weekend spin with friends – just like how the Dutch live by bike the way the majority of London live by car.
Both Harry and I have never learned to drive and we have always lived by bike, so when I came into the business three years ago it was amazing to meet someone so like-minded when it came down to alternative transport. We needed more space so a year ago we expanded to West London in Notting hill with Flying Dutchman West.
What type of consumers do you target?
The majority of our customers are families and people sick of being stuck in traffic. We stock and specialise in cargo and family bikes from midtails and longtails that can carry one to three children, all the way up to large box bikes and trikes that can carry two to six children, and commercial cargo bikes to replace the vans clogging up our streets.
What makes your business unique?
We are and have always been advocates for bikes that can do more. There are only four members of staff across the two stores, but you will find it hard to meet more enthusiastic and knowledgeable people about bicycles that can replace the day-to-day trips to the supermarket and picking the children up from school.
How has business and the industry been for you in 2023?
Definitely a slow start. Obviously the rises in bills hasn’t helped people find spare money for a weekend bike for fun, but when it comes down to what we mainly do its been okay. I think the main issue was the late start of spring and summer, but once the clouds cleared a bit things have been really good. It’s our first year with the West London store so there’s also an element of people finding out that we exist.
What are your plans for 2023 and beyond?
Currently we are working hard on our website to show off all of the amazing stuff that we do that needs more work but is getting better every week. We are always on the lookout for the best of the best in cargo and family transport, we already have some exclusive brands in the UK from brands like CA-GO and Black Iron Horse.
How many staff do you have, what are your opening hours?
We Have four members of staff – two in the Camden store and two in the Notting Hill branch.
Camden: Harry and Tullen. Notting Hill: Myself and Ryan. Both stores are open 9am-5:30pm Monday to Friday, mainly by appointment as this gives us the opportunity to set aside the right amount of time and communication to understand our customers’ needs and for them to test ride anything and everything they wish.
Do you have any tips you’d like to share with other retailers?
Take time to really listen and understand your customers individual needs. I have worked in a fair few shops over the 18 years I’ve been in the bicycle industry and there is a lot of ‘one bike fits most people’s needs,’ but what works for you and your needs and wants can be very different to what is right for someone else’s life and family.
Alongside this test rides are mandatory – the majority of people wouldn’t buy a house without going in the door first and you wouldn’t buy a car without a test drive first, so why should they buy a bike without trying first.