Pedal Revolution’s Kate Warner: “If you’re interested in cycling as a woman, there is a place for you in the cycle industry”

Kate Warner recently took over as managing director of Pedal Revolution in Norwich. She tells BikeBiz about her plans as the new head of the two-store retailer

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

Female representation is still lacking across the bike trade, but it is perhaps most notable in retail. Improving the visibility of women working in bike shops would likely have a significant knock-on impact for women thinking of getting on the bike, from commuting to leisure riding. 

Kate Warner has plans to help improve gender diversity through her role, after she took over as managing director of Pedal Revolution in Norwich earlier this year. Having worked as store manager since 2014, Warner has now taken the step up to run the organisation, after owners Neil Turner and Gareth Edwards decided it was time to step back.

“I’m a confident person,” Warner told BikeBiz, “But when I got into cycling, I found at times it could be quite intimidating. Walking into a bike shop was not an enjoyable experience.

“That was the conversation I had with Neil [during my job interview] and he then offered me the job. He offered me the job based on the fact that I said that I’ve been intimidated going into bike shops, there’s never any women working there and, from a female shopper’s perspective, it’s not very welcoming and friendly.”

Warner’s role as store manager has had a major impact on Pedal Revolution’s philosophy, particularly when it comes to female customers. Seeing a woman working in-store immediately made women coming into the store feel more comfortable, while it also had an effect on the male staff, who now build a better rapport with female customers, Warner said.

She added: “You still get times where I’m referred to as the secretary, or moments where people who are not quite in 2022 and think ‘oh a girl in a bike shop.’ I try to take it with a pinch of salt and make those people aware that we’re inclusive, and that females can work in the cycle industry, and be good at it as well. But it can be a bit demoralising sometimes.”

Despite some pockets of resistance, Warner is not letting that distract from her mission to develop the Pedal Revolution brand and its two stores.

The first store, in the centre of Norwich, opened in 1998 and is the flagship Pedal Revolution branch, offering a holistic approach, with a workshop, on-site nutrition specialists, cycling events, and bike fitting, while the organisation is also a Trek partner.

Since then, Pedal Revolution has also opened a second smaller store in nearby Gorleston-on-Sea. The Norwich store is currently running with around 10 staff, although the team hope to expand in the near future, while the Gorleston store operates with around two to three employees.

Warner said: “We’ve really tried to build Pedal Revolution as a brand, and a very holistic approach to cycling. We can really offer all of our customers whether they’re a commuter, whether we’re a local racer, whether they’re an older person trying to get into cycling, we really cater for all types of rider and all their needs.

“Our USP is that we can offer anything that a cyclist needs and that’s constantly been our ethos really, that we can talk to anyone about everything cycling related.” 

The Covid-19 pandemic somewhat derailed the business plan put into place by former owners Edwards and Turner, but now with her new role as managing director Warner hopes to get things back on track. 

Plans now include integrating better with the local Norwich retail community, and improving customer experience with the addition of an ‘at-home’ customer experience. Warner also has the big issues on her radar, including diversity in cycling. 

“We have in the past done female first workshop evenings as well and that always goes down really well, helping to give women the confidence to go out riding on their own as well. A lot of females don’t like going out unless they’re going out with a male rider who, in the event of a mechanical, could potentially help them.  

“We always try and make sure that female bikes are really prominent and when you first walk in female clothing is displayed really clearly on the wall. Female bikes generally take priority here. 

“One of the hardest issues we’ve got at the moment is creating that female space in the shop because obviously a lot of brands are moving more towards unisex bikes, and that’s not just in road bikes, but also in the hybrids, and electric bikes, they are more unisex bikes and we are really trying as an industry I think to move away from male or female and for it to be more inclusive.”

But what can other retailers do to improve female representation in their own stores, both in the customer base and in the staffing? 

“I think every single bike shop should employ a female member of staff, definitely. Make sure that you’ve got a clear display of female cycle kit, and female-specific bikes on display, so that when that female is coming into the shop, there’s a clear area where they need to head to. [I’d recommend] doing female-focused events as well, so even if you haven’t necessarily got female staff involved, there are other females in the cycling industries that are brand specialists, or actively involved in the local cycling community as a ride leader, hosting evening events, using your resources.” 

Warner added: “It’d be great to get more females involved as well. I’d really like to do have a recruitment drive to see some more females apply, and hopefully off the back of the news, my position now, hopefully that will inspire more people to do it as well and realise that if you’re interested in cycling as a woman, there is a place for you in the cycle industry.”

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