Rebecca Morley visits last year’s Best Omnichannel Retailer Sigma Sports’ new e-bike store
This piece first appeared in the June edition of BikeBiz magazine – get your free subscription here
“Without any exceptions, all our suppliers were very enthusiastic,” said Ed Hole, Sigma Sports’ head of retail, sitting in an office in the retailer’s new electric bike store in South West London. “They thought it was a great idea and we were all very keen to have their bikes in the store. It started with Ian [Whittingham], our CEO, he realised that this is going to be the category with the most opportunity.”
Sigma opened its new flagship e-bike store, located in Thames Street in Old Market Square, Kingston, back in April, and aims to offer a premium experience with one-to-one e-bike sales consultations, stocking bikes from Specialized, Trek, Orbea, Bianchi, and Brompton, across the leisure commuting, mountain bike, gravel and road disciplines.
“I think the interesting bit for us was starting to do the research and seeing the customer base and realising we needed a slightly different look and feel for the store,” added retail environments producer Kerry McCallum, “to make it appeal to that market, rather than using the blueprint we had for our other stores.”
Staff, products, environment
There are three key components of the new store, Hole continued – the staff, the products, and the environment. “We’ve really always been very selective about who we want to work here. We want people who engage and are friendly, people that we see as being able to build relationships with people.
“That’s actually been the biggest challenge in this whole project, the recruitment. That’s now sorted itself out, we very recently got to the number of full timers and part timers that we need. We feel like we’ve got a great team now. It’s a priority for us to make sure that we get the right people in so that they will deliver customer service. We want to exceed customer expectations.
“And then the products – we work with what we consider to be the best brands. There are mainstream brands that we’ve been working with for a very long time, but there are also some niche brands.” McCallum added: “It’s also about what products that we pick from those brands, if we get lots of returns on something we’ll give that feedback to the supplier or maybe not have that product again because we want our customers to be satisfied.”
With the store itself – what Sigma Sports considers to be a premium store – it’s somewhere that customers can walk in and feel very comfortable, explained Hole. “Essentially we’re getting those three things together – great staff, great products and a nice environment. We like to think we do it as well as anybody else. We’re always looking for how we can improve.”
Sigma Sports also has stores in Hampton Wick, in London, and Oakham, the latter opening in 2020. The Hampton Wick store offers bike sales consultations and bike fitting, and is known more as a destination for cyclists. “At Hampton Wick, you don’t see many people coming in who are just there on the off chance,” said Hole. “Generally, it’s people who are already cycling or already competing in cycling or triathlon.”
The new flagship electric bike store in Kingston however benefits from the hustle and bustle of Kingston’s Old Market Square, a location where customers can walk past and take a look inside, making it ideal for cyclists who are just starting out and keen to find out more.
“We’ve got all the ingredients together really, we’ve got the service and because we are an existing retailer with those relationships, and with those processes honed down to do with servicing and workshop, and all the things that go around running a store, we’re a reliable brand to go to,” said McCallum. “The environment that we’ve created stands out from other bike shops, and we did that on purpose. It actually takes inspiration from not just from bike shops, but from all kinds of shops and experiences.”
The store feels immediately welcoming to anyone who walks through its doors, with bikes from different disciplines on offer including commute, leisure, cargo, folding options, road, gravel and mountain. It also offers one-to-one electric bike sale consultations and the opportunity for customers to test ride a wide range of models via its demo fleet.
“We’re going to sell more products online because we’re a UK-wide business,” said Hole. “Our catchment area for a store obviously has a certain limit, but we do have people that will travel from some distance to come to our stores. With bikes, we’re looking at how we improve the bike buying process in store and online, that’s what we’re doing at the moment and that’s what we’ll do forevermore. Obviously, they have their own advantages over one another. For me, I think there are lots of people who still see the benefits of being able to come and still see things in the flesh. Sometimes what you see online doesn’t look the same when it’s in front of you.”
Sigma Sports’ stores are also designed to allow customers to look at products they might not have considered buying, Hole said. “I think the most important thing about electric bikes is that they are still in the early days. I think there are a lot of people who ask: ‘What’s the point in them?’ They don’t understand that this is something that you can still exercise on. You still have to pedal, they only assist you up to a certain point.
“But you don’t really get an electric bike until the first 50 metres that you’ve ridden one. It’s quite an experience, when you’re only ever used to a pedal-powered bike. Demo bikes are a really key part of what we do here, more so than our other two stores.
“It’s a really exciting time for the business,” added Hole. “Opening this store is obviously exciting, we’ve got plans to develop our other two stores for the road and gravel market, and we want to look at developing mountain bike across the board. It really boils down to what experience we offer the customer, online and in store. That’s always a massive focus for us.”
Sigma Sports Electric Review – 9th May
I’ve been a customer of Sigma for five years and recently, despite them not being my local store anymore, I bought a new e-bike from the new Kingston store. I had a fantastic experience picking it up and learning how to use it from salesman Jack who was both thorough in explaining the bike and answering all my questions.
Never before have I had such a great experience buying a bike and this made the four-hour round trip to the store to pick up the bike thoroughly worth it for me. So I thoroughly recommend Jack and his colleagues at Sigma for their in-depth knowledge about the products they sell and the lengths they go to ensure customer satisfaction.
Sigma Sports Electric Review – 16th May
I have just taken the plunge and invested in an e-bike having for many years cycled on a Pashley and a Brompton to get to work. I am moving to the countryside and was weighing up the options of how I was going to get to the station in the mornings. This is where Jack at Sigma e-bikes comes in. He helped me make the decision to go for the Specialized Vado and it’s a decision I will not regret I’m sure.
Jack spent a good hour on the day showing me what would and wouldn’t work for me to the point he secured my custom. He was also very helpful in getting the bike ready around some challenging dates, which was above and beyond! I picked the bike up today and spent a further hour being briefed on everything from maintenance to using the mission control app.
Everything about Sigma e-bikes was a good experience for me and made the purchase of what is an expensive bike most enjoyable. Well done Sigma e-bikes and to Jack in particular. Thank you very much. The ride home was great!