An off-road specialist found just a minute’s walk from the UK’s busiest and most polluted shopping mecca. It doesn’t sound like an ideal match does it?
Mountain bikers, with their love of the fresh air found at the peak of closely packed topography lines, tend to prefer berms to buses. But there is method in the madness, says Soho Bikes co-founder Nick Hawker.
“There’s over 8.5 million people in London, some of those have got to be mountain bikers, right?” says Hawker. “There’s a wetsuit shop at Covent Garden, but the diving’s not so great locally.”
The store picks its brands with some exclusivity in mind. You’ll find bikes from Cotic, Santa Cruz and Cooper, clothing from Howies, Troy Lee and Swrve and other labels for which the store has a larger catchment area than you might typically expect. It’s a destination store, where customers who know what they want come to buy.
Now just over seven months old, many in the business who have come across Soho Bikes will have read about the involvement of MTB legend Rob Warner. As the commentator for Red Bull’s off-road division, among other roles, Warner’s day-to-day involvement is at times limited, but if it weren’t for a long friendship the business may never have come to fruition.
“Myself and Rob go way back and as you might expect it was him who forged some of the early relationships with suppliers. It helped out hugely when faced with the chicken and egg dilemma of gaining a supplier’s trust before the shop had opened. As it happens, Rob is often on the TV in store commentating on the live showings of World Cup races. He’s also helped with marketing, telling his 20,000 Twitter followers where to go for a new bike.”
Marketing a business in London’s busiest retail postcode is still a challenge, explains Hawker: “In summer we made an effort to tell commuters our workshop was fully equipped to service their bikes. We’ve been out and about running pop up mechanic stalls on Carnaby Street and a safety event on Oxford Street. These proved popular and gave us a chance to hand out branded saddle covers and flyers to familiarise locals with us.”
With two Cycle to Work schemes offered via the store, the team has been keen to promote cycling to local businesses.
“Our staff come from all kinds of cycling backgrounds,” says Hawker. “We were lucky to appoint baristas who enjoy cycling, though that was obviously not the skill they were judged on! The business isn’t entirely focused on the off-road – in fact, we’ve placed all the off-road bikes in the basement showroom. Those customers come to the store knowing what they’re going to buy, so our window displays are commuter-focused to draw in curious passers by. We get a lot of tourists coming in that have seen something they like in the window.”
The store front is event-ready, keeping the coffee connoisseurs and London’s post-production industry fuelled during the day. With potential to open up to corporate events in future, the store has tested the water already with the hosting of a Genesis Bikes launch, a presentation of Steve Behr’s work and an Enduro evening.
“Businesses like ours live or die by service levels. We’ll always go above and beyond the call of duty,” concludes Hawker.
Telephone: 0207 439 9577
Location: 26 Berwick Street, WIF8RG
Mon-Fri: 8am to 7pm
Sat: 12 to 5pm
Sun: 12 to 4pm