Spokesman talks about an often overlooked sector of the cycle store – clothing. Margins here are high, so why are so few clued up...?

Spokesman: Is your store kitted out?

Socks. An item of clothing that defies all logic. I purchase those multi-packs because so many seem to get lost en route to the washing basket. The last count was 17 single socks that would not match up.

I can therefore understand when a carton is opened to build a bike to find some parts missing, a scratch on the frame, or a nick on the saddle. We all know that touch-up paint does not travel well. It usually is cellulose that comes out the phial in a gel and is totally useless. Most Cytech trained mechanics will have an array of small ‘Humbrol’ paint tins to touch up those little scratches that are in places other than the top tube. The alternative to returning the product to the supplier, which is not cost effective, is to give a reduction at the point of sale. It is common sense.

The supplier does not want to go to the cost of picking the bike up for return, then having to sell it off cheap to those shops that will purchase end-of-lines. I am told that knocking off £20 will satisfy most customers, especially on bikes under £350. It is the phone calls that are made to the suppliers asking for £50-plus off which are laughable. When asked to take a photo of the damage, the large scratch and dent become small nicks on the bottom of the fork. I often wonder what happens to those little nicks in saddles, that only have a piece of material which has come unstuck, and a little glue would put right. Do they get thrown in the bin or are they actually repaired and re-sold? It’s so easy to phone the supplier for a replacement.

The Tube strike in London this month did actually see all types of riders out on the city’s streets. Maybe some good will come of these wildcat strikes. London dealers have to be rubbing their hands together with chains breaking down under the strain, perished tyres causing flats and comfortable saddles being purchased.

With the strikes and the milder weather, can we ever have it better in this industry? Sales figures are way up on 2008, workshops should be overwhelmed with repairs and best of all, many consumers are realising that there’s cycling clothing available that does not make one look like a Tour De France rider.

How many shops ever mention clothing when selling a cycle? Forget the bell, the lights and pump. Clothing is the item with higher margins. A shower-proof jacket for both ladies and the guys is an item that should be offered with every sale. Why lose the sale to the outdoor retailer? The average newcomer is totally unaware that cycle shops actually have a clothing area. The industry has been looking for a second fiddle to cycles, yet it stares us in the face. Time for those suppliers within this lucrative market to produce decent brochures explaining the benefits of various materials.

When I sold ‘AGU’ Clothing into the London shops many years before ‘Carrati’ (remember that company?) jumped on the band wagon, I made more commission than the selling of cycles. The brochure they produced was way ahead of those of other suppliers.

I never understood why AGU did not wrap up this lucrative business. Instead the likes of suppliers with poor buyers missed the opportunity to take on the entire range. Ah well, that’s the cycle Industry.

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