Boris is the new Mayor of London, there’s a credit crunch, we had continued poor weather up until May 7th – and then the sun came out. Is everything beginning to look up…?

SPOKESMAN: Should training begin on the shop floor?

What I continually fail to understand is the lack of professionalism from some staff in cycle shops. I get so many queries on price and product, but every order that goes out has brochures put in with the contents. They aren’t cheap to print – many hours go into the graphics, photography, and especially the wording. With a specialist product it has to be correct, yet calls come in where the information has never been digested. Often the customer in the background is listening to the salesman asking questions that they should have full knowledge of.

Cytech is the number one training programme for up- and-coming mechanics, yet no training is given in basic sales to staff. It is not good enough just to know about suspension and the sizes of inner tubes. The industry has moved on, yet the owners of many a cycle shop are still living in the past.
I have often written about the importance of training staff in the basic understanding of products. If you are reading this and believe you have trained staff, well done, because after listening to so many of the same questions it’s hard to believe that some shops ever take any money.

I am asked “have you x product in stock?” Then the next question is, “how much?” Having been told, the usual answer is, “I will tell my customer”. So far, fair enough. But all regular purchasing accounts are sent a price list at least twice a year and whenever a new brochure comes out. Why lose a possible sale because you show hesitation and often a lack of interest for the product?

Unicycles, many sales
Last month in BikeBiz there was an article on Unicycles. Not a seller you may say. If I said I sell them throughout the year as a distributor, and in the summer they fly out with Christmas being the bumper season, would you stock a couple? Please don’t answer that if you’ve had a single unicycle hanging in your shop for over a year. It will hang there forever if you do not make a good presentation of the product. I fail to understand why, when there is an enquiry for one, and you duly order one, you don’t order two instead. That child or adult will ride it, it will be seen, and the question asked: where was it purchased? It could be up to £120 in the till on a bad day.
I know of shops that will have a few thousand pounds of shoes, tyres, saddles, all costing pro rata amounts as a unicycle, but will not stock one. I am using unicycles as an example. I have a warehouse full of items that are stocked by 20 per cent of my customers. I am quite happy as they sell 80 per cent of the product between them. It is the others that miss out. No, they are not buying these products elsewhere, either.

A new mayoral cycle
I wonder whether Boris will be as cycle friendly as dear old Ken? I hope to see hundreds of the hire bikes spread around London, as other cities will follow the lead. This can only bring hundreds of consumers to cycling, whether they’re possibly trying a cycle for the first time, coming back to it since leaving school, or simply enjoying the great feeling of freedom, which is lost driving a car in most towns, cities, and motorways.
The increasing cost of fuel, which will eventually hit the £1.50 mark per litre, will have a more devastating hit on the economy, which I believe may turn many a commuter to look at their lifestyle and think about working closer to their homes.

We are in for many culture shocks in the coming years as we all examine our lifestyles. I believe the good old cycle will come to be a far greater influence on our lives. Those old black and white films showing thousands of workers leaving the factory gates in the ‘40s and ‘50s on cycles will be back. Instead of cycling from the factories, which are long gone, it will be from the local stations and offices. So the next Government should look at the infrastructure of joining new housing with places of work. Will Tesco and Wallmart rule forever? Perhaps these monster stores will become white elephants; maybe the High Streets of the UK will come back to life.

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