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The aftermath: The devastating impact of break-ins

Loss of bikes through theft can have a devastating impact on businesses. BikeBiz looks at the ever-present threat posed by break-ins

This piece first appeared in the August edition of our newly revamped BikeBiz magazine – get your free subscription here

Bike theft is never fun for the victims, whether that be an individual losing their beloved machine, or a large-scale theft from a business. The loss of bikes through break-ins and theft can be devastating for cycling businesses, and as the cost of bikes continues to rise the risks are ever greater.

BikeBiz has reported on a number of major thefts from retailers and brands in recent months, and these are just a fraction of the thefts impacting the cycle trade.

Major losses
Earlier this year, a theft from a bike shop in Gloucestershire resulted in the loss of £30,000 worth of bikes. In the early hours of Saturday, 21st May, thieves broke into a store in the town of Nailsworth, between Bristol and Gloucester, and escaped with five Riese and Muller brand electric bikes.

Then in early July, British bike brand Forme suffered the loss of a batch of unreleased e-bikes, which were stolen from a lorry on its way from an assembly supplier in Italy. The stolen bikes were all high-end, Bosch-equipped e-bikes, and were all brand new models not yet available at Forme retailers, the brand said.

Head of brand and communications at Forme, Lee Flanaghan, said: “This theft of e-bikes is really sad news for both our retailers and end consumers. This delivery of e-bikes was already pre-sold to dealers and in many cases, reserved by end consumers who were no doubt looking forward to taking delivery of their new e-bike in time for summer. We can only apologise for the disappointment this undoubtedly causes.”

But what impact do these types of theft have on a business?

The lasting impact
Paul Birley, owner of Back on Track Bikes in Malvern, Worcstershire, said his store was targeted by thieves in recent years. After the criminals smashed the front door with crowbars and scaffolding poles, they escaped with several e-bikes and high-end MTBs, often the target for bike thieves owing to their high value.

“The aftermath of a break-in, dealing with police reports, forensics, alarm companies, insurance, and repairs, while not being open was a huge loss,” said Birley. “Although the memory of it becomes less acute, and even with tighter security, I am still very wary of letting unknown people wander around on their own, and have delayed expanding our store, partly because of the extra costs with security and finding extra staff to ensure the shop floor would always be manned by two or more people.”

The theft at Back on Track happened in the early hours of the morning, when the gang of thieves forced entry. After trying to load the bikes into a van, the thieves also put two bikes on the roof, one of which fell off and hit a stone wall.

A neighbour heard the incident and called the police. Birley said: “I think there is always going to be a demand for expensive bikes at ‘bargain’ prices, no matter where they come from, many bikes are shipped abroad never to be seen again.”

In response to the theft, Birley said he has since added the strongest double-locking shop door he could find, with a heavy-duty steel gate system inside, and fitted steel bars to the windows. The alarm system has also been upgraded, all making the shop as secure as possible, albeit at the expense of customer convenience.

A concerning trend
The risk of thefts for businesses has resulted in cycling insurers adapting their products to support retailers. Specialist cycling insurer Bikmo has just launched its first product for retailers, underpinned by the company’s cycling-centric philosophy.

Ben Frith, commercial insurance manager for the Cheshire-based insurer, said: “At best theft is an inconvenience, but at its worst it can have a devastating long-lasting impact. The impact is wider than just the cost of replacing a bike – it could cause major disruption and a downturn in trade.

“For many bike shop owners it may also be the first time they’ve actually had to put their insurance to the test – did they get their stock sums right? Have they understood and complied with security conditions? Have they included cover for the collateral damage and knock-on business disruption?”

Frith said that the concerning trend in the current climate is that bike thefts appear more organised than they have been: “Local crime trends become less relevant when you consider the lengths that organised gangs will travel if they identify a vulnerability and an opportunity.

“Rising bike costs will have caught the attention of organised criminal gangs – they have a growing incentive to investigate bike shops. Coupled with the need to commit to larger orders to secure stock, it’s increasingly important to keep a close eye on true stock values versus your insurance’s sum insured and policy limits.”

BIKMO’S TOP TIPS FOR RETAILERS TO PROTECT THEIR STORES

Alarms
Always use NSI or SSAIB accredited security companies for high-quality installation and maintenance. Remote signalling is essential, preferably to a third party alarm receiving centre

Physical security
Shutters, window grills, perimeter fencing and ram raid bollards will all make it that more challenging to get in

CCTV
An effective CCTV system can be both a deterrent to crime and a lifeline in defending liability losses

Lock your bikes
Consider locking up high-value stock in store, making criminals think twice

Security patrols
Working with local security companies to keep an eye on your shop during unsociable hours or any prolonged periods of inactivity can keep criminals at bay. This can be especially beneficial if your shop is located away from well-populated areas which benefit from natural passer-by protection

Tag and track
Consider using tagging and tracking technology to deter any would-be thieves

Alex Ballinger

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