As we enter a new decade, three cycling organisations look ahead to what are sure to be key industry trends throughout 2020. Today, we hear from Chris Hall, head of business development, ACT
Threats to the high street are continuing to grow; the last five years alone have seen independent retailers being hit with the decline of cash, the growth of online shopping and rocketing business rates.
These terms are more than just headlines, they are real ongoing problems for the hundreds of thousands of independent retailers around the UK, and play a large part in the bike shop closure rate now being at its highest since the 1960s.
During these challenging times, it is essential that independent retailers are proactive, staying one step ahead of the curve can be the fundamental element separating IBDs that can barely survive from those that adapt and thrive.
Online retailers and large companies offer modern-day customers the easy, convenient and cheap option that often trumps any other shopping requirements that they might have. For all of these benefits that are being offered to customers, it is the independent shops that are paying the price; for the IBDs that are competing with these organisations, it can often seem like an arduous and fruitless task.
The ACT is focusing on two key trends for 2020: events that increase consumer awareness of the importance of supporting local bike shops, as well as establishing digital technology to modernise IBDs and appeal more to today’s customer.
Increasing awareness of IBDs
Independent bike shops offer their customers bespoke services, expert advice and individuality. An increasing amount of initiatives are being introduced which highlight the benefits that independent shops offer to customers, communities and local economies. The Indie Retail Best Small Shops competition and Just a Card are a couple of the most well-known campaigns.
These events champion independent retailers and getting involved in them is a great way for shops to build brand awareness among the local and wider communities. The ACT is a member of the Independent Retailers Confederation (IRC), the organisation that manages the Indie Retail UK website, as well as organising the annual Best Small Shops competition.
Whilst being fairly easy on the wallet, these events can offer countless benefits to IBDs. The 2019 competition saw two cycle shops shortlisted as being in the top 25 shops in the UK, with Arragon’s Cycles saying about the event: “It is these such events that reignite the spark for why we still do this day in, day out and gives us some light at the end of the tunnel.”
Promoting more cycle-specific celebrations such as Local Bike Shop Day (LBSD) can also be a great way to stand out. Initially launched in 2018, LBSD has since grown to have over 150 bike shops taking part and the most recent LBSD on 4th May in 2019 saw the hashtag #supportyourlocalbikeshop have over 100,000 total impressions.
The day provides IBDs with a great opportunity to run promotions to drive footfall, web traffic and ultimately increase revenue. Better Health Bikes, who took part in the 2019 LBSD, said that it had the “busiest day ever with the highest turnover and many new customers”.
It also said of the day: “Local independent bike shops have little voice within national and local news outlets but Local Bike Shop Day is helping to give IBDs a voice and stay front of mind.” The 2020 LBSD stands to see a number of leading suppliers, organisations and sponsors jumping on board to help drive the event even further.
Digital technology for IBDs
As well as taking part in events and competitions, awareness can also be raised through using the latest technology that has been designed specifically to help independent shops.
Technology can often be viewed as a threat by many cycle retailers: the unstoppable force that enables customers to order whatever they need whenever they want and have it arrive within days from an endless host of online retailers. However, this giant cannot be fought by ignoring it and hoping that customers continue to wander into high street shops, and if you cannot beat it, join it.
Embracing change and introducing forefront digital technology to a shop instantly makes it more accessible to modern-day customers, as well as providing them with an incentive to continue returning. During this time of changing shopping behaviour, the ACT recommends using services such as NearSt, a partner of Google that allows shoppers to search live in-store inventory directly in Google search and unlock the vast potential of brick and mortar retailers.
This retail technology platform drives in-store footfall by automatically connecting the products currently hidden on shop shelves to the millions of local shoppers searching for them, in real-time, through an integration with a shop’s Point of Sale system. This award-winning service helps customers to realise the ease of high street shopping as it enables customers to quickly and easily find what they are looking for in a physical shop, thus supporting local businesses and stemming the flow of business to the online retail giants.
Similarly, the ACT is also currently working on bringing an innovative new app to the cycling industry with the aim of improving customer loyalty. booost is a first of its kind three-in-one product helping to level the playing field between independent retailers and corporates, a multi-sector solution to cater for the modern shopper. booost is being launched later this year.
While there is no doubt of the mounting difficulties threatening the cycle industry, the ACT believes that a fundamental retaliation is to take advantage of the events, competitions and technological innovations that contribute towards raising awareness of the importance of IBDs. The cycling industry as a whole must show prescience during these hard-hitting times; IBDs positioning themselves at the forefront of these 2020 trends will lead the way in saving the high street.
For more information call the ACT on 01273 427 700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matt Mallinder, director of influence and engagement, Cycling UK: “Cycling is part of the solution and should not be ignored”