PROFILE: Cyclestreet owner builds business from scratch to go on to receive awards and having to move to accommodate growth

York bike dealer goes from redundancy to creating a growing business

You moved premises last year?
Although my business got off to a great start, between years one and two takings were within £100 of each other.

The recession was a big factor, but my gut feeling, combined with research, lead to the size and position of the old shop in Heworth being the primary reason. We could not seem to attract ‘destination shoppers’ due to location, lack of parking and an inability to display a large range of bikes. 

Our new location had to be in the East of York where our existing customer base was. A little research found the new unit. Located on Layerthorpe, York, the new shop has a 13 bay car park, 2,000sqft of storage, a 3,000sqft showroom (probably the largest in York) and a workshop to rival any. The result was a massive increase in display space and a spacious, bright and clean shopping experience. 

The overheads here are far higher, so we have dedicated sales professionals with high targets. We’ve been here six months, and year to date, our turnover has increased almost 40 per cent – an astonishing leap – and the growth figure keeps rising. We have also changed our marketing plans since working with an external marketing and PR agency, Intandem Communications, shifting advertising online through Google, Facebook and also the local newspapers. This resulted in a significant increase in web traffic but largely un-measurable increase in footfall and we are holding this type of advertising for the present.

You’ve won in the York Press Business Awards – can you tell us more about that?
In February 2009 I was made redundant from a senior IT management role, just as the recession was starting to bite. It knocked the stuffing out of me; it lead to a relationship breakdown, and the sale of my house. After a fruitless search for employment I decided to start the business as a means of earning a living alone. I had no retail experience, other than working on a Bridlington market stall aged 15, so a massive learning curve lay ahead. I used a hobby as a vehicle to build the business, employing subcontract labour on an ‘as-and-when’ basis to keep costs as low. Lots of guess work, help from friends and contacts in the trade led to the profitable completion of year one – itself an amazing feat.

In 2011 we won the category ‘Best New Business’ at the York Press Business Awards and also came runner up in the ‘Best Retail’ category, for which I am immensely proud. However, I knew that I could improve on this and in 2012 we this time won the ‘Best Retail’ category which confirmed my methods of business were not only working, but recognised by the judges who are all respected heads of successful businesses. My confidence has grown as a result of achieving all of these accolades.

How big is the Cyclestreet team now?
Since starting as a one man band in March 2010 we have grown to three full-time and two part-time staff. We have steadily recruited experienced staff, mostly from other cycle shops in the area.

What corners of the market do you cover?
We cover all aspects of cycling, however we are remaining clear of the e-bike market until the technology has improved to a level where it is supported correctly by the manufacturers. The growth sectors in cycling are (understandably) road cycling and also cyclo-cross. Steady growth in commuting continues, in my opinion due to health and speed concerns rather than financial cost of fuel and public transport. We also provide full workshop services to repair, upgrade or custom build.

Do you operate any rides from the shop?
Yes, we adopted a local cycling group around 18 months ago as our ‘own’ club and have expanded from there. We used Facebook to introduce new riders to it and ride every Sunday morning. We also run regular ‘Rider Clinics’ each month, providing riders new and old with a bespoke fitting service to make their bike fit them accurately. In the near future we plan to run maintenance courses for all abilities and also a women-only group. The only barrier is we are so busy we don’t currently have time.

Is it tough to get to all of the trade shows?
Very. I must balance the needs of the shop and our excellent customer service with future needs and so I have to judge the likely benefits of each particular show. I’ve tried to go to every other one, but that depends on the supplier.

And what are the best and worst parts of the job?
The long hours are very draining and being a ‘jack of all trades’ (mechanic, bike salesman, accountant, shop fitter, bike washer, cleaner and, of course shop owner) can be exhausting. However, I get most pleasure from giving the best, most professional and friendly service to our large and growing base of customers. The year-end figures are also a highly rewarding part of the job.

Cyclestreet, York
Opening Times: Mon to Fri 9-6pm, Sat 9-5pm, (Sunday closed for rides)
Telephone: 01904 427 510
Facebook: /CycleStreetYork
Twitter: @CycleStreet
Established: 2010 (founded January, began trading March 20th)

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