Ask the trade: How can bike shops turn events into new revenue?

There’s been a notable trend in the past five years to declutter shop floors and create social spaces in store. With the coffee bean boom slipping away, what’s the next big thing for the bike shop’s hangout? We speak to two event planners to get their take on driving footfall and latterly sales, via events.

Our panel
Paul Errington, Focal Events
Daniel Jones, Random Adventure and Local Bike Shop Day founder
Photos via Matt Stokes

What opportunity exists for bike shops to utilise the sales floor for other forms of customer engagement beyond selling?

Paul Errington, Focal Events

PE: In any business time should always be afforded to exploring how to not only ensure the spend of your current client base, but also seek to expand it; you do this by not only in bringing other cyclists to your doorstep, but also assessing how to enthuse non-cyclists to come to you to look at the possibility of cycling as an interest, hobby or sport.

Take time to look at experiential events, whether these be store-based or out riding (mindful you are trying to encourage people who may not own a bike already) as a means of promoting your business through engagement. All those years you have been in the industry has armed you with a huge in-depth knowledge of bikes; share it and pass on the passion for riding. Engage new riders now and they are more likely to stay with you as they progress in the sport.

Look at the other local businesses around you as there may be potential for collaboration and a share of customer base and marketing; they may be far removed from the world of bikes but still maintain a common interest… such as coffee, or beer; manufacturers and cyclists/non cyclists love of both these products.

Daniel Jones, Random Adventure. Pic: David Stanley

DJ: The obvious one is social events like talks, workshops, films and creating a social hub around your shop. Showing off why your shop is better than clicking and waiting for something to appear. Another is creating a club/community, taking out rides in the evenings and weekends and turning yourself into much more than a business.

At a time when bike shop footfall is harder to come by how can events benefit both financially and in terms of investing in the customer for the future?

PE: Quite simply if you design your event correctly and target the right people you are going to expand your client base. As outlined above, your outlook should be on introducing new people (and therefore business) in to your retail environment, so build your events to be inclusive without barriers for those who want to get a feel for a new activity. New riders offer the chance to build a lasting retail relationship and this is founded on the initial interactions where you can impress knowledge and good service.

The retail space being occupied in most instances is unused after the store closes, yet rent is still being paid. Use this resource to host your events with just your time as the extra input needed.

DJ: It exposes the bike shops to a wider audience. I put on my first talk with Markus Stitz at The Green Jersey in Clitheroe. This gained a new bikepacking audience and cyclist’s now know this great cafe and bike shop exists. They now stock Miss Grape bikepacking gear and have adapted to catering to a new audience. This same audience have come back again to see other great talks such as the other week with Lee Cragie.

What mistakes are commonly made when hosting events for the first time?

PE: Inclusivity is a good guideline to a well-attended and successful event. It’s important to remove as many barriers to attendance as possible. For example, check your date doesn’t clash with anything else locally that could stop people attending. Ensure timings allow people to attend around other life commitments such as work and family. If your attendees are going to need specialist equipment then make sure you have some to loan so equipment is never a barrier – e.g bikepacking bags on a taster overnighter.

DJ: It needs to have a story, either biographical, or the adventure. You can never not do enough marketing. Delegate jobs, there’s only so much one person can do. Don’t book people for the sake of it, book people because they will sell and are engaging. Work with venues, the speaker and promoter to make sure lot’s of avenues of advertising are going on.

For those putting on shop ride style events, what’s required in terms of insurances, licenses and planning?

PE: Insurances: It is likely that any activity conducted within the confines of your store will be covered by your existing liability policy, but it is always worth planning the activity, a quick risk assessment and then submitting to your existing insurer or broker to check.

Licenses: If you are venturing out then again as above check your insurances. If your activity will be guided ensure that you or staff hold relevant qualifications for both guiding and first aid and if, for example, you are setting up a demo day then ensure you have permission and, if needed, a permit for the proposed venue. It’s worth noting that some national cycling bodies offer inclusive insurance to qualified guides when dealing with small groups.

Any local event organiser will usually be happy to offer their assistance in advising on events. There may be a mutual benefit to team up, but at every least you are both building the same client base so there is shared interest.

How would you advise bike businesses go about marketing their event off shoots?

PE: Though we live in a highly competitive age for both retailers and events we are all able to access a very similar tool kit when it comes to event promotion.

Social media is the best tool at the disposal of all of us. Use your existing social media presence to publicise your activity and, if it grows, then create its own online presence to feed back to your store. However, this will generally only find your existing audience or those familiar with what you are offering so reach out to your local press, invite them along, develop the narrative you feel they should be using and pitch it. Be as proactive as you can.

As outlined above team up with other local businesses. Though they may not have direct links to cycling, many share common themes or client bases, so get them using their social media presence too.

DJ: I rely on the talent, the shop and myself to help sell these talks now, Facebook adverts aren’t all that in my experience for talks. Posters, social media and multiple people all talking about the same event will help it gain enough coverage. Once you’re established people will usually be waiting to see who your next talker/event is (if you do it right).

What services does your business offer to bike industry businesses looking at events? 

PE: Focal Events Limited offers a full turn key events solution. You develop the concept and we provide the solution to enable execution.

This can operate at any scale but we are always favouring those events or activities that offer the best rider experience, so for us the more unique a concept the better.

DJ: I help fill shops, cafes and other spaces with unique events. I saw a gap in the market where nobody was really putting on events like this in the north west. I only work with independent businesses, be it a 200 seater venue, a local cinema (yes we have an indie cinema opening and it serves pots of tea too), cafe’s or bike shops. My philosophy is to keep it all local, put on events that are engaging, inclusive and benefit the businesses I work with.