Ask the trade: In profit terms, how valuable is the modern club cyclist?

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There’s been a lot of debate in the trade about “choosing your customer wisely”, should you be afforded that luxury. With that in mind, CyclingIndustry.News asks this month’s retailer panel; from which demographic do they see the most sustainable long-term customer relationship – the less savvy newbie or the season club veteran – and given the choice, which would they rather be doing business with?

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Frank Beechinor, Cadence Cycling
The newbie is by far the most valuable customer for us. Though a minority, we have had savvy cyclists come through the store who have browsed the best deals on their iPads while we’ve been undertaking their bike fit. It has knock on effects at times too when the appetite for cycling is so strong that they start advising others, and often poorly. I love enthusiasm, but I’ve seen people get drunk on it. I’d say the club cyclist is generally a one-way ticket to all turnover and no revenue, so I’d take 50 newbies over 200 club riders any day.

Neil Holman, George Halls Cycle Centre
There’s certainly a trend here! The new joiner to the club cyclist begins as a loyal customer and perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to sell them their first bike. The relationship stays sweet for a short while as you teach, train and advise. Maybe you’ll give them a discount for loyalty and hope they’ll spread the good word, but it’s rarely happened in my experience.

As time passes by you tend to see less and less of the club cyclist as they embed and learn from their peers where the deals are to be found online.

Thankfully, the modern family has a kid that can debug a computer, but won’t be able to repair anything mechanical. Therefore I think we’ll always have customers that appreciate the skills of the local bike shop.

Alan, Garage Bikes
The core of our valuable customers are commuters, but not by lifestyle choice. It may be that public transport doesn’t work for them or they can’t afford other means. It’s these folk, often in lower paid jobs, who seem most happy to settle their bills and even better, actually take an interest in the wellbeing of your business.

The expectations of the club cyclists are often scarily high, so that’s not a demographic we are targeting. In our experience, there will have been group ride or pub chat that will have driven a mindset that puts the bike shop in a difficult position. I’ve had customers that are leaning on me to be grateful for their business, whether it’s of any value or not.

We used to offer discounts, but that’s long stopped now. I had given out deals in the hop that the word of mouth would bring in more valuable custom, but rarely have I seen any value. You only have to quickly trawl a club Facebook to find threads on where to buy cheapest.

Mick Murphy, Mickey Cranks
Mickey Cranks has a massive cycling club of over 1,000 members, the majority of which started out as the inexperienced consumers, who largely appreciate the value you add in navigating the complexities of their first bike purchase. In my opinion, a club cyclist can be an asset and a challenge at the same time. Club cyclists share news of online deals and offers with each other in lightning quick time.

We are not naïve enough to think that there are any of our club cyclists that are solely Mickey Cranks customers, they are all savvy consumers, some of which value advice, knowledge and the physical shopping experience. These are the club cyclists that we appeal to. I am a firm believer that you have to give back to the local community and by running our cycling club I do that. The time and effort that I invest in the cycling club I do because I enjoy it and want to give back to the sport – I don’t believe it necessarily drives footfall or sales.

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