Comment: Earning a seat at the table on Cycle to Work discussions

In response to The Bicycle Dealers’ Association campaign to leverage change with the Cycle to Work salary sacrifice legislation, one retailer is calling for greater transparency. Ceri Dipple, owner of Twenty3c, writes on earning a place at the discussion table…

I’m a retailer and strongly believe that retailers should be more involved in decisions that affect their entire business model as they are a key part of the distribution chain and cycling eco-system. If retailers as a collective want to be taken seriously though, they need to be honest about things. With the recent press around cycle to work commissions there has been a lot of dirty laundry aired in public and we should all look at how that impacts the views of our customers and stakeholders that in turn impacts the long term success or failure of our industry.

It would be wrong to sit back quietly and watch a select few who claim to represent the interests of all, as there are elements that have not been shared. Whilst what’s currently going on is well intentioned and aims to create a platform for retailers to be heard, it also has the real potential to further damage the retailers’ position within the industry. We deserve to have a seat at the table and we weren’t offered that initially in the Cyclescheme negotiations, despite what was announced. However, as retailers we should remember that even if we did have an involvement it doesn’t mean that everything would’ve gone our way.

Since the initial challenge over the exclusion from talks, an offer from Cyclescheme to discuss was made but not taken up.  How can one ask for a seat at the table and when offered the opportunity, ignore it?

How can it be argued that retailers are the ones that are being hurt, request reform by using the consumer bearing excessive end of scheme costs as part of the argument, when inflated commission fees are at times passed to the customer by some of those asking for the reform, rather than absorbing the costs themselves as claimed (and as most do)?

If an argument is based on anything less than the truth, it will be discredited and the opportunity to be involved in future discussions, challenges and solutions will be lost. There are concessions that need to be made by all, but the only way to find the solution is for all parties to come together and collaborate. If we as an industry are going to grow, we need more than improved physical infrastructure, we all need to look at ourselves and ask whether what we are doing is for individual gain or for the cycling eco-system as a whole. You’ll probably find if you focus on the latter, the rewards will exceed expectation.

The retail model is changing, in order for retailers to survive and be able to adapt business models at the pace in which the market is expecting they need to be part of the conversation. It would be naive to expect things to go back to the ‘good old days’, consumer demands and expectations are evolving rapidly but it’s possible to adapt if we can be part of that conversation. It’s time to live up to the IBD acronym as ‘independent bike dealers’ and prove our worth, not ‘irritating bike dealers’ as could easily be mistaken!

So, I would ask brands to reach out and be proactive in finding a collaborative solution on the cycle to work issue, Cyclescheme and the Cycle to Work Alliance are willing to talk, the question is, who else is, and who wants to be part of a solution? A conversation won’t cost you anything and who knows how you could benefit.

To all the retailers out there, perhaps, by being part of finding a solution through constructive discussions rather than less than credible claims, maybe, just maybe, we will prove we deserve that seat at the table that we have long been fighting for.

I’m keen to continue this conversation and find a solution that works for everyone, there are ongoing talks between a number of parties and if you’re interested, you can get in touch with me by email.