In recent years we’ve heard a lot of stories about sales drying up and workshop bookings taking the slack. What if you had a few more income streams to add to the flow? David Cole, owner of Quench Cycles in Bedgebury, talks to us about his diverse business and why he’ll never be “traditional”…
Briefly summarise the Quench story thus far:
Quench was 10 years old in September and is based at Bedgebury Forest in Kent. We are a small business, employing 7 full time staff and a number of part time and weekend staff. A significant portion of our business is from bike hire. We have over 300 bikes in the fleet and offer a number of other complimentary services. All staff have been trained from grass roots up.
How’s business been this past year?
Trade for us has been very good. We have seen double digit growth for the last two years running through the specific strategies that we have implemented.
Quench appears quite diverse in that you’ve a big hire fleet, shop, workshop and run courses – do you feel like in this day and age of bicycle retail it’s no longer just enough to rely on being traditional?
We are a diverse business. We’re not just about bike sales, but also offering a number of complimentary services that allow people to enhance their experience of biking. While we are open all year, we are also a seasonal business based in the middle of a forest and these different revenue streams help iron out the peaks and troughs. We felt it important to develop areas that are less affected by the internet.
You’re one of just a few independent stores we’ve come across committed to providing Staff the Living Wage – why is this important to you?
Our team are our greatest asset and I believe in the ‘circle of life.’ I believe that as the business owner, the business needs to support me. My role is to support the team and their role is to support the business. The living wage is part of this commitment and I believe morally the right thing to do. However, we also offer other incentives, perks and benefits to help our team feel rewarded and engaged. We even have a staff xbox in our workshop!
What would you say is, at present, the greatest challenge facing independent cycle retailers like yourself?
Pricing and discounting. Poor supplier availability and the industry’s constant need to create ever new and evolving ‘standards’ that make items either obsolete or yesterday’s ‘thing’, which only leads to yet further discounting. Innovation is great, but it feels that each season’s window of ‘opportunity’ is getting smaller and smaller as limited stock availability at the start and end of a season takes hold. A small business relies on cash flow and often can’t tie up large sums of cash with large forward orders on next year’s possible ‘new thing.’ The industry generally needs to be less supplier-led and more market driven by the end retailer and consumer.
Another offshoot of yours we’d picked up on is kid’s parties and school group sessions – is this part of investing in those who could be future customers?
Quench is all about having fun, engaging with and experiencing the thrill of the outdoors by creating accessible adventure through excitement, education and challenges. These additional activities very much sit within our mission statement.
Trailbuilding and hire fleet management consultancy too – you can help other retailers develop their offering, is that right?
We are hire fleet experts and understand the intricacies of running these. Many people underestimate what is required to operate a high quality bike fleet and more importantly, the associated record keeping which may be needed if things go wrong. We help to provide a solution to organisations that want a fleet of bikes but perhaps don’t have the expertise to run this themselves. Trail building is a new venture for us, but again ideally aligns with our mission statement and environment.
How’s the more traditional business of sales and servicing going?
Very well. We have seen significant growth across all aspects of our business. Our workshop remains very busy, but by offering the other elements that we do, we also help to future proof the business. When one area is up, another might be down. I don’t believe in having all of our eggs in one basket if it can be avoided.
You offer a bike doctor home or workplace visit service – has this become a modern day necessity for some of your customers?
Everyone suffers with constraints and demands on their time. Part of our role is to make it as easy as we can for people to enjoy their biking. We can help them achieve this by offering this service.
We can see from the site that you’ve a link with the This Girl Can Campaign – part of a drive of yours to boost women’s cycling levels?
Yes, it’s to help boost women’s cycling levels, however, more than that, it’s about engaging woman to be more active generally and the benefits that this can bring.
In the future, what areas will you be bolstering to stay ahead of the curve?
We will continue to develop a suite of complimentary and innovative services that help deliver our mission statement and most of all, listen to what our customers want.
Tell us about the courses you run – does this represent a good chunk of revenue in the overall business?
All of our staff are trained as bike leaders and skills coaches. Some have undertaken National standards cycling instructor training and maintenance instructors as well. It is a complimentary service that is experiencing growth within the business and something that helps to iron out the aforementioned peaks and troughs.