Shift Up podcast: What does it take to run a successful specialist bike shop in 2018?

This week’s Shift Up Podcast tackles a topic that is the basis of our work here at CyclingIndustry.News; discussing and exploring the ingredient mix of what makes a successful bike shop in 2018.

Our guest this week is G & O Family Cyclery’s Davey Oil, a long-term bike advocate turned store co-owner and specialist in cargo bikes.

A business that got off to a rollercoaster start, Oil tells the story of how his shop accidentally caught fire ahead of its grand opening, before moving on to a nice problem to have; selling a year’s worth of bikes (some 2,000 units) in just his first month trading. That, unfortunately, wasn’t the end of Oil’s misfortune, with a gas explosion forcing a move two years ago.

“Everything inside our store was destroyed,” said Oil of the second disaster. “We had a couple of days trying to decide what to do. Everybody showed up that day, they showed up ready to contact the customers, make plans, move stock and we took that as a sign to continue. Even our customers helped fund our revival, the city of Seattle came together and didn’t want us to go.”

With the money raised through various crowd funding campaigns and events the business was able to move forward.

The talk goes on to make a case for becoming part of the community infrastructure as a bike shop by specialising in the needs of your local demographic. In the case of G & O Family Cyclery, that fixture within the community is to enable locals to replace car trips by specialising in cargo hauling.

Asked what are some of the things good and bad about running a bike shop

“There’s a lot of stuff I was quite naive about. One con had to do with supplier credit; I thought I don’t need credit, I pay my bills on time. A big piece of it was understanding how many things there are tying up cash flow. Your business could fall apart based on a late delivery if badly planned. We had to stop seeing our bank account as a scoreboard,” says Oil on an early lesson in trading.”

Outside of day-to-day shop management, the conversation moves on to managing relationships with others in the industry. An advocate for cycling for all, in particular under-served demographics, Oil believes some dated mindsets are hard to shift and may be affecting the way we do business.

“There are a lot of relationships with other people within the industry that can become challenging and that I find the need to call out at times. An outside sales rep may come in and say “my nagging wife needs an electric cargo, then she might finally ride a bike”. This is a light version of the discussion, but its a bid to make an instant rapport with other men. The bike industry I find has a lot of social norms that permit this kind of ill-considered behaviour.”

To tune in either hit play below or head to the head of the homepage: