Townley: Spot the opportunity with each generation of bike shop customer

Download PDF

By Jay Townley, Gluskin Townley Group jay townley

As the foreign minister of Germany has said, “… the old world of the 20th Century is finally over.” We have entered a time of disruption and change in just about everything from politics, international trade, domestic policy, taxes, tariffs, technology, advocacy, mobility, health care and retailing!

While the disruptions and changes could affect the bicycle business in both good and negative ways – they will also create opportunities to be of greater service to consumers and customers and generate additional profitability for bicycle brands, suppliers and retailers.

Looking to the future of the 21st Century I am presented five of the twenty-seven trends that our group has researched and documented that we believe will assist bicycles and bicycling in providing a better future, including:

  • Have Fun
  • Make it simple and easy
  • Be Authentic – be real
  • Personalize everything
  • Exercise and Stress Relief

Let’s start with a definition. Over the first few weeks of the new-year it has become apparent that as we move toward the future there is a growing trend to define and refer to “bicycles” and “ebikes” collectively as bicycles!

I realize the ebike folks in Europe and certain business interests in the U.S. may not like this change, but several progressive brands have realized that gaining acceptance from American bike shops, other retailers and consumers for ebikes is far easier if they are treated as a type of bicycle providing a whole set of features that make bicycling more enjoyable and fun!  So, from now on when I refer to the terms bicycle and bicycles I mean all inclusive forms of human powered and power assisted bicycles.

Have fun and provide fun experiences!

Have fun means the owner, or owners, managers and staff not just enjoying coming to and being at work, but actually doing fun things during the work day. Speaking from personal experience working as a sales associate in my early years at Hazel Park Cycle Center, the two partners that owned the shop encouraged us to enjoy ourselves at work.

Retail is a tough, challenging business and an enjoyable working environment with the opportunity to join in group activity and listen to and create humorous stories about both great and terrible sales, as well as service experiences helps overall morale and also helps a long day go by a little bit quicker.

Several years ago I had the opportunity to spend an evening with the former owners of Hazel Park Cycle Center and several former colleagues – and we laughed until our sides hurt at the stories from those days of working in a bike shop! The point…bike shops have much to gain by creating and nurturing fun and fun experiences.

funBrands and retailers need to provide fun experiences and activities, rides and events that encourage all generations, including Boomers and the Mature/Silent generations and individuals and families to stay active and enjoy the bicycling lifestyle, enriching the whole variety of communities of interest.

If you don’t get it about having fun please call me (608-666-2062 U.S. Central Time Zone) and I will do my best to talk you through how to make fun work! 

Make it simple and easy to do business with you 24-7!

Large assortments and a multiplicity of choices are on the way out. Look toward a simple Good-Better-Best selection of high-quality and functionally designed products with easy-on-easy-off accessories available in a variety of simple and easy purchasing options, including leasing, rental and lease or rent to purchase with simple financing.

Can you assist with home delivery of purchases, pick-up and delivery of service work to home or the workplace, combined with mobile service options. These will make life simple for time-starved customers.

The majority of retailers have become Omni-Channel and those bike shops that haven’t activated commerce enabled websites fly in the face of consumers that expect 24-7 access to the retailers with which they wish to share their business. 

Be Authentic – be real! 

Social media and a resistance among Generation Y to traditional advertising has created a demand for brand and retailer authenticity.

Recent research has found that the overarching reason 7 to 17 year-old Americans don’t ride a bicycle more, or at all – is – they have no desire or interest in bicycling! This is in part Generational Rebellion, and brands and retailers can take advantage of Gen Z and younger Gen Y interest in renting, or sharing, not owning, personalization and customization – trends that also appeal to older generation’s interest in status and belonging and being fashionable. 

Personalize everything! 

The rise of locally made bicycles and the growing demand for handmade and custom frames and bicycles are driven by the personalization trend that is supported by small batch production technologies, including 3D printing. Media of all types will become more personalized as will products and services. Traditional brands may find themselves facing local and individual bike shop products and brands!  

With the success of Nike’s successful customized shoe move, many other companies have also hopped on the personalization bandwagon and seen success. “Customization is the future,” said Jodi Fox, co-founder and chief creative officer of Shoes of Prey, which allows customers to design shoes from choosing heel heights to color and width. “There’s a movement.” We think this is in fact a trend!

Another example is Xerox which was present at the recent National Retail Federation trade show to promote its new direct-to-object inkjet printer that can do custom design and print a name on a water bottle in about a minute.

“We see a huge market in the retail environment [for the jet printer],” said John Mangieri, a specialist in custom solutions at Xerox. “It’s about personalization, customization and immediate gratification”

Exercise and Stress Relief!  intebike-odd

With everything changing and the disruptions that are all around us tensions are rising and people of all ages and from all segments of society are in need of stress relief!  This is certainly  a trend out on the fringe that appears to be picking up a head of steam.

Bike shops are ideally positioned to provide a solution in the form of exercise and stress relief!

Older folks, 55+ have told the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA) that they don’t ride bicycles more, or at all because they aren’t physically able to do so!

Many of them will also want to find relief from the rising tensions in their lives, and bike shops need to reach out and demonstrate why and how they represent a solution to use bicycles as a fun and enjoyable form of exercise that will relieve stress!

How? Many older folks 55+ can ride a recumbent or an electric assist bicycle, or an electric assist recumbent! Bike shops simply need to show and demonstrate the options they can provide as solutions!

Folks 35 to 54 years of age told the NSGA that they didn’t ride bicycles more, or at all because they simply don’t have enough free time.

They are no different than anyone else and they are going to want solutions to help them deal with tensions and stress. Bike shops can provide time starved moms and dads with time efficient bicycle and bicycle trainer experiences through rides and indoor exercise classes. These can run early mornings, evenings and weekends – and don’t forget that most time starved 35 to 54 year old men and women aren’t interested in setting a KOM or club record – what they want, and need it a very time efficient exercise opportunity that helps them stay fit and relieve the stress of the world around them!

Younger people, 18 to 34 years of age told the NSGA that they didn’t ride a bike more, or at all because – they don’t own a bike!

This certainly goes right to the core of the problem with the bicycle business in the U.S., but 18-to 34 year olds still need to find ways to relive tension and stress, and if they don’t own a bicycle this represents an opportunity for bike shops to rent bicycles for exercise and stress relief and also rent time on indoor stationary bicycle trainers.

Rent to buy and lease also are viable options for bike shops to develop and make available to younger consumers and customers who don’t own and don’t want to own a bicycle, but do want to exercise to relieve tension and stress.

Bicycles and Bicycling are the ideal solutions to provide a better future – and in the process generate much needed revenue for the bicycle business!