In a story I picked up from BikeBiz.com, it seems Spanish bike retailers are trying to unite against the Northern Irish online bike shop ChainReactionCycles.com (CRC). The retailer is almost unbeatable on price.
Antichainreaction.com has been launched as a protest site, an amusing touch that in order to complain about a website, you create a counter-website. The anti-website’s main request is that companies should not supply their goods to CRC, instead they should sustain the traditional supply chain via a distributor to a local bike shop. The plea says “The customer can freely buy wherever he/she wants“… so long as suppliers boycott CRC.
Whilst this is a classic cry of a vested interest wanting the rules changed to suit them, I have some sympathy. We’ve seen book stores and music retailers hammered by the arrival of Amazon and other online retailers. It can’t be fun to run a bike shop and know your customers are ordering online.
Without going into too much detail it’s not easy running a local shop. Decide not to stock, say, Campagnolo or Continental for the sake of simplicity or space and you lose some customers automatically who want particular products. Yet carry too many ranges of duplicate products and you risk sinking cash into holding stock that’s hard to shift. By contrast massive choice in a warehouse is a different game.
Indeed the “anti” website smells like a desperate effort. It might even backfire, think about it and this is the kind of publicity that CRC just cannot buy. Spanish retailers are screaming “you guys are too cheap“. You’d almost think it was a viral marketing stunt given the protest isn’t against the concept of online retail, rather it’s directed at one retailer alone. But BikeBiz.com says this is genuine, it’s apparently led by a Valencia bike shop owner.
How to fightback
- Rather than fighting with websites, try not to compete on price. Offer customers a shop where they can hang out, charge them for coffee. Make the place a hub for local riders rather than a dusty shop handicapped by a high rent.
- Get income from offering services that can’t be done online, like bike fits and artisan wheel building and above all repairs that can be done quickly, as opposed to a week or longer. If someone wants to buy a carbon seatpost, make sure they know you will fit it for them with the precise torque settings rather than groan because they “went elsewhere”.
- Have a good stock of the things people need every day, like tyres or small spares.
- If these things are a big change, be sure to offer the simple things like a smile and service. Good advice helps people.
- And a poster on the wall reminding people that you don’t charge postage costs and offer easy refunds is another way to remind customers that shopping isn’t determined by price. You can also point out that customers aren’t at the mercy of a postal or courier service that’s going to deliver the goods whilst they’re out at work.
But at the end of the day, most bike parts are basic commodities, there is no reason to for a network of small shops to supply the market when a few low cost giants can do this more efficiently.