Sunday, June 01, 2008

My bike, your bike, their bike.

I had a good ride today out of Indian Rock Dam Elementary School. June 1st. Sunny, 81degF and near sunny skies. We rolled out closer to 0915 as I was there at 0905 so out of pity the group held up for me.

This would be my first group ride with the potential to be 'on the rivet'. The Bianchi 928 T-Cube has been a stellar bike so far. Even in the down poor yesterday that Brent and I got caught in, it's still stable high speed in the rain. Lancaster's rain usually equates to a cow pissing on a flat rock. Or at least that's how bad it rained on us yesterday as we fled Millersville when the lightening was cracking.

We had this rider with us today...Koci(cookie') from Columbia. He is in town doing some work for the local construction company and decided to join us for a ride. This guy was a PRIME example of 'it's the engine not the gear that makes the cyclist'. He was riding a mtb bike with slicks and spanking some of us or at least I was trying to shake him and he was still there. Then again drafting off me is like standing behind a phone booth...

Nice ride, nice group and pace. Tomorrow there is a Monday Night Ride that my former shop I worked for sponsors. I hope to ride out from Lancaster, do the ride and ride home. That should equate to 70 miles give or take. I'll probably roll into my garage around 9pm so I better dig out some blinkies for the bike.
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The new job is going well too. Sometimes retail can be frustrating for some and cake for others. It all depends on moving the product into the hands of the right users. I like to refer to the '3Cs'. Here is a short take on them.

1. Customer Service. This cannot be stressed enough. On my ride yesterday with Brent(Bianchi fan through and through) he wove a tale of his latest retail experience of a shop in his county that he received a gift certificate for. 50 bux and his economic stimulus check would net him some new shoes. He checked the website of said shop, saw something he liked and drove out. Disappointingly enough he was met with a crabby owner that he described as what we'll say isn't a model of cycling fitness but that's neither he nor there. Brent requested to try on the shoes he saw on the shop's website (road oriented shoes) and all they had was MTB shoes. When confronted about the lack of inventory that was claimed to be in stock and wasn't, the owner just replied with, 'I hate the web.' Brent left shaking his head and no shoes. Not good.

Polite, accommodating, knowledgeable, thoughtful, good listening skills; you get the idea. Just a few traits for a good sales person.

2)Community Involvement. Shops that have staff that lead group rides, provide neutral support and advocacy work within the cycling community will have a leg up on those that sit behind the counter selling their 'low hanging fruit' brands. Mostly not conversing with customers in a manner that will expedite the separation of the customer's money. That sounds kind of hard but when you improve upon the customer's shopping experience on a retail level, they will return.

We started a Monday Night Ride when the bike shop was launched and every year the amount of riders double every year. It was a simple plan. Social ride on Monday evening. Meet at the local coffee shop, roll out for 90 minutes, avg spd of 14mpg over the course of 22 miles or so. No one gets dropped, make it simple and fun. Every newbie that bought a bike from me, I personally invited and they came out and kept coming out. Then they would upgrade bike parts, buy accessories, or even a new bike. Cultivate the Novices and you'll grow your market in time. Everyone wants to feel like they belong to something so make cycling enjoyable.

3)Credibility. Why do you sell what you do? Do you rock what you stock? Does that brand that you sell 'walk to the counter'; so you've slacked on Customer Service skills over the year b/c the sales are easy? These questions, when presented to some, will raise an eyebrow. The brand you sell hopefully is one that you've hand selected to merchandise within your store. Not that there is ANYTHING wrong with the big 4 bike brand$ but between the snow and bike retail industry, I've witness more than my fair share of retailers selling those top brands and not have an ounce of passion about what they stock. In this case they are selling the brand to give the store Credibility. This in return
will sour the customer's retail experience, aka being sold the sausage without the sizzle...can't believe I just used that old saying, thanks Neff!

Sell what you believe in, believe in what you sell. If you are being handled by an 800lbs guerrilla demanding floor space, monthly sales quotas, and receipt of inventory on a basis that prevents you from moving what your sitting on, time to look for a new brand. Do your homework, hire some good staff and become a retailer instead of just a dude that loves bikes and happens to run a shop.
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s.b.
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