The last 4 days in the shop have been consumed with cutting, bending, swaging, and mitering luv handle centers. As each center takes 4 long cuts to complete the miter, I have some time to burn as I wait for the 3 minute and 20 second cut to complete. Today, feeling a bit run down, I set up the laptop next to the mill and have been surfing the web between dabbing on coolant to the hole saw.
One of the forum posts that caught my attention was a cyclist who was dissapointed with the Local Bike Shops in his area and their unwilingness to source special order high end parts for him. A few folks chimed in hypothesizing about why this may be.
Truth be told, not many cyclists truly understand the business side of retail bicycle shop sales and what makes it possible and profitable. Here's were some thoughts I threw down that I've accumulated through the years...
...after more than 23 years in the cycling industry, here are some truths I've learned...
It is impossible for a LBS to stock every part that may be desired by folks who walk through the door. Shops that are experienced know the bread and butter items that need to be on the shelves daily, the upgrade components/parts that make economical and performance sense as replacement items, and those parts that we desire but end up being operating money vampires due to niche markets.
Operating a LBS is a tough business in today's online/mail order economy. When a customer can purchase a part and have it shipped in 2-3 days to their home for less money than the shop can simply purchase it for from a wholesale distributor, it takes a strong service oriented shop to keep customers.
Contrary to what's been stated, QBP, BTI-USA, Seattle, etc... do not care if you order daily or once a week. There are no minimums from their perspective. However, economically, the LBS is better off grouping a larger order together to qualify for free/discounted shipping and purchasing incentives, lowering their overhead and increasing the potential for some profit. Want a special item ordered? Insure that you are purchasing your every day needs from the shop as well and they'll be right on it. Customer loyalty justifies the effort to find those niche items for ya.
Most LBS need to hit the marketing mean to survive; that means selling lots of low to mid range models for the average family consumer and stocking the parts to accommodate their repair needs. The high end niche is one that is hard to feed as the top end of the tech and design spectrum literally changes seasonally. There are a few NE Ohio shops that come to mind that cater to this market and do it well, it is up to you to patronize these establishments if you want to see these "go to" shops survive.
Want to piss off a LBS? Come in, ask lots of questions, test ride and size bikes/products/clothing/shoes, then walk out and buy those items online. Yes, they may be cheaper and delivered more quickly, but the increase in cost you pay at the LBS insures those fine folks are there to provide technical wrenching, talk with you to educate, share knowledge and camaraderie, and help foster a grass roots cycling vibe. The good local shops are the ones that invest in you and the local scene because they know it will return to them in loyal customers.
Operating a local business in the cycling industry is one that will provide a sustainable living with a lot of work. Most who choose this area do so because like you, they believe in the cycling lifestyle and those that embrace it. Isn't that worthy of our support?
I personally support and appreciate out local shops (Ride On and Orrville Cycling) and try to extend my services to them when possible, even if it does put a stretch on my time. I hope y'all will stop in your LBS and let them know that you have some love for them too.