5 Jan

It’s 2012 and according to the Mayans this could be the last year any of us have to worry about riding our bikes. On the off chance that they got it wrong 2000 years ago I want to talk a little about the future of the sport we love.

Technology has been responsible for amazing leaps forward in the performance of our bicycles and the equipment we use while practicing our hobby. We all benefit from the lighter faster more aero parts and bikes that the application of new technology has allowed. Unfortunately, the technology that has been so instrumental in improving our cycling lives may also be responsible for a turn in the wrong direction.

We are are price driven society. I won’t go into whether that it is good or bad. From an early age we have been ingrained with the “good deal” mentality.

Supersize Me! The cheapest is always going to be the better deal, right? The internet allows many people to see a wide range of products and prices from many places very quickly. Notice you can see the product online but you can’t compare it. There still has to be a brick and mortar storefront for a consumer to compare and experience the product before they buy it.

So, two negative things can happen because of this. The consumer buys online without even checking into the local offerings, or they use the local shops as a fitting station for the product that they want and then buy online.

Bad thing number one: The Consumer gets a sub par product
A person interested in bikes goes online and starts “shopping”. They will be inundated with many types of bikes in lots of price ranges. Some online bikes claim to be “direct from the manufacturer” so they offer big discounts. Ultimately the consumer probably chooses based on what bike looks coolest to them or has the best parts for the money. But there is a big issue with these “good deals”.

In the quest to be the cheapest quality goes out the window. We see it all the time. A bike is brought into our store that someone bought online and it needs to be assembled. The customer is normally amazed at how much we charge to “put together the bike”. Truth be told the online bikes are shoddily assembled at the factory and need much more attention than one of our premium brand bicycles.

Another problem that most internet shoppers never even know about is that their cheap bike frame rides terribly. It doesn’t matter how good the components are. You cant overcome a bad frame design. Legitimate companies invest a lot of money in R&D to make the best bike frame possible. This investment has to be recouped, therefore more upfront cost. Most unfortunate internet shoppers will not know the true joy of a well designed frame, but god love ’em they wont know the difference either.

Bad Thing Number 2: Local Bike Shops Loose Out
Amazon.com recently launched a free app called Price Check that allows consumers to use brick-and-mortar shops for research, then easily buy many cycling products online right from their mobile device.

Here’s how it works: when in our shop, consumers can scan a bar code, type in the product name or take a picture to see the product and prices from a variety of online retailers. After ensuring they have the right fit by trying on the product in store, and talking to our experienced staff, they can buy it from somebody else with the press of a button.

Who loses in this situation? Certainly not Amazon. And — at least in the short term — not the cycling brands selling through bike shops and Amazon. The local bike shops are the ones loosing out. Buying product from brands that severely undercut local brick and mortar stores just seems wrong to me. Amazon is clearly interested in the cycling space, and is hiring talent from the bike industry

Participating brands include Pearl Izumi, Shimano, Louis Garneau, Giro, Bell, Fizik, Sidi.

Whether the current news is mobile device apps or online discount stores, the underlying issue remains the same: some suppliers support the future sport of cycling and some do not. Highroller has made a commitment to the future of our industry and will only commit large amounts of space in our store to products that support the healthy growth of our business and industry.

You may say, “who cares if the local shops loose out?” I say you do. What happens when you need that cheap bike fixed when it ultimately breaks down, or when you have a warranty question. Good luck getting that bike fixed online. Consumers need us here to help guide them through the process of buying. We know the product and the nuances of it’s use. If the current trend continues we will see even more bike shops close their doors.

Before you get all worried, Highroller is coming off a very good year and 2012 is staring off well too. So thank you all for that. We don’t take it lightly.

Thanks for reading,

We all have different perspectives and experiences that influence the way we view the world. If you have comments on this topic I would love to hear from you.


7 Responses to “Futures”

  1. #ClintThomas January 5, 2012 at 9:06 pm #

    Buy local and support your town and community through the sales tax base and job creation. Not to mention a brick and mortar is cool place to visit when we can pull ourselves off of our computers.

  2. OzarkTri January 5, 2012 at 9:12 pm #

    Since you asked so kindly for opinions, I’ll offer mine. I see Amazon and competition in general as a good thing. You’re right that the competition hurts shops like yours but it’s not like H.R. can’t make a profit at the lower retail prices, you’ll just have to sell more units to make the same margin $’s. If the shop can’t handle the decreased margin on parts/accessories, then as customers we have to accept higher prices on labor due to efforts to make up the margin erosion. (Reminder to pick up Zen and the bicycle maintenance, HA!)

    Seriously though, everything goes in cycles (not the kind we ride), for example smaller grocery stores are taking back customers from mass retailers like Walmart (which is surprising in this economic climate). Customers don’t want to deal with the headaches of large parking lots, overly crowded stores and employees who leave much to be desired in regards to customer service.

    The LBS business model, especially in a medium sized college town, isn’t going anywhere. Carrying the right brands, who ultimately protect shops like High Roller, insure that customers will still buy their bikes locally. Just continue your excellent & honest customer service, carry the right amount of inventory, offer things online retailers can’t such as group rides and things will be great for many years to come. Thanks for offering your insight & keeping up with a stellar blog.

    • The Highroller Cyclery January 5, 2012 at 11:26 pm #

      Thanks Jason,

      You are right. All small businesses must adapt to the environment. Part of our
      adaptation will be education of market about what services are most important and how they can be best served. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Joel January 5, 2012 at 10:22 pm #

    One thing that Highroller offers that an online retailer cannot is a bike shop experience. Not every customer is looking for that but I would argue that a large percentage of your clientele has been acquired over the years due to the expertise and service your shop provides. As for growth of new customers and the internet shopper — you have an opportunity to get creative with promotions that use the Amazon app as a tool. Say you know the app shows Pearl shorts for 20% off… You could offer free chamois creme to the shopper to make up the difference with an added benefit. This was the first thing that jumped in my head. I am not sure if that would be the best option, but you get the direction I am heading. Just a thought!

    Nice post, I enjoyed the read.

    Also, let me know if you do not get the alert to moderate this post…

  4. Thomas Frase January 5, 2012 at 10:44 pm #

    I agree with you. But I would add that the local shops help give a community character. I want to live in a place that has bike shops, and local foods, and clothing I can try one before I buy. And as a consumer, I like buying at a store where I can return and ask questions or get advice. If I have purchased on line, then I don’t feel I have the right to “borrow” a store’s expertise. And finally, buying on line makes me do a ton of research on a product area, and at the end of the day I probably still don’t know enough to really feel good about my decision. If I’m going to spend hundreds of dollars on a product, it’s worth something to get an expert to walk me through all the options and considerations of my purchase.
    Glad you guys had a good 2011 and hope 2012 is even better.

  5. QuinT January 5, 2012 at 11:25 pm #

    While I think there is a place for internet retail, I have to get on that localist bandwagon. Earn here, spend here whenever you can. Your LBS is providing you with a SERVICE that they recoup through a pretty skinny margin in most cases. there is no excuse for using the SERVICE and then price matching the internets. period. Of course I’ve done it, but I was being a toolbag.

    Now I do it in reverse. Do your research online. Then go order it from your LBS. I have been surprised lots of times by the competitive price. Win win. Try it once.

    I might add that even your shop employee will buy online now and again. So don’t be too hard on yourself, Toolbag.

  6. Clyde Messiah January 5, 2012 at 11:28 pm #

    It’s definitely a hard path, even for the informed consumer. I personally love to support and purchase from your shop as well as others in the area, but there are times when certain item must be purchased online due to the savings; after all, we all have budgets, some that include families, and sometimes every bit of savings count(especially with the price of some of the gear and accessories)! Like I said though, I totally understand where you guys are coming from, which is why my split of local:online shopping is probably between 60:40 and 70:30

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