We have a couple pretty strong beliefs regarding the sustainability and future livelihood of the brick and mortar bike shop. The bicycle market is undeniably in a transitional phase right now. Any shop that’s content to rest on its laurels and not change with the times is likely a shop that, unfortunately, will be closing its doors. The rise in service-only shops and mobile repair businesses both point to one thing: the future is in service. Shop viability is becoming more and more dependent on making your service department as efficient as possible.
Service vs. Sales
First, let’s talk about service vs. sales and service center efficiency. There’s an idea that says the future of the bike shop is going to be one that’s reliant on service for income rather than sales. That’s good news for us as we make the tools that are required to perform that service. But for a lot of bike shops, that’s going to require a change in approach to how they go about their business.
There’s always going to be someone online selling a bike or an accessory at a cheaper price than what a traditional bike shop can afford to or is willing to. From my point of view here I don’t see an end to that. What’s always going to be required, though, is a knowledgeable mechanic prepared to assemble or repair that bike or install that accessory or component that was purchased online. If companies like Canyon, Wiggle, etc. go away it’s a matter of time before someone else comes in and takes their place.
What can’t be bought from those companies is the skills and knowledge to assemble that bike or install that component. As Jeff Rowe of the Professional Bicycle Mechanics Association writes in Bicycle Retailer, “The difference between the IBDs that survive and those that do not can be seen in whether the above scenarios end as lost sales or SERVICE OPPORTUNITIES.”
Efficiency in Service
So, given that the future of the bike shop is one rooted in service, it makes sense to try to make the service department as efficient as possible. Even if a given shop owner thinks they can make it with a retail focus, the investment in creating a more efficient service center still can only reap rewards. Time is money, and time spent looking for tools or dealing with tools that don’t work as intended is lost money.
Due to our history in sectors other than bicycle tools we approach bike tool design with a unique perspective on what works and what doesn’t. Cycling is incredibly rooted in tradition and the idea of “well, that’s how we’ve always done it” — even if it’s not necessarily the best way. Take our Rear Triangle Spreader, for instance. Traditionally if a Dutch-style commuter bike came in for a rear tire service it meant 45 minutes of disassembling the drivetrain, chain case, fenders, and so on just to get to the tire. Not with our tools. Now it’s a 10-minute job, tops.
Professionalism & Appearances
Cycling loves to romanticize the musty old bike shop with the wizard in the back room performing magic and miracles in getting a bike to work just right. Shop mechanics also have a reputation for being grumpy and unapproachable (much as yours truly did). Industries much bigger than ours have changed customer expectations and the days of the cluttered bike shop with messy workbenches and staff wearing their favorite band’s t-shirt are slowly waning.
It’s not unheard of to find bikes costing upwards of $10,000. I can only speak for myself, but if I was in a position to drop that kind of cash on a bike I’d feel pretty uneasy bringing it to a shop with a messy, unorganized service area. “Image is everything,” they say. If a shop can’t keep its own space in order how sloppy are they going to be with my bike?
Apple figured this out a long time ago when they came up with the design of their Apple Stores. Looking around the store gives the end user the sense that the products are well thought out and deserving of the price premium. Auto dealers are another example. Take a look at the service department of any of the big name auto brands and you’ll find a clean, consistent, well-lit shop. A shop that gives the car owner the feeling that their car is going to be taken care of.
As a retailer and service provider, your product is ultimately yourself. First impressions count. Give a potential customer a great first impression with a shop that’s dialed and your odds of winning that sale have gone up dramatically.
Bike shops would do well to take a look at other service industries for an example of what works and what doesn’t, and then try to implement some of those ideas into their own shops. The idea that a service station at a bike shop is required to have all its tools hung on pegboard is an idea whose time has come and gone. Looking at the automotive sector we can see that for storage, organization, efficiency, and general tidiness the tool cabinet is the way to go. Show me an auto shop where the mechanic has all his tools hung up on a piece of pegboard…
Something as innocuous as the material the workbench is made of can even have an effect on the presentation of your service area. There’s a reason we spec our workbenches with stainless steel covered work tops. Grease, oil, brake fluid, suspension fluid, all of it can be wiped up with a rag and the end result is a fresh looking bench.
Moving on to shop organization, a common problem in multi-workstation service departments is tools all finding their way to one particular bench. We’ve solved that with our custom foam trays. Know at a glance if something’s missing. We can’t help you figure out where it’s gone, unfortunately.
Unior is in a position the other bike tool companies can only be envious of: we solved these issues a long time ago helping other industries be successful and we’re the only ones in the bicycle market that can offer a full, turn-key solution to help you make the most of your shop. Contact us today to help get your service department tuned up.