But what does this mean for the future of you local bike shop?
If you believe that having a bike shop in your community is a good thing, but believe that saving money is also important, considering the economy and the future, then we have a little paradox. On this page are some ways we may be able to think our way out of it. Read on.
Check your local bike shop first.
Many great deals are found online everyday, but that doesn’t mean that they are selling at prices your local shop can’t match. Go and have a talk with your local shop owner, and see if they can do something for you! After you add the shipping and handling costs, and the exchange rate (If you live in Canada, for example, and are purchasing out of the US,) you might see that the prices are not always going to be all that much less. Factor in the extra knowledge and service that your local shop can offer evens things up even more, (in most cases, shops will do things like install your new parts, or properly fit your bike to you, for free or almost free if you have bought the items from them.)
Also, check to see if your local shop has set up an online store of their own. More and more small business are utilizing the Internet to expand their reach across the land, and broaden their customer base. Many shops post discounted items online that you might not see when browsing their store in person, and you still get the benefit of the service available in house after you buy the product.
Some offers are just too good to pass up, so don’t feel guilty.
If you have found, or already bought something online at a great price, than don’t feel guilty about it that next time you are in your local bike shop. They won’t hate you for it! Most shop employees I know understand perfectly well (how many of us, after getting staff and pro form deals, can ever feel right about going back to paying MSRP!) If you’re a respectful customer, than you will always receive friendly service.
Use, but don’t abuse your local shop’s helpful and informative staff!
Even if you are planning a purchase online, you can still go to your local bike shop if you have questions or need help deciding if what you’re looking at is right for you. It happens so often that someone will get their new bike part in the mail, then bring it to their local bike shop to have it installed but have to be told that the part they ordered is not compatible with their bike. Do your research before you buy. Your local shop can be a part of that.
It’s okay to ask your local bike shop questions regarding a product you intend to buy online, but please be respectful of their time and services. Don’t, for example, spend an hour with staff test riding and being fitted to bikes, or trying on shoes to figure out what size you need, and then writing it down (or worse, asking the shop employee to write it down for you,) so that you can go home and shop online.
Ethically, they should be rewarded for their services. If you have a conscience, you can consider the value of that time and expertise in its own right. The extra dollars you might pay for the item in store, as opposed to online, might seem fair.
What about service and warranty
This is a big one. Bikes and bike accessories are expensive items, no matter how good of a deal you got when you bought them, and the reality is that products sometimes fail.
If your local shop sells you a product, and soon after you have trouble with it, they will do their best to deal with it in house. If it cannot be done in shop, and needs to be returned to the manufacturer for service or replacement, than shipping costs are free, and the servicing is also free. If you lose your receipt, your local shop will probably have it on file for you as well.
If you purchased your part online, than you will be charged to have it serviced by your local shop at the going rate of labor, which for most shops is between $45-$65/hour. To overhaul a suspension fork, for example, may cost $50-$100, depending on what is required.
An important thing to remember, if you are buying online, or in a small, local shop, is to be sure that they are Authorized Dealers of the products they are selling. If you buy any product from a dealer that is unauthorized, the product may not qualify for warranty, as you will not be considered the original owner, and you will be charged by the manufacturer for replacement or repair.
Remember the Golden Rule!
In the end, this is all about building relationships. For most of us, our local bike shops are more than just a shopping outlet. For many, they are a social hangout, cultural centers we visit to immerse in our passion for the sport. As such, I think we can all see the value they have had in our lives as cyclists. Ever since I was a kid, I have visited a bike shop almost daily, to indulge a little in my own love for the sport. In my community we have four bike shops, each of them the hub of its own scene. I know from experience, that after spending some loyal time with your local shop, you will always be taken care of. The more you give, the more you get in return. Good regular customers almost never pay full price for anything, but they wouldn’t complain if they did as they tend to get priority service too.
With the age of the Internet and the big box stores, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the small business owner to make a living in retail. The lower prices that these huge companies can offer will win over more people in the end.
Luckily for you local bike shop, they are more than just a retail store. They sell a service, and that service is something that the Internet will likely never be able to match. I think that the most forward thinking shop owners will take advantage of the Internet shopping experience by hosting online stores of their own, and as the price of merchandise drops, perhaps more people will be drawn to a sport they have in the past considered too expensive for them. This will play right into the hands of the local bike shop by an increase in demand from the service end of the business.
In the future it seems likely that your local bike shop will still be here. As more and more people go online for their shopping experience, there will be less available in your home town stores. Shops will carry less overhead in the retail department, and gradually slide more over into the service end, (perhaps resembling the way the automotive service industry looks now.)
I feel compelled however to support my local businesses as much as I can afford to. The owners and the people working for them, are important members of my community, many of them are friends, some are family. Together we can ease our way into the future, without losing the things that are important to us in the present.
Do you want to add anything to the debate? We encourage you to join in on the discussion by leaving a comment and sharing with us some of your own opinions.