Does Your Local Bike Shop Need Your Support?
As usual when I woke up this morning the first thing I did was turn on my PC and let it rev up while I shaved and brushed my teeth. Yeah, I know, how mundane. Well, it’s true. Anyway, in my email bin was a message from one of my cycling buddies who regularly surfs the Net as well as my blog pages. And he had sent me a link to the following article about “Cyber Monday.” CLICK HERE to read the article that goes into the difference between shopping online for a new mountain bike versus visiting an LBS (local bike shop) to get one. The gist of the article for me was the LBSs are their own worst enemy and buying your bike online is definitely the way to go.
There was a glaring big hole in the article, however. I can say this since I do quite a bit of purchasing online regarding bikes. To date I have purchased seven of them and tons of parts. The big hole is the fact that most bicycle manufacturers forbid their bikes from being sold online. You are not going to find a bike dealer that will mail you a Trek for example. You can study the bike online. You can price the bike online. You can pretty much learn all there is to know about the bike online, and even pay for it online. But you have to physically drive to a bike shop to pick it up and make it your own. Why is this? Well the article hits it on the head: retailers are at war with e-tailers. The business models of the two are different and inherently at odds. One is all about selling product. The other is mostly about selling service, i.e., repair services.
Bike shops don’t make all that much money selling a bike. There is a markup on the bikes they sell so they can make some sort of profit, but it’s negligible. Bike shops make money selling helmets, shoes, gloves, tires, energy bars, and repair services. They also make money on bike parts when they perform the repair/upgrade services. Bike e-tailers make money by selling everything a bike shop sells except repair/upgrade services. If you know how to work on your bike, then a bike shop really isn’t going to do much for you unless you want to buy a bike that is not allowed to be sold online, i.e., Trek. If you don’t know how to work on your bike (fix, repair, and upgrade it), then you are at the mercy of your local bike shop.
I suppose this last sentence in the above paragraph is the key to the rub between online and offline bike shops. Offline bike shops pretty much only serve customers that are at their mercy these days. And as a result they have gotten a little arrogant in how they deal with the customer. Their prices are higher than they should be. A part that I can buy online might cost $1.50, but at the local LBS it sells for $6.50. The LBS will argue they have to price the item that high so they can stay in business. And the sad thing is, they probably are correct. But down the road they ultimately will go out of business. The price wars are just too extreme today. I predict in the not so distant future bike shops will stop being dealers for bike manufacturers. All bikes will be sold online, and bike shops will simply be repair shops or service shops for e-tailer customers. Do you want your new bike customized, then do it yourself or take it to a bike shop to have it done. The current way of doing things will soon be a thing of the past.
Now that I have finished this post I can get ready for my 6.5 mile run with Chen this morning that departs at 6 AM.