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  1. #1
    46 bikes and counting...
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    1992 Trek multitrack 700 sourgrape with red decals, 1992 Trek multtrack 700 (with 1" threadless conversion), 2009 jamis Aurora Elite, 2007 Jamis Cross Country 2.0, 1981 Trek 613, 1980's Fuji "Redlof" folding bike, Iron Horse AT-70 with 48cc motor....
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    Starting my own LBS... am I crazy?

    A few months ago, a good friend of mine presented me with an opportunity to co-own/invest/manage a bike shop with him. It seams now that I jumped at the chance of doing things my way and in a way, fix the flaws of the other est. LBSs here. perhaps a decision with out a huge amount of consideration. oh well. But here I am ready to open in some time next month. With the ridiculously cheap overhead and a perfect outlet for my 43 used bikes for a start, it seams like a done deal, at least for the first few months. Being a college town we'll be catering to fixies, motorized bikes, bmx, and cheap affordable hardtails for everyone. So other than the legal stuff which we've got covered, what tips/tricks/pitfalls can yall tell me about owning an LBS. Oh and yes Ive had much experience working/managing in a shop. Also what bike brands are good to do business with? Im looking at GT, fuji, and kona specifically. Any advice is welcome.
    Some of my 50 Bikes: 1992 Trek Multitrack 700 (Primary) --- 2009 Jamis Aurora Elite --- 2008 Jamis Aurora --- 2007 Jamis Cross Country 2.0 --- 2006 Cannondale R600 --- 1980's Fuji "Redlof" folding bike --- Custom Origin8 Del Pessado Fixie
    Looking for a Touring Bike? Compare all the 2011 models with my excel sheet DOWNLOAD EXCEL SHEET .XLS HERE

  2. #2
    Number One iareConfusE's Avatar
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    I hope you have something to present to people who are a little more serious about riding than just casuals. With brands like Fuji and GT, you'll be competing with the likes of Performance, and they WILL be undercutting you; not intentionally, but just because they can afford to price their bikes that way.

    Offer the customer something that Performance can't, such as a much closer relationship with your customer, etc etc. Get creative.

  3. #3
    My bike's better than me! neil0502's Avatar
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    I think IareConfusE said it well.

    People like Performances pricing. Their service ... not so much.

    I think much of that is their desire to pay lower wages, stimulating fairly high turnover. If there's any way that you can truly get people with passion, interest, and product knowledge up front, and people who truly know and love working on bikes in the back ... you'll have a way to differentiate yourself from them.

    But ... taking on the 10-ton gorilla on their terms ... is a pretty steep uphill battle.

  4. #4
    46 bikes and counting...
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    let me give you an idea of what Im up against.
    There are 3 bike shops I am competing with
    LBS 1)excellent location next to campus, really small, poor selection of low end Treks mostly, little to none selection of accessories, horrible customer service and ridiculous labor charges, I know more about Trek than they do.
    LBS 2)good location near campus, a tad bigger than #1, carries giant and specialized mostly, excellent knowledge and skill, fair prices, poor selection of bikes and prices suitable for college students. If your not there to drop $1000 go away. Also full of pot smokers, no joke, sometime score some good deals that way They have the colleges cycling team and any one at that level in their pocket.
    LBS 3)hidden location, most people have never heard of them, huge store. carries wide range of Jamis for all levels of rider and level, fair prices, owner has good experience but has health problem and is senile, no experienced workers (I'm leaving and taking ppl with me ) excellent selection of accessories, gets alot of customers from #2 cause of pot smokers.

    All the shops are independently owned and operated.
    Some of my 50 Bikes: 1992 Trek Multitrack 700 (Primary) --- 2009 Jamis Aurora Elite --- 2008 Jamis Aurora --- 2007 Jamis Cross Country 2.0 --- 2006 Cannondale R600 --- 1980's Fuji "Redlof" folding bike --- Custom Origin8 Del Pessado Fixie
    Looking for a Touring Bike? Compare all the 2011 models with my excel sheet DOWNLOAD EXCEL SHEET .XLS HERE

  5. #5
    Dare to be weird!
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    Ridiculously cheap overhead and 43 used bikes sounds like a great start to me! "Cheap, affordable used bikes for everyone" with good friendly mechanical service for bikes people already own sounds like the kind of shop I'd like to have in my neighborhood.

  6. #6
    Real Men Ride Ordinaries fuzz2050's Avatar
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    I've heard Jamis is good to their stores, their president took the staff of one of my LBS's out drinking. If that doesn't build loyalty, what will?

  7. #7
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    One independent LBS near me is a Felt dealer and is very high on them. They have a high-line name due to their representation in the Pro ranks so would be a good upper quality line for the serious rider.

    BTW, have LOTS of liability insurance if you are selling used bikes.

  8. #8
    Senior Member johnknappcc's Avatar
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    Word of advice . . . probably would have nothing to do with you.

    Don't flood CraigsList with a bunch of used bikes (no matter how good the condition), day after day, and list them as if they are individuals selling them and not a company.

    We have a bike shop in Chicago, which sells (as far as I can tell) only used (and mostly crappy) bikes, probably post upwards of 10 ads a day on the Chicago CL. If anyone is in Chicago and has visited the Chicago CL lately they will know what "store" I'm talking about.

    Constantly get flagged, repost, etc. People have even RE:Flamed them over and over. It really makes them look crappy and a**holish.

    As a layperson, I wouldn't recommend selling used bikes along with new bikes. You will either be a "used" store with some new bikes, or a "new" store with some cruddy bikes. You are talking about catering to two potentially different clientele, I'm sure it could work, but most likely not well. Think about it, someone comes in looking to drop a thousand+ bucks on a roadie, and they see some old vintage bikes for sale, and think, "wow this is kinda low-end", and go elsewhere. Conversely, a college kid might come in looking for a cheap and reliable vintage bike, and see a bunch of new roadies, and think, "wow this is out of my price range", and go elsewhere.

    Even if you had really nice vintage bikes, unless you are catering to C&V type riders, the general bike riding public will just see them as old, cruddy bikes.

    My recommendation, flip your 43 bikes personally though CL, and invest that money in the store. Keep the vintage/new completely separate.

  9. #9
    Spelling Snob Hobartlemagne's Avatar
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    Dont forget to stock lots of accessories. Your profit margin can be at at its highest on those.

    The first rule of flats is You don't talk about flats!

  10. #10
    billyymc
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    One thought on how you can differentiate your shop.

    Go out of your way to cater to women. Few shops make any attempt to do this. Have a ladies night once or twice a month where you have some knowledgeable women riders in to talk to women customers. Have wine, cheese, and chocolate. I'm serious. I've seen ski shops do this with good success.

    Get the word out in creative ways. Promotional activities at local women's fitness centers maybe?

    Why cater to women? 1, nobody else specifically is. 2, they can influence the buying decisions for an entire family. 3, They don't try to BS you and act like they know a lot about bikes (like a guy will), 4, I would guess most are more likely to bring their bikes in for service than a guy would be (maybe sexist, but I think more guys like to work on their bikes than ladies).

    Just a thought off the top of my head. Good luck.

    One more comment that might provide some food for thought. I just bought a bike for my 11 year old daughter. I had gone to two LBS, had her on a Trek 6000, a Rockhopper, and a Hardrock. Was leaning really toward the RH (Comp Disc), but at $750 that just seemed too much of a stretch for how she will currently be using the bike. The Hardrock (Sport Disc) was around $540 I think.

    I had looked at BD, and while there seemed to be some good values there -- their cheesy marketing and amateurish webpage just made me uncomfortable. Sort of like -- if they can't put an effort into a better storefront (webpage), then maybe some of the horror stories are true. Even though I've read WAY more positives about BD -- and not just here on BF either.

    So finally I got around to finding IBEX. Their summer sale put their Alpine 550 at $500. Super spec. Not as cheesy in the marketing dept as BD. My email questions were answered within an hour or two by the company owner. IBEX bikes seem to get generally good reviews. So I ordered. It arrived yesterday and I put it together last night. For $500, I got a bike that is spec'd in most ways as well or in a couple cases better than the RH that was $250 more. Neither LBS would deal at all on price...so I guess they must be thriving even in the bad economy.

    My point is, I think you will see the BD and IBEX model more and more. Think about how to replicate that on a local scale, then a regional scale. Offer tremendous value with one or two frames built out in a couple variations, and build volume. Maybe it's not the way to go...but it will be a growing force for you to compete against.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnknappcc View Post
    If anyone is in Chicago and has visited the Chicago CL lately they will know what "store" I'm talking about.
    I do SS conversions on Chicago CL (I'm embarrassed to admit) and am familiar with the controversy.

    Chicago's CL bicycles section is kind of sleazy, in my opinion. Most of the area's big CL bike traders that I've met have been pretty shady and unethical. It is sad because all of my customers have been wonderful.

    (Sorry for the OT)

  12. #12
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    my lbs owner works 7 days a week and has a hard time getting experienced help. shop is closed on mon., but he is always there wrenching.

  13. #13
    Si Senior dbg's Avatar
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    Maybe a bit weird, ..but I always figured I would locate the work stands and mechanic stations prominently in front. In my experience bikers either already have "wrench" tendencies, or they are fascinated by those who can wrench. I think repair stands up front would increase traffic and increase browse time. The longer you keep them in the store, the more likely they'll buy something.
    David Green, Naperville, IL USA "The older I get, the better I used to be" --Lee Trevino

  14. #14
    Senior Member toytech's Avatar
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    I second the catering to women, as a former car repair owner I can state without a doubt women in the 18-40ish age group are by far the best customers, followed by men in their 50's+ (by then they are not trying to impress with their macho knowledge). May not translate to bikes, but I would wager it does.

  15. #15
    Senior Member mzeffex's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dbg View Post
    Maybe a bit weird, ..but I always figured I would locate the work stands and mechanic stations prominently in front. In my experience bikers either already have "wrench" tendencies, or they are fascinated by those who can wrench. I think repair stands up front would increase traffic and increase browse time. The longer you keep them in the store, the more likely they'll buy something.
    I agree, but being a mechanic at my store, It is a really awkward feeling to have people watching you. It makes me happy that our workshop is at the back. People CAN watch, but they aren't subject to do so when they enter the store.

  16. #16
    Fresh Garbage hairnet's Avatar
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    open a co-op across the street. All the kids go there to work on their bikes and come to you buy all their stuff

    of course easier said than done, but if the opportunity ever opens up...
    Quote Originally Posted by Scrodzilla View Post
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  17. #17
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    Trying to make money selling new bikes is pretty tough. There is lots of competition and there is never any end to discounting. I would not worry about new bikes until your service business is really hopping. You need to build a rapport with a customer and show that you are willing to build , modify, or repair a bike to suit them. You want to get in tight with touring and serious recreational cyclists, like the types who are traveling some distance for rides, doing centuries, or commuting 10 miles every day. Mom and dad bringing in kid's bikes is also good business, though not terribly glamorous. AVOID RACERS! Most racers aren't willing to pay. If you deal with racers, make sure that they understand you write a service order for all labor. Their bike doesn't get touched until the prices are discussed, agreed, and signed. The art of doing bicycle service is to avoid wasting too much time answering questions from people. My solution to this problem was to always let people know that they should bring the bike in and drop it off. Then I could contact them later to chat. For some reason they spend a lot less time talking when they are on the phone and they are more decisive about committing to repairs and upgrades than they are in the shop. They also get your uninterrupted time and they feel heard. Good for everybody involved. They look at your shop as a place to bring their bike for service, and not just a place to chat. There is a lot of stuff being done to bikes that aren't well represented in the modern bike market, like city bikes, randonneur bikes, mountain touring bikes, and shopping bikes. These bikes can all be built using used bikes as a base, and I think this will be a growing market that doesn't require much capital to get started in. With the economy and the costs of operating a car, people are starting to NEED bikes, and making useful bikes from quality used bikes is starting to be a trend. In Portland and Berkely they can even support multi thousand dollar utility bikes in the university areas. How they protect them, I have no idea. You might also want to look into electric bikes because that may be a new trend starting to develop.

  18. #18
    Senior Member sonatageek's Avatar
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    What about doing something like a free safety check-up for students at the college, perhaps once per month? Is there anyway that you can link up with any clubs or groups at the college? Building on the idea of marketing to women, if the school has any women's groups, offer something special for them. You haven't mentioned where the shop will be located? If it is near a coffee shop maybe you can work out some sort of joint promotion? Finally, what about offering paid classes on how to do some of the simple repairs/tune-up steps?

  19. #19
    Older than dirt CCrew's Avatar
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    Sell new bikes and old bikes. Make sure you take old bikes as trade ins, and/or sell on consignment.

    That said, there may be a reason the shops in your area don't have high end stock, nor a lot of it. College towns are not known for being flush with cash and the expectations of something for nothing run high.

  20. #20
    Recovering Retro-grouch CRUM's Avatar
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    If you want to make million bucks in the bike business, start with two million bucks.
    Keep it 'tween the ditches

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  21. #21
    Dare to be weird!
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    Quote Originally Posted by dbg View Post
    Maybe a bit weird, ..but I always figured I would locate the work stands and mechanic stations prominently in front. In my experience bikers either already have "wrench" tendencies, or they are fascinated by those who can wrench. I think repair stands up front would increase traffic and increase browse time...
    One of my favorite bike shops had the mechanic area up front next to the sales floor. It was separated from the show floor by a 3 foot tall half wall. The owner was usually wrenching in the mechanic area and casually chatting with customers as they came through. The half wall provided a certain amount of separation. Customers didn't walk through the shop area unless they were invited in.

    Another great thing about that particular bike shop was that whenever you brought in a bike for service, the owner would say something complimentary or interesting about the bike. (Such as "This is such a nice blue Univega from the 70s, very classic, take care of it and it'll be a good bike for many more years." Never anything like "This is a real piece of **** that's not worth my time to mess with, why don't you just buy a new bike".) The odd thing is that this shop catered to the high end road crowd as far as new sales, but I always saw lots of classic & vintage bikes going in and out for service.

    Unfortunately, Performance Bike plopped in a new store right next to them. They moved to a new location with lower overhead. I'm predicting many of their customers will follow them because the customer experience at Performance is just so unsatisfying compared with this other little shop.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by billyymc View Post
    One thought on how you can differentiate your shop.

    Go out of your way to cater to women. Few shops make any attempt to do this. Have a ladies night once or twice a month where you have some knowledgeable women riders in to talk to women customers. Have wine, cheese, and chocolate. I'm serious. I've seen ski shops do this with good success.

    Get the word out in creative ways. Promotional activities at local women's fitness centers maybe?

    Why cater to women? 1, nobody else specifically is. 2, they can influence the buying decisions for an entire family. 3, They don't try to BS you and act like they know a lot about bikes (like a guy will), 4, I would guess most are more likely to bring their bikes in for service than a guy would be (maybe sexist, but I think more guys like to work on their bikes than ladies).

    Just a thought off the top of my head. Good luck.
    There might be something to this. A local auto shop started up some time ago catering specifically toward women drivers, and the place has taken off! Since most shops don't, this place has cornered that market. If it works for cars, why not bikes???

  23. #23
    Elitist Troglodyte DMF's Avatar
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    Maybe your best bet would be to buy out LBS #3.
    Stupidity got us into this mess - why can't it get us out?

    - Will Rogers

  24. #24
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    Acknowledge that online outlets exist and are a legitimate source for bike stuff.
    Then, offer customers whatever it is that you can't get online.
    RANS V3 (steel), RANS V-Rex, RANS Screamer

  25. #25
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    My $0.02 as a total layman and official gomer who wanders into bike shops with a dazed look on my face now and again:

    Its pretty intangible, but there's a lot to be said for making a non-expert comfortable in your type of place. In some of the LBS' I've to in my town, I've felt like they weren't quite sure what to do with you if you didn't walk in with an 85% complete idea of what you want. I know very serious riders who love those same places, but I came to like a little smaller shop where I can walk in the guys working there seem to get a better feeling for what I know and what level they can talk at. If I ever had a reason to buy a new bike, I'd head there in a second.

    Otherwise, mixing new and used bikes doesn't seem like a bad idea to me, at least that wouldn't turn me out of the store. I would display them clearly separately and equally prominently, though, just to avoid having people think you only have one or the other. My favorite LBS also has the mechanics area right up front when you come in the door, separated by a half-wall. Nice touch, although it wouldn't make or break where I shop.

    +1 on taking care of the image you project, though. Make sure you have a nice, clean looking website and ads and a well-lit, easily recognizable store. My LBS lacks a little in that area...a little too dark inside, and the outside makes you wonder about what could be good inside. That kept me from going there until I was desperately searching for a part.

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