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OH NOEZ! My LBS is closing!

Old 10-26-10, 09:35 AM
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OH NOEZ! My LBS is closing!

I found out Friday (but it was not made generally public until yesterday) that my favorite bike shop is calling it quits. They've been in business about 3 or 4 years. They have a good shop with a reasonable following and a huge selection of recumbents (which was very popular sales-wise)as well as commuter-oriented products. The last two years they posted 50% growth over the previous year. They even moved from their original storefront to a larger space.

So why close? They said that basically, the shop pays for itself, but they just don't get any money back out of it. It turned out to be a self-supporting hobby but not a money maker. They said if they were younger (owners are in their 50s/60s) they'd stay with it because they did see the growth, but several expenses are hitting them late this year and they just decided it would be better to get out now before the inventory tax on January 1. The other thing they said is that they had 80% great customers and 20% pains in the ass, but that 20% took 80% of their time and effort and they are just tired of it.

I stopped in at my other favorite LBS yesterday and they had heard the news. I mentioned that the place that is closing had a big stock of recumbents, it was very profitable, and maybe even the one owner might be will to work part-time as a mechanic to support them... just kind of planting a bug. I'm not a recumbent rider myself, but I hate to lose what is a fairly popular franchise that's been built up. I thought maybe the one shop might buy out the other's stock of recumbents and get into that line. I planted the idea and who knows if it will go anywhere.

I will miss that shop, though. They were the closest LBS to my house and also a place I liked to hang out. The other shop is great, but it's about 10 miles from my house so too far for frequent casual visits. I learned so much about bike mechanics from them; I hate to see them close.
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 10-26-10, 11:34 AM
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That's a bum deal. I do most of my own work, but still love my LBS quite a bit...and certainly buy my share of small bits there every 2 weeks it seems like.

Not much you can do about it -- and I understand their 20% PITA customers. Some people are ridiculous and really frustrating to deal with. My wife thinks we need to make "more friends" but I've actually become even less social with age and am quite proud that I don't have a lot of idiots bothering me on the weekends at this point .
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Old 10-26-10, 11:37 AM
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I understand it too.

Funny.... immediately after saying the 80/20 thing, the owner felt compelled to follow up with, "Don't worry, Paul, you're one of the good customers!"
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 10-26-10, 11:38 AM
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same story at my lbs- they've cut staff hours and are just as "people"busy as they ever were.
there is a prevailing attitude out there with some lbs shoppers that they want everything but want to pay
nothing for it-
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Old 10-26-10, 11:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Doohickie View Post
The other thing they said is that they had 80% great customers and 20% pains in the ass, but that 20% took 80% of their time and effort and they are just tired of it.
Welcome to specialty retail. That 20% feel they are paying for attention and they need lots of it ... I had the same experience running a guitar shop.
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Old 10-26-10, 11:41 AM
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Bummer.

Mind if I ask which shop you're talking about? If you're not comfortable posting it here, could you PM it to me?
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Old 10-26-10, 12:01 PM
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 10-26-10, 02:53 PM
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I left my last shop job 4 years ago and never looked back. I was paid fairly and liked working for the family that owned the shop. I busted my ass to help each person that came through the door, if they were buying a $4000 bike or asking to borrow a cable crimp. But there was a type of person that came in that by the end I just couldn't take any more of... what were they called again??.... ummm.... they were.... oh yeah... they were called CUSTOMERS.

Just kidding.
I think the 20% - 80% ratio is a bit out of whack. I would put it closer to 5% PITA 95% good, but that 5% can really ruin your day. And sometimes the more effort you invest - because often this happens when a sale or repair or order is not going quite right, and you try to make it right - the worse it feels when some jerk decides to take out his frustrations on you.
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Old 10-26-10, 03:00 PM
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Actually, I tend to believe the 20% estimate. One mistake they made (although it was kind of intentional in a way) was that the area they set up shop in was not particularly well-to-do and they ended up doing a fair amount of "charity" work. They are okay with the concept of it, even to some extent the cost of it, but they said that the people who they went out of their way to help were often the most demanding and unrealistic. Perhaps because they don't have a lot of money, they drove a hard bargain even when they were already cutting them a huge break.
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 10-26-10, 05:31 PM
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When a local shop closed I got a great deal on a premium tool kit. Just the foundation to start my now pretty complete collection. You might want to check out their tool selection and closeout prices. bk
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Old 10-26-10, 06:24 PM
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Originally Posted by LarDasse74 View Post
I think the 20% - 80% ratio is a bit out of whack. I would put it closer to 5% PITA 95% good, but that 5% can really ruin your day.
That's about my experience too.

I remember talking to my son after he experienced one of those 5%-ers. "You should really pity her because, all day every day, everybody she meets is reflecting her attitude back at her so she's dealing with difficult people all the time. You and me just have her."

And it really is true about the difficult people taking up a disporportunate share of your time too. It's like a hilly bike ride. If you start and end in the same place the uphill and downhill are equal. Timewise, however, you spend a lot more time climbing then descending.
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Old 10-26-10, 08:03 PM
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The 80/20 rule is so true in so many businesses. And then there are the 1%ers.

At one place I worked there were 2 particular customers... One of them, I I finally made him a smoking deal on a part, that I knew wasn't going to work, told him so. Also told him he was getting a ridiculous discount, but it was As-Is, absolutely no warranty, because he couldn't make it work, and would screw it up to try.

Sure enough, a couple of weeks later he came back, for warranty on it. Can't tell you how good it felt to tell him no.
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Old 10-26-10, 08:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Doohickie View Post
The other thing they said is that they had 80% great customers and 20% pains in the ass, but that 20% took 80% of their time and effort and they are just tired of it.
Welcome to retail. Had they been in the retail world before starting this particular retail shop?

From my observations, a lot of bicycle shop owners open a shop because they love cycling ...... but not because they have any experience in retail or any idea of how to run a business. Not saying it is the case here, but that 80/20 split is pretty common in retail.

In clothing, for example, you've got the ladies who come in, look at the clothing, try a few outfits on, choose one, buy it, and you either never hear from them again or maybe you see repeat performances every so often ... and you've got ladies who try on a whole pile of things, make a mess of the store, purchase a few, and then try to return them all 6 weeks later ... or who rake you over the coals because you haven't got this or that in stock .... or who whine because the outfit they want is not on sale ... etc. etc.

I've worked a number of different retail jobs, and at all of them we had "Worst Customer of the Day" and "Worst Customer of the Week" ... and sometimes "Worst Customer of the Month" awards ... quietly ... the customers had no idea ... but we'd make little notes or tell our tales to the other staff and come up with an agreement of who we were going to give these so-called "awards" to. And we'd have a good laugh about it. Our way to relieve the stress.
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Old 10-26-10, 08:30 PM
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Originally Posted by coldfeet View Post
The 80/20 rule is so true in so many businesses. And then there are the 1%ers.

At one place I worked there were 2 particular customers... One of them, I I finally made him a smoking deal on a part, that I knew wasn't going to work, told him so. Also told him he was getting a ridiculous discount, but it was As-Is, absolutely no warranty, because he couldn't make it work, and would screw it up to try.

Sure enough, a couple of weeks later he came back, for warranty on it. Can't tell you how good it felt to tell him no.
I had a guy who always came in at lunch time and demanded that we work on his bike right then while he watched. So I had my mechanic put his lunch aside and fix the guy's bike. He paid, walked outside and immediately came back in to argue about the price. I told him I'd make him a deal - no charge for the service if he'd promise to never come back.
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Old 10-27-10, 04:16 AM
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I feel for them, but we have been down that road before. We finally got rid of our last bit of retail items from our Bridal, Pageant and Formal shop. I am not sure in our case the 80/20 split wasn't reversed...

We loved the business, loved most of the people, but the time investment versus the return just wasn't cutting it. We weren't making enough money to support us. Unfortunately in the retail business the first 5 years are the worst and then it either picks up or plateaus.

We were in business for almost 9 years before we pulled the plug, it is nice having a life back.

We do miss some of the people that were regulars and still see them out and about.

My favorite "horror" story was the woman that bought a prom dress on line for her daughter. Then brought it into our store wanting to exchange if for a different size, just because we carried the same brand. Didn't happen, we ain't Walmart.

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Old 10-27-10, 04:33 AM
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Originally Posted by wahoonc View Post
My favorite "horror" story was the woman that bought a prom dress on line for her daughter. Then brought it into our store wanting to exchange if for a different size, just because we carried the same brand. Didn't happen, we ain't Walmart.
My "favourites" were the ones who bought a nice, relatively expensive item ... and then brought it back a few days later with some excuse like it didn't fit or whatever. That's fine, and we did have a return policy ... but when we took the item out of the bag to have a look at it, we could see it had obviously been worn, and some were quite dirty. There are a number of women out there who figure a retail shop is like a library ... pick out a nice outfit, wear it to the party, return the nice outfit.

Or the one who didn't think I was watching, and picked up a top from the table, dropped it into an empty plastic bag, and then came to the counter to "return" the item for cash. "I bought this here the other day ... I don't have the receipt, but the tag is still on it ... I paid cash, so I'd like cash back ... "
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Old 10-27-10, 05:45 AM
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I had a guy who always came in at lunch time and demanded that we work on his bike right then while he watched. So I had my mechanic put his lunch aside and fix the guy's bike. He paid, walked outside and immediately came back in to argue about the price. I told him I'd make him a deal - no charge for the service if he'd promise to never come back.
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