Late last year I pondered the future of local cycling retailers (https://carbonaddiction.net/2012/11/03/where-do-you-shop/). The seemingly unstoppable march of global e-giants such as Wiggle and Chain Reaction showed no sign of abating, and established Aussie bike stores appeared little more than rabbits frozen in the headlights of a speeding road train – not sure what to do in the face of their impending doom.
Well, I am delighted to say my reports of their demise may have been somewhat exaggerated. For of late there have been promising signs indeed. It seems our nation’s cycling retailers, some of them at least, might just be as tough as our riders. And like Stu O’Grady on a Pyrenean climb, they’re not giving up without one hell of a fight.
After a worrying phase of denial and inaction, there’s been a spate of renovations, plus new online stores, team sponsorships and women’s-specific cycling stores opening for business in recent months. I guess commercial oblivion is a powerful motivator. As with most things, some are doing it better than others.
Whilst I’m not here to promote one store over another, I do have my favourites. And I’ve quickly become quite loyal to them.
Need new wheels, clothing, gels or accessories? Well, whereas 24 months ago you would have been crazy to buy them locally – with occasional exceptions, the prices simply weren’t competitive – nowadays it’s very different. In most categories there’s a decent chance you’ll get a good price right here at home. Perhaps not always at your LBS, but certainly at one of the burgeoning number of online Aussie retailers. You’ll probably receive your stuff quicker too. (Is it just me, or have Wiggle’s delivery times ballooned out significantly in the last couple of years?)
Of course, as is pretty obvious from the UK business models (not to mention Woolworths, Coles, Bunnings etc) scale equates to power in retail. A lot of power. The more successful retailers are, the bigger their sales volumes, and the better value they can offer in return (admittedly, often by screwing their suppliers – but that’s a story for a different blog). Using this rather rudimentary economic logic then, surely the more we support local retailers, the better it is for local cyclists?
So what of the future? Well, just as one good stage does not win a Tour, long-term success is all about endurance, consistency and resilience for our retailers. The fight is far from over. But at least now it IS a fight rather than a meek surrender. C’mon Aussies!
One thought on “Aussie retailers refuse to get dropped”
As well as the buying power of the UK superstore, there are two other factors at play:
(1) Local distributors used their monopoly power to screw both retailers and consumers. The advent of internet stores meant consumers (and even retailers) could bust the monopolies and source their goods overseas for far less. I first noticed the monopoly about 12 years ago when I went to Indonesia and buy Shimano products distributed through Singapore for far less than in Australia. A recent trip has revealed parity in pricing now (although bike mechanics get paid peanuts so wheel builds are still much cheaper over there). I also remember when a tyre brand went from a monopoly bike-specialist supplier to a number of suppliers (who brought in the car and truck tyre lines for that brand), and the price of the tyres halved overnight.
(2) The Global distributors were screwing local distributors on price, volume and range of stock, and order times. For example I recently had to buy a backpack from the UK to replace the one I purchased in 2009 because the local distributor no longer stocks it. This is not a unique situation where the diversity and volume of stock on the overseas websites far exceeds local suppliers. There are several reasons for the this – first is obviously we are small market with very low volumes of sales and turnover of stock. Two the local distributors don’t have the bargaining power of say UK, US and Asian distributors because the low volumes of orders (and possibly their size as commercial entities). Third the global distributors see Australia as a dumping ground for old stock – hence all those “bargain bins” full of items from several years ago. Finally local distributors are risk adverse and will only order and hold minimal amounts of stock, not bring in untested product lines, and not invest too much on marketting. You notice this when looking for say a wheel, all local stores say 3 week wait on order, Chain delivered the wheels within three days.