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!