There’s been a notable trend in the past five years to declutter shop floors and create social spaces in store. With the coffee bean boom slipping away, what’s the next big thing for the bike shop’s hangout? Paul Errington, founder of Northern Consultancy Co gives his take on driving footfall and latterly sales, via events.

What opportunity exists for bike shops to utilise the sales floor for other forms of customer engagement beyond selling?

In any business time should always be afforded to exploring how to not only ensure the spend of your current client base, but also seek to expand it; you do this by not only in bringing other cyclists to your doorstep, but also assessing how to enthuse non-cyclists to come to you to look at the possibility of cycling as an interest, hobby or sport.

Take time to look at experiential events, whether these be store-based or out riding (mindful you are trying to encourage people who may not own a bike already) as a means of promoting your business through engagement. All those years you have been in the industry has armed you with a huge in-depth knowledge of bikes; share it and pass on the passion for riding. Engage new riders now and they are more likely to stay with you as they progress in the sport.

Look at the other local businesses around you as there may be potential for collaboration and a share of customer base and marketing; they may be far removed from the world of bikes but still maintain a common interest… such as coffee, or beer; manufacturers and cyclists/non cyclists love of both these products.

At a time when bike shop footfall is harder to come by, how can events benefit both financially and in terms of investing in the customer for the future?

Quite simply if you design your event correctly and target the right people you are going to expand your client base. As outlined above, your outlook should be on introducing new people (and therefore business) in to your retail environment, so build your events to be inclusive without barriers for those who want to get a feel for a new activity. New riders offer the chance to build a lasting retail relationship and this is founded on the initial interactions where you can impress knowledge and good service.

The retail space being occupied in most instances is unused after the store closes, yet rent is still being paid. Use this resource to host your events with just your time as the extra input needed.

What mistakes are commonly made when hosting events for the first time?

Inclusivity is a good guideline to a well-attended and successful event. It’s important to remove as many barriers to attendance as possible. For example, check your date doesn’t clash with anything else locally that could stop people attending. Ensure timings allow people to attend around other life commitments such as work and family. If your attendees are going to need specialist equipment then make sure you have some to loan so equipment is never a barrier – e.g bikepacking bags on a taster overnighter.

For those putting on shop ride style events, what’s required in terms of insurances, licenses and planning?

Insurances: It is likely that any activity conducted within the confines of your store will be covered by your existing liability policy, but it is always worth planning the activity, a quick risk assessment and then submitting to your existing insurer or broker to check.

Licenses: If you are venturing out then again as above check your insurances. If your activity will be guided ensure that you or staff hold relevant qualifications for both guiding and first aid and if, for example, you are setting up a demo day then ensure you have permission and, if needed, a permit for the proposed venue. It’s worth noting that some national cycling bodies offer inclusive insurance to qualified guides when dealing with small groups.

Any local event organiser will usually be happy to offer their assistance in advising on events. There may be a mutual benefit to team up, but at every least you are both building the same client base so there is shared interest.

How would you advise bike businesses go about marketing their event off-shoots?

Though we live in a highly competitive age for both retailers and events we are all able to access a very similar tool kit when it comes to event promotion.

Social media is the best tool at the disposal of all of us. Use your existing social media presence to publicise your activity and, if it grows, then create its own online presence to feed back to your store. However, this will generally only find your existing audience or those familiar with what you are offering so reach out to your local press, invite them along, develop the narrative you feel they should be using and pitch it. Be as proactive as you can.

Team up with other local businesses. Though they may not have direct links to cycling, many share common themes or client bases, so get them using their social media presence too.

What services does your business offer to bike industry businesses looking at events? 

Northern Consultancy Co offers a full turn key events solution. We can develop the concept and provide the solution to enable execution.

This can operate at any scale but we are always favouring those events or activities that offer the best rider experience, so for us the more unique a concept the better.

This article was originally published on Cycling Industry News on 24th April, 2018