A version of this feature ran in the February issue of BRAIN.
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BOULDER, Colo. (BRAIN) — For our February magazine edition, we asked our State of Retail panel members: “How will your business’ typical customer profile change in the next 3-5 years?”
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON: Christiaan Bourdrez, owner Ride Bicycles
I am predicting minimal customer profile changes overall, as Ride Bicycles is well established for sales in gravel, touring and commuter bikes.
That said, I forecast my customer profile to trend older and more wealthy. We will sell more gravel and adventure touring products compared to commuter products. High-end mountain bike sales will slow as the market reaches saturation, although e-mountain bike sales will increase. I think if the economy and markets stay strong, it will be business as usual. I expect to floor more gravel and e-mountain bikes and more accessories for those categories.
BOISE, IDAHO: Diane Cutler, owner Spokey Joe’s Bikes & Gear
I don’t foresee a significant demographic shift over the next few years, but I do expect an increase in business from more affluent newcomers to the area. Growth in Boise continues to be strong and favors those who have moved from more expensive cities, providing them with more disposable income than they might have had in their previous locality. That combined with appealing recreational infrastructure translates to relocated families and retirees buying into our robust bike culture.
With NICA now being coast to coast, we do expect a slow but steady increase in participation by teens, a really exciting development. A challenge we are experiencing is that many of the NICA kids purchase products online or expect substantial discounts on everything from bikes to service to parts.
CHICAGO: Justyna Frank, co-owner Cosmic Bikes
Our neighborhood has been experiencing an influx of young families, and we expect that to continue for a number of years. We’re in close proximity to a major transit center, and there are some new residential developments designed to attract young professionals and empty-nesters. We expect some will become our customers and that commuting and family bikes will continue to be the core of what we do, with folding bikes, cargo and adventure staying strong.
Families and urban professionals comprise the majority of our customers, but we also see a fair number of older clients who are looking to do more biking in their retirement years or are seeking mobility expansion solutions. We’ve learned to specialize in certain niche products that work well for particular groups, and we plan to continue along those lines. So we expect to expand our cargo bike and folding bike offerings, but also add recumbent trikes and e-bike options or conversions.
With 20 years of perspective in this market, I predict we will see more older people continue to enjoy biking and even purchase electric bicycles as a way to enter or continue enjoying the sport. Unfortunately, I also predict seeing fewer kids as customers, based on the noticeable decline in sales that we’ve had with the kids’ and BMX bikes. I’m encouraged to note that the cities that have adopted pump tracks seem to see BMX growing again, however.
I expect that our gravel bike customer base will continue to grow, and I’m hopeful that gravel bikes might get more women on bikes. Many of the women I talk to don’t feel safe enough to ride on the road, and gravel offers a nice alternative that isn’t as technically challenging as mountain biking.
As we move forward, e-bikes will be a huge driving force. We need to be more open, know what customers want and have what they need when they need it. I think a full-service shop will need to be open to understanding and selling all types of bikes. My crew must have a better understanding on more types of bikes so we can meet customers’ needs.
HOUSTON: Tad Hughes, owner Tad Hughes Custom Fit Studio
Looking at demographics and the continuum of current consumer trends, in the next 3-5 years, millennials will comprise a solid 50% of the workforce. Without ongoing changes in infrastructure of events and places to ride, I predict a decrease of this generation becoming customers, and also that indoor cycling will be competition to traditional outdoor cycling. The 50-plus crowd of baby boomers and Generation X may support cycling for its low-impact health benefits but in decreasing numbers. To adapt to these changes, I plan to develop “custom experience” and compartmentalized services in lieu of bundled packages.
BOULDER, COLORADO: Brad James, owner Sports Garage Cycling
In the last five years, mountain biking has seen tremendous growth in all age categories, with new trails and high school teams popping up all over the country. These individuals are the future for us. I believe our shop’s mountain bike customer base will continue to evolve and grow to have a strong average age bracket in the mid-30s, which is a little younger than our current average age. I also think more women will continue to enter the sport. Sports Garage focuses on MTB and gravel, and I anticipate the gravel market to continue to grow for the next 3-5 years as road cyclists look to move away from overcrowded roads and overly distracted drivers. E-bikes will be the biggest change for our customers and our store in the next 3-5 years.
BROOKLYN, NEW YORK: Joseph Nocella, owner 718 Cyclery and Outdoors
We are seeing a customer who is more and more interested in ways to explore our region by bike. People are endlessly looking to escape New York City. We have helped fuel this with our monthly Micro-Tours, which are two-day bikepacking trips designed for newer riders to explore adventure cycling in a safe, fun environment. In addition, we’ve observed that the participants on our trips (usually about 50 people per month) are a higher percentage of women than men. This is a trend that has been a long time building, as we have historically had a very diverse staff and offered tons of Women’s/TGNC (transgender and gender nonconforming) programming. We expect these customer profile trends to continue, and we plan to adapt by offering more trips and more community building.
I don’t know what to expect in the next 3-5 years. Based on the e-bike “hockey stick” trendline, seeing how e-bike growth has continued in Europe and noticing all the people who didn’t think e-bikes were for them — until they started using one — the one thing that seems likely is that half our business will be e-bikes by 2025. So the real question is, what’s the demographic of the e-bike buyer? Who is the e-bike buyer? Everyone! In general, though, worrying about demographic changes is not my thing. It’s out of my control, and even the experts are as likely to be wrong as right. So, we will adapt by paying attention to what people want and going in that direction, wherever it leads us.
CHICO, CALIFORNIA: Kate Sage, bicycle technician PerformanceBike.com/Nashbar.com
Our predictions are derived from market research we’ve done this off-season, which helped us identify opportunities for growth that resonate with our own cycling passions. We expect to see a younger and more diverse customer base in 3-5 years. We’ve committed to a strategy that focuses on aspirational and recreational riders — folks who are more interested in completing their first long gravel event, achieving PRs, or experiencing the overall experience and community that comes with riding bikes than they are in pinning on a number. We aim to change Performance’s and Nashbar’s prior reputation as bargain/clearance brands by focusing on in-line and MAPed products and providing expert technical support.
For 2020, we aim to drive the online shopping experience as close to that of a good local bike shop. We are doing that by hiring a diverse staff of passionate riders from every cycling discipline to support an increasingly diverse cycling community. We are ensuring our staff is well trained to provide expert advice and amazing warranty service. There has always been a disconnect between the bike shop experience and the online shopping experience. The better we can recreate an LBS feel online, the better springboard we have for creating a healthy, mixed-commerce industry.