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Bicycle Repair and Sales

Bike shop owners love bikes. But starting your own store requires a lot more than love. The competition is fierce.

Fred Sperber is the co-owner of a bike shop in Killington, Vermont. He went into the business because of his love for bikes and because an opportunity arose for him to operate a rental business.

His advice is to know bikes, have a passion for them and don't forget your business sense. "Whether you're selling plates or bikes, this is no different from any other business."

Competition is tough. "The bicycle retail industry typically loses about 1,000 bicycle dealers each year, mostly start-ups, but gains that many back because of even more start-ups," says the website of the National Bicycle Dealers Association (NBDA).

Finding a niche can be the key to success.

"Our niche is the tourist industry," says Sperber, speaking of his rural, mountainous community. "We've seen a trend in road bike sales. And having a website has been very helpful."

Caroline VandenBulk and her husband own a bike shop. They started their shop after moving to North America from Holland. There, they owned a shop for 13 years.

"It's nice to deal with people, decorate your own store, order your own products and see if they sell," says VandenBulk.

She enjoys working with active people. "More older people are staying on bikes, and healthier people want to bike more."

She has seen a trend toward more mountain bike and road bike sales in her store. She has also noticed that people are looking for more comfortable seats on their bikes.

Her advice? Have "high-quality repair, a lot of service and a good-looking window."

Ed Benjamin owned and operated successful stores in Florida for many years. He is now a bicycle industry consultant. He gives straight advice to people looking to start their own bike shops.

You will need:

  • A willingness to do whatever it takes to make the business work
  • Experience in bicycle shops -- it's a big help, but not necessary
  • Knowledge of the product -- this is very important, but not as important as knowledge of people
  • Salesmanship skills -- graduates of sales training have an advantage
  • People skills -- with customers, employees and suppliers
  • Family support -- if the entire family is involved and emotionally committed, things work better
  • About $200,000 to pay for tools, fixtures, start-up costs and beginning inventory for a small store. For a large store, $600,000 to $1 million would be best
  • Luck

"Bicycle stores are classic small businesses," says Benjamin. "They do it all -- sales, repair, rental, marketing, community involvement. They have employees, inventory, product liability and many, many other consuming issues and tasks to address.

"Small businessmen in such an environment are often overwhelmed with the sheer volume and detail of the work they are faced with. And they usually do not have the needed skills to delegate, train and supervise the staff to get other people to do the work effectively.

"So for most small entrepreneurs, exhaustion, both physical and emotional, is the biggest problem. 'Burned out' could be engraved on the bankruptcy papers of many small businessmen," Benjamin says.

To prevent this, the entrepreneur needs a well-thought out business plan that has realistic goals and a realistic time frame.

"The plan needs to reflect realistic views of what resources -- both money and time -- are available. Along with a sense of what is most important, and a willingness to both work hard and to pace the effort," states Benjamin.

The NBDA reports that the most successful bicycle dealers stress personal service.

The association says cycling ranks fifth on the list of most popular outdoor recreational activities. And cycling participation is strong -- about 45-million cyclists today.

Pro-bike enthusiasm is high, especially in certain parts of the country. One competition attracted about 30,000 cyclists, according to Bicycle Retailer and Industry news.

If you are bike savvy, love the sport, have a good business plan and the money to start, you could cycle right into your dream job.


National Bicycle Dealers Association
Useful information for people thinking of starting a business

Bicycle Retailer
Excellent cycling news and facts

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