Wiggle World's Biggest Bike Shop

Phew, Wiggle confirms that it is the Number One bike Shop

On the last blog post, we asked whether Chain Reaction Cycles had returned back to the top place as the worlds number one bike shop after their 2014 turnover was released and the term largest bike store used by media as well as themself. 

You never doubted that Wiggle would lose their lead, and their financial data is out – according to Bicycle Retailer (US trade publication), Wiggle has £179 million in sales in 2014 compared with £153 million for Chain Reaction Cycles (CRC). The most important metric is turnover, so Wiggle retains the claim of being the world’s biggest bike shop.

We reported that Wiggle list 12,000 products which is based on their inventory which is available to Smart Cyclist. This is just a fraction of the 66,000 products from CRC. Bicycle Retailer however reports that Wiggle have 50,000 SKUs – which are Stock Keeping Units, but again this doesn’t provide enough information to accurately use and compare because of product variations such as colour and size. For example, if Wiggle have 12,000 products and with variations there are 50,000 units, CRC have 66,000 products – but are these the ‘units’ and variations or are there four times the number of SKUs? This is not clarified.

While information for public release is generally carefully considered, and thus tends to be scarce, the report does however provide insights into sales in different territories.

…sales were up 26 percent in the U.K. and 20 percent in Europe over the period, but down 13.1 percent in the rest of the world.

Certainly currency exchange has a role, but also competition from the growing number of online retailers now servicing local markets (who can be competitive and offer even faster delivery).

What is interesting is the growth, CRC had 6% growth while Wiggle recorded 12% growth which is certainly a reflection on their continuing commitment to brand promotion and awareness.

Geo restriction Country Blocking

Geo Blocking Sales for bikes and parts

Traditional geographical boundaries meant that was always a regional focus to the sale of bikes and gear. Of course the key brands were available, though always through local agents such as the distributer / wholesaler / importer or a national branch of the bike brand. 

Mail order made it possible for enthusiasts in remote continents (i.e. Africa, Asia and Australia) to have some access to speciality gear, there was usually a long wait and premiums for currency exchange.

With the ride of online shopping, sales initially were regional and for successful shops who adapted, they become international. But there were two effects:

Firstly, the products were no longer just ‘niche’ and hard-to-get products, rather they were everyday parts and accessories which were already available ‘locally’.  Customers were buying because it was cheaper… not because they couldn’t get it from their local bike shop.

Secondly, brands were now selling to the same buyer, but not via their local importer and bike shop and for many brands it raised questions of warranty and supporting the traditional retail channels.

 

However, the customer was usually a winner.
The customer has the same item for a lower price and are comfortable buying online so it is also convenient. Of course there are risks such as warranty issues and customer service challenges when dealing with the overseas shop. The end effect is that the bike rider has the same item… and the brand still sold their product.

 

Geo-Restriction and GeoBlocking for bikes and gear

Mavic was a very early adopter and for years they have been blocking Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles from selling their wheelsets to selected countries overseas. Other brands such as Continental have remained readily available.

Of course for customer who really wanted the Mavic wheels there were a few ways around restrictions such as using a 3rd party service to mask the country of origin and in cases it allowed delivery to an overseas address. Sometimes a bit of juggling the cart (selecting £ and UK delivery, adding the item and then changing currency and location) or simply ignoring on-site notes of restricted delivery… and letting the wheels simply turn up a few weeks later.

For ‘direct to customer’ brands such as the German brand of Canyon bikes and brands which are simply unavailable and unsupported in some countries, mail-forwarding can be used and is a service which is becoming increasing popular in the U.S. for example. A last resort is an international flight to Europe when the cost of flight and expenses is lower than the cost of purchasing locally.

 

How do retailers GeoBlock?

Wiggle detect a visitors location and when the product isn’t available they suggest that the product is no longer available, rather than not available. A challenge being that the products can be easily found on the wiggle site and only when selecting an unsupported delivery destination are the products suddenly out of stock.

Product No Longer Available

Search Engine Optimisation dictates this approach, it is better to include a product in the inventory and then try and guide a customer to alternative products, rather than to lose them completely. Of course customers who also notice this and over time simply may not visit.

Error 404 Page Not Found

Chain Reaction Cycles likewise have the product available in their directories for SEO purposes, however appear to favour an approach of sending visitors with an incompatible destination to the homepage. This can usually lead to the customer wonder ‘what just happened’ and trying a few times. Within their search database the term “Mavic Ksyrium” with a UK destination and GBP selected shows 25 results while with Australia as a destination and AUD there are only 8 results.

Among the Australia results are a few Mavic wheelsets which are apparently not blocked. Perhaps clearance or hard to sell wheelsets.

Mavic Ksyrium UK

Mavic Ksyrium Australia

 

Evans Cycles takes a different approach. In the past they haven’t appeared to block brands for sale, though more recently have changed tact. During testing there was also blocking on some Shimano parts which is unusual as Shimano and SRAM virtually never have geo-restrictions, sometimes the big online retailers sell before local bike shops overseas can even get stock.

Customers from ‘incompatible’ delivery destinations will see the complete range and receive no information or notice of restricted availability (with their overseas location and currency selected). First when the customer tries to check-out and pay are they informed that they can’t purchase. How annoying!

Evans Cycles Unavailable

 

While Evans do allows their own system to be circumvented, this process will not be documented. And there are also many other retailer to chose from. From the big ones, with our example of Mavic, Ribble have a single wheelset in their database, without any restrictions for people outside of the UK. Likewise ProBikeKit have no apparent restrictions however are focussed on UK customers and seem to neglect customers outside of the UK when it comes to customer satisfaction.

Hargroves Cycles is also in our database however doesn’t sell outside of the UK….

Actually they do, but unlike their competitors Hargroves don’t allow the destination to be selected by (potential) customers while browsing. Country selection is hidden inside the checkout process and their overseas delivery charges are hefty in comparison. In favour of Hargroves is their extensive range of our example brand ‘Mavic’.

 

Where does this leave the customer?

Some brands block some online shops from selling to customers in some countries. It depends how determined the customer is, where there is a will, there is a way. The inconsistency by many brands who try to block will leave loopholes. When online retailers in England wont sell, what about Northern Ireland… or a German retailer?

For brands there are also consequences. Some customers who experience these road blocks may return to local bike shops or local online bike store. Some brands require their products to be sold in-store, even if you are in South Africa for example, South African online retailers are not allowed to sell.

But some customers will simply walk away and turn to other brands, brands which are comparable but which they can purchase through a channel which they prefer, and for price they feel competitive.

 

Wiggle Chain Reaction Cycles Sponsorship

How Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles change Bike Sponsorship

Whether you run an event, an advocacy group or are a publisher, the chances are that it has taken years to establish, and was have grown out of love, passion and enthusiasm also needs solid financial supporters to make ends meet. 

Have a look at the number of big events, or advocacy groups or publishers which have truly been able to retain “bike only” sponsors alone, even bike brand sponsored pro-cycling teams have a limited lifespan and tend to turn to the lucrative ‘non bike’ businesses who want to capture the hearts and minds of cyclists; Red Bull, Skoda, IAM, Sky, Saxo, Orica.

In big business there are big brands, but the more local, the harder it is, and the less likely that you can rely on Giant, Trek, Specialized, BMC or Shimano. These are big brands in cycling, but bike brands are tiny on a global scale and their marketing “vision” much shorter.

International online retailers are a new opportunity, they run big sales numbers and any event or organisation or outlet is a conduit directly towards their customers. They are still careful with their investments, but the larger your audience, the bigger the potential.

However the competition between the bricks and mortar retailers and the online retailers creates the perfect ALL OR NOTHING scenario…

Where support from locally based brands wanes, getting Wiggle or Chain Reaction Cycles onboard as a key sponsor or financial support can help you reach new heights… and it is ‘bike’ and it is compatible with the ‘non-bike’ sponsors.

However getting Wiggle or Chain Reaction Cycles onboard can also sever all ties with local brands and also leave you open for criticism for not being a patriot, for not supporting local jobs and business.

While sponsorship from local brands may have been tough to acquire (or non-existent), once you turn to the Dark Side, you may never again have a chance with the local industry again.

So the question is, what do you stand to lose and will this make a difference?

Will it really affect the ability of your event, your organisation or your ‘channel’ to grow… will you be able to retain enough of your participants, members, readers or following… and grow these numbers.

Whatever the decision, don’t forget that the world and the marketplace is changing so consider the future of retail use this to help make a decision today on your sponsorship and support allegiance.

 

photo © KevPBur

Brains Travel on Bike

Do you lose your warranty when you buy online?

I was reading a 2012 article on Grey Market imports – which was defined in the article as anything purchased overseas and not through the ‘proper’ local channels. The grey market is actually more than this, but that is a conversation for another time. 

The author of the article quotes a US bike shop owner (with names and details removed) and the following caught my eye.

When one buys from these companies they are: a) putting money in the pockets of somebody unknown, b) hurting the local economy, c) getting products with no warranty whatsoever, d) dealing with poor customer service after the sale – try to return something to them e) Could be in violation of U.S. Custom’s import tariffs

Briefly addressing a) and b), if a customer buys a Shimano or SRAM item locally, it shouldn’t be forgotten that in most cases the item has been manufactured overseas and the chances are that  the brand is overseas (i.e. the Headquarters are not in the same country unless you are from Japan or America). Point taking, adding in the local importers and retailers gets more money moving in the local economy when buying locally. But the fact is that if you really wanted help the local economy you would only buy locally produced and manufactured items. With food and some consumables this is possible but the reality is that bike and cycling gear manufacture is usually cheaper in Asia, all of the big brands manufacture there and it means that ultimately there is a flow of money out of the country.

In perspective, the comments are dramatic and about creating guilt among customers who wonder why some items cost a fraction of the price overseas and their local bike shop isn’t doing anything to provide enough advantages to purchase from them.

 

No warranty online… really?

Sometimes warranty replacements are easier online – from the comfort of home you send in a photo and provide details. A few days later a courier comes and picks up the item and a new item is delivered. It can be that simple, but of course it can be a real pain.

The pain can involve packing and taking time to post, having to cover postage costs yourself and then waiting. Sometimes the customer service is poor. But generally as a customer you have rights and the retailer (from whom you purchased) should resolve any issues. And generally they do, sometimes better than bike shops.

Have you have made too many trips to the bike shop? “Come back on Tuesday”, so you make the trip to the shop and return on Tuesday to discover that they have forgotten you, and forgotten to call. Your chances of having a warranty replacement are that same as online. With online orders you have to wait, but instore you may have to wait, sometimes the shop sends it to the distributer who then needs to send it to the brand and that can take months. With an online purchase it is common for online shops to ‘cut their losses’ and make it easy for a customer by quickly replacing (and resolving the warranty replacement with the brand later) or in some cases to suggest the customer keep the part and a new one will be sent.

Customer service can be poor online, but the big online shops such as Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles are out their to win and retain customers. Their customer service has been boosted dramatically in recent years and all of the serious online bike shops know how important this is to their business.

There are rogue online bike shops out there, probably plenty so there is safety in sticking with the big stores (which in turn makes it tough for new and honest business). Comparing to local bike shops, are they all honest? Do they all look after you after the sale? Some bike shops don’t even look after you the moment you walk in the door.

I can tally some great experiences in local bike shops, but also some shocking experiences and in the face of growing online competition its a wonder that some bike shops believe that they can survive with their poor customer service and shonky service.

 

There are good and bad retailers online and offline. As a customer you shouldn’t feel pressured to buy from a local bike shop who isn’t looking after you, guilt-tripped because you are killing the economy. But the local bike shops can lift their game and become a better option for you… because their service is better and they look after you. As a customer take time to know the risks of buying online, such as not being able to try before you buy, but if you are buying from a reputable online retailer, the chances are that warranty and customer service is just as good as in store.

 

photo © Vanessa Gutierrez

 

Bad Online Bike Shop

What NOT to buy online

I am subscribed to a newsletter from Anthony BikeRoar, though didn’t actually subscribe and know for a fact that my email address was scrapped and included without an Opt-In, so it’s all very naughty. 

The purpose of the BikeRoar website isn’t obvious, they seems to have a bike comparison function, a directory of American bike shops and cycling articles and news with a strong Mountain Bike focus. I generally glance through the newsletter which has “Top Five’s”  and beginners tips, but in their current newsletter I spotted a featured article, “What NOT to buy online” by author Joey Esterhuyzen.

Now that is an interesting topic and in the first paragraph the author states the position of BikeRoar to online shopping,

Although we are not anti-online shopping, we have, in the past, made a song and dance about buying and supporting your local bike shop…

But it continues, unfortunately, to say,

…here is a light-hearted list of what NOT to buy online…

All of my anticipation has immediately vanished, but I continued to read anyway and discovered that the article isn’t ‘light-hearted’ (as in humorous) rather it includes one funny picture and instead is ‘light-reading’; basic common-sense information with broad comments, barely pausing to give substance or examples for justification.

Funny Bike PictureScreen caputure from BikeRoar

 

When buying your cassette there is a high chance of getting it wrong. Selecting the wrong gear ratios, wrong model, wrong gear count, or forgetting to replace the chain at the same time (which itself is riddled with landmines). Along with this, you’ll need very specific tools you’ve never used before – for both the cassette AND the chain.

For a beginner, perhaps it is useful to ensure that the reader knows that the techy details (specs) are really important and if you get it wrong, you lose. But this type of information is not particularly new and applies to mail-order, telephone-orders and online shopping for car parts, audio sound-system parts, instruments… and almost any product that has parts and comes in different sizes.

In core message is that if you go to your (physical) local bike shop, the mechanic will get the right item because they have the experience, plus if they stuff it up, it is their fault. If however you chose to buy yourself online, then know exactly what you want and be prepared to assemble.

The information on cycling shoes does try to provide reasoning as to why and identical sizes shoe can still be a bad fit.

 

But what I am missing is…

I am missing two things. Firstly, even accepting that the light-hearted humour is limited to a picture of a funny bike, I want more depth and I want real-life examples to open my mind. For example explaining what happens if I buy a compatible cassette for my bike which has a different gear range and the effect it will have when I try to climb the steep hill next time. Instead of telling me “…you’ll need very specific tools you’ve never used before…”, tell me which tools they are.

And secondly, I am really missing the content that made me click through in the first place. I do want to know what NOT to buy online. Online shoppers are now buying things online which they would not have considered five years ago. Clothing is booming and the risk of getting the wrong size is hardly stopping sales. There are not many product segments which are untouchable, but there must be some things you shouldn’t buy online.

 

Here it is: what should you NOT buy online

Let’s exclude advice targeted to beginner cyclists whether or not to purchase, rather really try and think of specific products you should not buy online. It was more difficult to put a list together than I anticipated.

You should not buy:

  • Flammable lubricants / cleaning agents because it is simply better not to air-deliver dangerous items.
  • Second-hand cycling knicks. It is not hygenic as they are intended to be worn without underwear.
  • Bicycle Helmets are a safety item so a perfect fit is important and you also need to ensure that the helmet complies with local regulations (if applicable) and with any regulations for competitive cycling, if you compete. I recommend that you know that it fits perfectly before buying which means a trip to your local dealer. Though do consider that showrooming (when you try first at a retail store with the intention of purchasing online) is bad form.
  • Items which are illegal to use in your country, for example, Germany has strict regulations on the brightness of bike lights and even how loud audible devices such as horns can be. While lights and loud air-horns for the bikes will pass through customs, if you fit them and uses them on public streets there can be consequences if you are stopped by police officers or involved in an accident.
  • Fake cycling apparel (and gear). Though it may be a fraction of the price of a genuine item there are two problems, the quality is often signficantly inferior and secondly by supporting fake / counterfeit / unlicensed products it supports an industry built on fraud rather than the cycling teams and cycling brands who deserve the support.
  • Bikes and gear of unknown origin. By all means, do some research and find out more, however if you don’t really know anything about the products and are not getting the right signals, then you don’t really know what you are getting.
  • Anything from untrusted online retailers. Check and see if it is a genuine online bike shop because you will never see your $800 again for the top-of-the-line-brand-new-too-good-too-be-true Pinarello.

And for an attempt at humour, don’t buy yellow jerseys or ‘world-champion’ jerseys or any other cycle-wear reserved for the victor of a race. You have to earn it first. The exception is when you are buying a collectable (and the money goes to charity) and you don’t wear it rather it hangs on the wall until it is uncovered that your cycling hero was a doper all along and now the jersey is worth only disdain.

 

 

Title Photo: © Egan Snow

Shhh Shimano

Is ‘Shimano’ a naughty word?

There are so many good things to say about the Shimano brand in the world of cycling (not to forget, they are big in fishing). Even if you you have a budget Shimano groupset, it will still be well designed and will continue to perform as long as you look after it. And Shimano has also lead the component market without the teething problems that have held back SRAM or the chains of nostalgia which hold back Campagnolo.

Customers are happy, but a lot of bike shops and even their own national Shimano suppliers are having second thoughts. So why the discontent, it is the legacy of Shimano distribution which allows the European online bike shops access to super cheap wholesale pricing.

The Bike Dealer Blog recently published a blog post, The “S”-Word: Dealers Speak Out and discussed the American perspective of the Shimano distribution strategies;

Shimano American management claimed it cannot do anything to control European distribution, a part of the world that doesn’t allow MAP or MAP enforcement.

An example is given of a California bike shop owner who complains that the Shimano 105 5800 groupset is available online from European retailers for $382.49 while his wholesale purchase price is $500.

This scenario is similar in other countries with not online the bike shops, but also the Shimano national offices facing stiff price competition from their own brand, and little power to act for fear of being cut-off.

The Bike Dealer Blog quotes a Texan bike shop owner (which I assume is unrelated to the ex-seven time Tour de France winner),

Here’s the problem. Which bike company wants to bankrupt itself to make a point? You can’t avoid using Shimano components on your bike. You can’t even work on phasing them out, except at the low end, and if you try to do that, Shimano will strike back by making their parts cheaper and thus your competitor’s bikes a better value.

For a bike dealer to shift to SRAM or Campagnolo also involves its own challenges. Aside from missing out on the strong “Shimano” brand and having to service this brand anyway, what is stopping SRAM and Campagnolo from also tapping into the lucrative European internet retailer market?

While the European online bike shops are branded with the blame for killing local bike industries, and while the distributers and bike shops call their customers ‘heartless’ for buying online, it is the brands themself who have ultimate control. These big brands however have been caught by surprise at the power and speed of the internet and the subsequent price discrepenies which make customers happy and bike shops unhappy are a legacy of deals and arrangements which can’t be changed overnight.

For young brands the lesson is to establish globally consistent pricing which ensures that bike shops and distributers can compete on price. And consistent pricing makes customers happy, they no longer pay a ‘massive local premium’ for the same item.

IBD Annoyed bike shops importers

How to annoy bike shops and importers

Some bike shops get annoyed the minute a customer walks through the door, but that’s a different story. Good bike shops welcome customers with open arms and but there is a sure-fire way to get the staff to quickly turn against you. 

Local bike shops, independent bike dealers and bicycle retail chains face stiff competition from online retailer. A few dabble, succeed or even embrace online retail (and concentrate on bike servicing which online retailers can’t provide), but many can also compete against online retailers. This is not usually on price, but by providing the service and local engagement which Wiggle, Chain Reaction Cycles and co. simply can’t provide.

The easiest way to annoy staff at the bike shop is to ask them to price match an online price. Price matching an (overseas) online retailer will often knock out the complete margins and in many cases the bike shop may be paying a higher wholesale price than the online price.

But there is another way to frustrate your bike shop beyond tears, if you have purchased something online that has broken, take it to your bike shop (rather than to where you purchased) and attempt to get them to resolve the warranty claim. You, as the ‘bad customer’, are the idiot in this case. But this still happens. People try their luck returning their online purchases to the bike shop.

This scenario is made worse when it takes time to determine that the faulty equiptment was not purchased locally. People mnay attempt to contact the importer directly and waste their time before the importer determines that your wheelset was purchased overseas. (There are some good news stories where the shop or the import still look after the customer regardless, they really need be be commended for this).

Of course it can be costly, time consuming and frustrating if you purchase online, the equipment fails and you have to convince the online retailer that it is a warranty replacement. In many cases, this is where your local bike shop simply win through better customer service.

Outside of the bike world, big brands such as Apple offer worldwide service, but as a brand they also have much strong control over their retail outlets. Giant Bicycles is in a similar position with their Giant Bicycle stores and limited online availability.

Consumer protection laws change between countries and even states, the rule of thumb is to return items under warranty to the place where you purchased. And if in doubt, you can enquire with the brand.

 

photo © Bruce Turner

How sales tax works when you buy bikes and gear online

The big online stores for bikes, parts and accessories who serve customers across the globe are concentrated in the European Union and America, but irrespective of location, if they sell overseas the sales tax is removed.

In the UK the rate is 20% and when shopping online, when you select a delivery destination outside of the United Kingdom, this will be removed from the final price. In the United States, sales tax rates differ from state to state and likewise are (should be) removed for overseas purchases.

 

However

If you are in the European Union and order from an online retailer in another EU member nation, provided that they will deliver to you, they will also add and collect the sales tax applicable in your country. This means there is no additional local taxation.

If you are in the United States and order from a different state, tax may or may not be collected by the retailer, depending on the laws. If sales tax is not charged, many states will require you, by law, to include details of online purchases where no tax was collected in your tax return.

For customers who are ‘overseas’ generally your government will apply taxes and/or duty on your imports.

 

Tax Exemptions

When the tax is calculated and collected automatically, it makes it easy. There are a number of factors which can affect tax, in brief this includes:

• Trade Agreements between countries – certain products may be exempt
• Type of Product – likewise, certain items may be excluded or have a reduced tax rate
• Usage – exemptions on items for certain activities
• Taxation Threshold – Some countries impose tax and duties on items over a specific value

And more… each country is different so it is worth researching. When importing it may be required to pay the complete taxes and apply for exemptions for a refund.

Damaged Bike Delivery

Bike or gear damaged on delivery? You need to know this!

You can’t hide the disappointment when you order online to find the bike or gear damaged on delivery. This is going to be painful! But there are a few things you should do to turn wrongs into rights and avoid frustration and heartache.

 

1. Don’t accept badly damaged deliveries

If the package looks as though it has been through disaster zone, simply don’t sign for it. Tracked packages will go through the system and because it is recorded and returned and that you havn’t received it, you can clarify with support whether a replacement should be shipped or you want a refund.

 

2. Don’t open the package

For deliveries you may not have a choice, it doesn’t need to be signed off, or a family member, colleague or neighbour may have signed on your behalf. If the box is is a really poor condition, don’t open it. Leave it unopened and take photos and report to customer service.

This is a judgement call, if you ordered cycle wear then a crumpled box may not bother you. but it doesn’t hurt to take a photo before opening.

 

3. Document everything and take photos

As soon as you have a suspicion that something isn’t right, start taking photos, for example unpacking the box so you have photographic documentation to ‘prove’ to customer support for your favourite retailer that this was the condition in which you received the item.

Documentation continues to making ordered notes if you speak to customer support on the phone (time, date, name and reference number) and being organised. This will save you from trying to locate lost details and ensures that you can back yourself up.

 

4. If it looks fine, inspect it anyway

Take the time to check your order, is it complete. What about the condition of each item. While you may not spot mechanical defects, take the time to carefully look at the bike or gear, look for scratches, damage or anything which is out of the ordinary. Wheelsets should be true, bikes should have original protective wrapping and be in pristine condition while parts may be in original packaging or OEM packaging.

 

5. Report to the retailer as soon as possible

The better retailers include ‘returns’ information with the delivery as well as with confirmation emails to make it easy and efficient for customers. (Likewise, the bad retailers hide this information and make it difficult and painful to lodge a return).

Provide the details of your order and describe the issue. If you are emailing rather than phoning, you may have to wait for a response and instructions.

 

6. Don’t use or ride the bike or equipment

It is temping to use or try equipment, but if it is not in order, resist this tempation. In an example, a customer reported a damaged Colnago from Wiggle however took the bike for a short ride. Wiggle staff responded The tyres, chain, and brake rims show considerable signs of clear use and rejected the claim suggesting that the customer had caused the damage. Wiggle documented, though included photos of a different bike – and the question is, who is telling the truth?

 

7. Don’t break it

The bike or the cycling gear may have arrived safe and sound, but removing it from packaging, assembling and simply accidently misusing can cause damage. Take time to browse any instruction and unpack and assemble with care. Don’t rush and be sure you know what you are doing.

Assembly can be tricky, Many bike parts, particularly Carbon Fiber, have torque specifications. Don’t be afraid to ask a friend for help or ask to borrow a torque wrench. If something does happen, go to part three and document.

 

8. Be polite, be persistent

It is frustrating dealing with canned emails and 5 different staff members where you have to start again. The best retailers allocate a single staff member to help resolve your issue, while the worst ones bounce you around, don’t respond in a timely manner or simply ignore you. Be polite, by firm and persistent. Include your preferred resolution.

If you are ‘absolutely right’ but getting no where, it may be the support staffs role to reject or deny claims. Ask to elevate the issue or to speak with a manager.

 

9. Threaten the retailer

Having tried all reasonable approaches to reach a solution, if the retailer isn’t taking you seriously then it may be time to let them know you will be seeking alternative approaches to resolve. Keep in mind that defaming a retailer can get you into trouble, the online bike shop may become more interested in finding a satisfactory resolution if it keeps you from telling all of your friends, or reporting on social media and social communities or even reporting to the relevant consumer protection orgaisations.

 

10. When all else fails, take action

Some retailers may not be phased by a threat, running a poor business may mean they they are regularly threatened and that they know the threats are hollow. It is problematic if you have ordered overseas, customer protection laws may not apply however you should follow up with consumer protection agencies in the same country as the retailer.

Social media can be a good channel to draw attention to your plight though take care to be factual and publishing information which a retailer coud use to sue you. Other customers may have advice to help you.

Consider other options, if you feel that a retailer is not operating ethically you may be able to inform the consumer protection agency in your own country who can at least try to protect other consumes.

Posting a genuine, factual and detailed negative review on rating websites or evening writing a real letter (pen and paper) to management.

 

photo © Tracey Adams

American Online Bike Shops

America leads online retail… but not for bikes

The United States is the birthplace of the internet (DARPA) and is a nation defined by Start-Up success. Amazon is the worlds greatest online retailer and much of the world’s online entertainment comes courtesy of the US and American based services. But in the bike work, the United Kingdom is the worlds leader – this doesn’t make sense at first glance.

Why is the UK different, there are a number of influences and we will briefly explore a few.

 

Mail Order History

Of course mail-order existed in the US, but in the days of old the back pages of UK cycling magazines were filled with super deals from mail order companies. This was a strong culture in the UK and progressed naturally to the internet. While it didn’t mean the same retailers made it across, many customers were comfortable with the approach and the internet make it easier still.

 

Distribution

Different nations have practices for distribution, some brands have a tight control over distribution, some distributers have a tight control over brands and retailers. This also extends to brand reps and whether they are independent or employed by the distributer or brand and how they have built personal and brand loyalty.

The effect is that in one country, online retailer access and cooperation can be easier, while in the other there are restrictions and limitations which affect availability and price.

 

Shipping Costs

Where store prices for certain products online in American stores can be competitive, or cheaper – often shipping costs is a killer. Why does it cost $200 to ship a $500 wheelset from the US? Why does it cost $600 to ship a bike? The UK have been filing back postage costs – and while a buyer still may have customs and local taxes, the shipping costs are marginal. Then again, some of the biggest US online bike shops simply don’t sell some, or any products to customers overseas and cut out a massive audience.

 

Customer Service

Purely speculative of course, but perhaps local bike shops in the US had great customer service; Sunny side up and you’ll come back now you hear. The transition to buying online was slower and it is only a matter of time before a few clever business owners learn the tricks of the UK retailers and apply locally.

 

America in Isolation

The proud British folk don’t always like the responsibilities of belong to the European Union (remember, the UK is still a world leader… right) but even with the English channel separating the UK from mainland Europe, the trade between the Western European developed nations is roaring. The geography and historical trading during the last two millenia means that this is ingrained in Europen society – success and growth means serving customers in other nations.

By no means is America cut-off, but beyond Canada and Mexico, customers in other developed nations are a long way away.

 

Online sales is booming

And while these were just a few suggestions, as the planet (and hopefully eventually the politicians) slowly realises how good cycling is, the entire cycling industry will still see a massive growth in customers and the door is open with plenty of scope for new shops to grab a healthy slice of the pie, be it in America, Eastern Europe or at the source, Asia.