As the number of coronavirus cases keeps growing around the globe and countries are going on lockdown, numerous industries are suffering. Only essential businesses are allowed to stay open and offer their services to customers, which usually refers to grocery stores, banks, pharmacies, and such.
How will this rapidly developing situation affect our local bike shops? There’s an ongoing debate out there about whether or not bike shops should join the list of essential businesses and keep their doors open.
Will their sales suffer or, on the contrary, experience a surge amid social distancing appeals that lead to a decrease in public transportation use?
Who better to answer these questions but bike shops themselves. We asked a few bike owners to share their opinions and experiences with us, as well as give us their predictions for the future.
Should Bike Shops Be Deemed Essential?
Depending on whom you ask and where you ask this question, you’ll get vastly different answers. For example, the Netherlands had no doubt whether or not to declare bike shops as essential. Almost a quarter of the Dutch population cycles every day.
Apart from being a mode of transportation, cycling also promotes physical and mental health and boosts the immune system, which is a big reason why bike shops should make the cut everywhere.
Ricardo Smith from Sun Country Cycle believes bike shops should remain open. He justifies it by saying “[they] are helping people get outside to exercise and practice social distance cycling.”
However, in the United States, this matter ran into opposing opinions. Initially, bike shops in the state of New York were not deemed essential following the shutdown. After a public appeal from bike shop owners and the public, Mayor de Blasio finally changed the decision and added cycling businesses on the list.
But it’s not an easy decision to make. There’s doubt even among shop owners. Daniel from Rollin’ Thunder says he’s 50-50 about it.
“It pains me to say it, but I think storefronts should be closed. I’m still seeing more customers than I’d like just popping in to see what’s happening…”
According to him, a possible solution would be to close the storefront, but keep the repair side open.
“Repair is absolutely essential, and an appointment basis repair would be easy to remain relatively contactless and clean.”
Nate Miller from Ridgway Wrench is on the same page and says that no one is allowed to come in the shop at this time. Instead, he “[has] put a sign on my door directing people to wait outside with their bike and/or question.”
Ultimately, his advice for people is to still go ride, as there’s nothing better at this time than bike therapy!
Bike Shops Need to Adapt to the Coronavirus Crisis
In order for bike shops to stay open and keep offering their services to cyclists in need, they need to take certain measures of precaution and learn how to adapt to the unpredictable coronavirus crisis.
There’s no need why shops can’t stay open if they keep social distancing and disinfection on top of the list of priorities. At Rollin’ Thunder, that’s exactly what’s going down.
“We’ve set up a sanitation station at the entrance; hand sanitizer, Lysol wipes, gloves, shop towels and anti-bac cleaner, and moved a bench and set up an iPad with bike movies looping on it, encouraging customers to stay away outside or at the entrance if there’s another customer being helped in the store.”
He adds that, at the moment, they’ll lock the door if there are three customers inside, but that they’ll likely reduce it to two as the situation develops.
Sun Country Cycle maintains a similar approach.
“We have been limiting the number of people in the store, enforced social distancing, and haven’t allowed customers to stay in the store just to hang out or look around.”
Nate from Ridgway Wrench goes a step further, saying that he “sends invoices electronically which is my preferred method of payment right now.”
Therefore, it is obvious that bike shops can operate in a safe way at this time if shop owners are willing to take the necessary measures to ensure the right conditions. It seems to us that they are more than willing to do so.
Cyclists Need to Change Their Behavior and Adapt as Well
We understand the pleasure cyclists get from window shopping and aimless wandering through bike shops, just looking at the inventory. We’re guilty of it as well.
However, as times are slowly changing, Rollin’ Thunder’s advice is, “Don’t just come in to browse.” Bike shops would love to sell you their products, but the last thing they want to do is become a vector for this virus.
Instead, he suggests that you can “Message us for product questions, schedule an appointment for larger purchases, and have patience.”
Also, cyclists need to keep in mind that most bike shops are working with a lot less staff available right now. Therefore, have some understanding and tolerance if service is not as fast as you’re used to.
According to Ricardo from Sun Country Cycle, whatever we do, we should be “safe and smart about it, as our hospitals don’t need more to deal with right now.”
If you go out for a ride, don’t risk injuring yourself and ending up in a hospital. Take it easy and just enjoy spending some time outdoors.
The main takeaway is that if your bike needs servicing or you’d like to buy some parts or gear, it’s best to call your local bike shop. Ask what their procedure is and what their preferred way of doing business is right now. Respect their decisions and support them as much as you can.
Will Bike Shop Sales Suffer Following the Outbreak?
There’s no doubt that numerous industries will suffer greatly because of this crisis. Profits will go down for most and some businesses might even close. A lot of people are losing their jobs already.
But what about bike shops? Some believe their profits will plummet, others expect to see a surge. Dan tells us that “Overall, sales are down, but there was a spike about a week ago of people ‘panic buying’.”
However, people are not necessarily buying less, but they’re just spending their money on different products and services right now.
Rollin’ Thunder has sold a lot more entry-level trainers than usual since the beginning of lockdown, and the number of people asking for repairs is on the rise as well. So there’s definitely a way for bike shops to stay afloat if they take the right approach.
According to Sun Country Cycle’s experience, “once things got serious in North America, we’ve noticed a drop in higher-end bike purchases.” Therefore, it seems that cyclists are changing their priorities, and focusing more on buying commuter bikes that they can replace public transportation with.
From the look of things right now, one-man repair shops, such as Ridgway Wrench will not suffer too much. So far, Nate Miller has not seen “too much of a drop in business although the corona is everywhere.”
On the other hand, shops with large storefronts and no repair section might not fare as well. If sales of new bikes drop, they might have to close or consider offer repair services as well.
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Will the Bicycle Industry Come out of this Crisis Stronger?
Judging from the way the global coronavirus pandemic is developing at the moment, the end might be years away. Therefore, a logical question to ask is how these new circumstances will affect the bicycle industry.
If you ask around enough, you’ll get opposing opinions and vastly different predictions for the future.
At Rollin’ Thunder, they’re quite optimistic saying, “We’ll be fine. Shops on the brink might suffer, but they’re probably on the brink for reasons other than the virus, to begin with.”
His idea is that bike shops can always fall back on repairs if the sales go down. That is so because people still need to bike, no matter what happens.
That goes in line with Ridgway Wrench’s conclusion that “The one-man show bike repair shops will survive!” Big stores with large storefronts might suffer, but small operations that are part of the local community will not see a big change.
Ricardo is a bit more cautious and believes “The impact will be huge, but not just on the bicycle industry.” According to him, many shops and brands that are on the bubble will be forced to close, which is to be expected from a crisis of this scale.
Related: Coronavirus Q&A for cyclists
What’s encouraging is that “Everyone seems to be adapting to the situation and making things work,” as stated by Nate Miller from Ridgway Wrench.
The one thing we can be certain about is that bikes are not going anywhere. Even if some businesses go under, others will come to replace them because people will always need new bikes, replacement parts, and repairs. Perhaps more so than ever in the wake of a global economic and health crisis like this one.
Let’s stay strong and support our bike shops!