|The "Dirt Museum" above my bench|
But one post in particular really stands out now ten years down the road. It was about the changing face of retail. I stated that (Remember- this was 2007!) people were hip to pricing structures and knew how to use on-line resources to price shop before they even came in to a bike shop. Retailers were still coaching sales people that costs were top secret information and that discounting parts to get a sale was not good. We, as shop people, were supposed to act like the internet didn't exist, when all around us every rider knew we were full of bovine excrement for saying we couldn't sell items for less than we had been. Of course, this was a huge debate then, but what is super crazy is that this debate continues ten years down the road. It's stupid.
Here's what I said, ten years ago, about how bike shops should be presenting themselves......
"The best thing a bike shop can offer a customer isn't bikes. Heck, MallWart sells bikes, but they are not the paragon of a bike shop experience either. No, it's something else that makes a bike shop better. It's service. It's helping the customer out and creating a relationship that makes customers want to talk to you concerning anything bicycle related. My belief is that a healthy relationship between a shop and customer sometimes means that you admit that you can't sell something cheaper than you can get it online. You are being truthfull and the customer will be drawn to that quality more than they would if you tried to bluff your way into a sale with them."
And now, ten years later, bike shops are still struggling to find a reason to be in this retail market. Look, it has been ten years folks. A decade. The industry should have figured it out by now. Some are, some have, but many still don't get it. Companies are just now trying to sort out the on-line retail world and how that will work for them. It's bizarre, really. It's taken the threat, and now reality, of a German based direct to consumer brand to finally shake the sleeping giants into action. This should have all been figured out five years ago, at the latest.
Then there is the elimination of the interaction between bike shop experts and retail customers. Buying on-line eliminates a lot of interaction. That interaction between customer and the bike shop is what will be missed. An interaction, which, when it is at its best, informs and guides retail customers to the best possible result. It helps retail customers navigate the bewildering world of "standards" in the world of cycling. It renders wisdom gained by decades of mechanical experience and riding acumen. When the human interaction factor is eliminated, the retail customer bears the burden of discovering knowledge gained in various ways and in various areas of expertise that a single individual has no chance of mastering.
But consumers have voted with their dollars, so the consequences of that vote now must be bourne by the end consumer. When bike shops, and therefore their human resources, are gone, then the experiences that consumers can expect to have interacting with remote customer service entities will likely be seen as "less than satisfactory". Or maybe I don't know what I am talking about......
Maybe, but then again, we will see.