LAGUNA WOODS, CA (BRAIN)—When asked if the sputtering economy is affecting business, Mary Ann Iglesias replies confidently, “I have to think we’re somewhat immune.”
She and husband Hank started Edge Cyclesports 10 years ago specifically to sell and service high-end road and tri bikes—a niche that keeps growing despite growing local and online competition.
“The idea to do this store came up 10 years ago. We wanted to build the shop around enthusiasts, racers and triathlons. Distributors were skeptical at first and look at us now,” she said. “Many shops are now doing it. But up until four years ago, we were the only tri shop in the area.”
You won’t see any kids, mountain or commuter bikes at Edge Cyclesports, which employs four full-time staffers and one part-time employee. What you will see at this 2,000-square-foot Laguna Woods store, which draws customers from as far as 90 miles away, is carbon fiber tri and road bikes from brands such as Cervelo, Calfee, Felt, Guru, Independent Fabrication, Ridley and Seven as well as some tri accessories such as wet suits.
For the most part, business is evenly split, with 50 percent of business coming from triathlon and the other half from road. And while road sales mostly span from January through June, triathlon is almost a year-round business, Iglesias said.
Iglesias attributes the shop’s success during difficult times to its longevity, experience and customer base, made up of affluent and highly active road and triathlon racers.
“It’s their passion. They might not get their clothes to the dry cleaners or go skiing in Aspen (during a recession) but they buy and want the latest equipment,” she said. “These people are savvy and smart and they have money. They have jobs where they have time during the day to search for new product.”
Tri customers, in particular, often bring their bikes in for simple adjustments, tuneups and wheel changes. “They don’t want to adjust or touch their bikes,” Iglesias said.
But this clientele of engineers or workers in high-tech and finance sectors demand quick service and immediate response to e-mail or phone queries asking about new product in stock. To keep up, Edge installed a high-speed T1 line a few years ago. “We have to be on the cutting-edge—constantly shifting to what’s hot,” Iglesias said. “It’s becoming so important for us to be in touch.”
Edge also focuses on quick service, providing a 48-hour turnaround and offers same-day service through appointment. “We are built around service,” Iglesias said, adding that bike fit is a big part of business. The shop, which does on average 120 bike fits per year, uses the Fit Bike by Calfee.
But perhaps the store’s strongest strategy is its ties to the racing and enthusiast community. Aside from the usual fare, such as sponsorships, Edge offers full race support, including wheel and tri wetsuit rentals, and through a partnership with TriBike Transport, serves as the pickup and drop off store for triathlons. Through this service customers are able to drop off their bike, which is then shipped fully assembled to their event/race destination. Afterwards, the bike is shipped back to the shop for the customer to pick up.
“This allows us to have direct contact with new customers and it’s a good way for us to get in with the tri market,” Iglesias said.
Summing up the essence of its business model, Iglesias noted, “Our customers come to hang out after work to talk tri. They’re not looking for the cheapest price.”