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Chain Reaction Firms Plans for Belfast Store

Published July 13, 2011

BELFAST, Ireland (BRAIN)—Chain Reaction Cycles will open its new store at the end of August in Belfast, Ireland, as an expansion to its brand and as a way to increase its reach to the customer, company director Chris Watson said in a recent interview with Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.

Speaking from the online retailer’s headquarters in Ballyclare, just north of Belfast, Watson said the 10,000 square foot location would provide a seamless shopping experience for customers who know Chain Reaction for its wide selection—about 600 brands—offered on the site.

“Our customers have an expectation of what we are. They want choice, they want product and if we’re going to do retail we have to give them both those things, and that’s incredibly difficult even within a 10,000 square foot store,” Watson said, while showing blue prints for the shop, now under construction.

The floor plan includes sections for commuter, BMX, kids, mountain, road and triathlon bikes, fitting services and Internet pods so consumers can browse Chain Reaction’s online offering.

“We’ll have a lot of inventory. If you look at it, we have 90,000 SKUs. If we’re lucky, we’ll get 5,000 into the store,” Watson said.

Customers will be able to buy from the shop, or order online and pick up their purchases in Belfast. Pricing will be consistent across the online and storefront platforms.

“For us, it’s another offering to the customer: it’s what can we do better for them?” Watson said.

The new store will complement Chain Reaction’s showroom at its headquarters, which is staffed full time, and displays a selection of complete bikes, clothing, apparel, shoes and accessories from Chain Reaction’s stock.

Seeing the number of people shopping at the showroom points to the need for a brick and mortar location, Watson said.

“Some days you can get 20 to 30 customers coming in there. That’s because that particular person wants to touch and feel that item, to try on that jacket. They want to do something that they’re coming to see us personally to do. We need to give them a better environment to allow them to do that,” he said.

Watson said Chain Reaction would gauge business at the Belfast location before deciding whether it would open additional storefronts. Chain Reaction Cycles started in 1984 as a bike shop in Northern Ireland opened by Watson’s parents.

—Nicole Formosa

Photo: Chain Reaction Cycles' company director Chris Watson

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