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LAB report looks at how bike shops can welcome more women customers

Published May 20, 2015

WASHINGTON (BRAIN) — The League of American Bicyclists has published a 28-page report on how bike shops can better welcome women customers.

The report, which was sponsored by Specialized, includes data pulled from several sources, including a retail survey promoted on BicycleRetailer.com last year. 

Liz Cornish, who manages the League's Women Bike program, said the League values the role that bike shops play in the cycling community, and believes that being more welcoming to women customers is one way to ensure shops' continued financial health.

"The League of American Bicyclists believes that independent bicycle dealers in providing access to bicycles, bicycle maintenance, bicycling information, and creating a community of people riding bikes are a critical component to building a bicycle-friendly America. We want them to succeed, which means providing resources to assist them in embracing an increasingly diverse and growing market," the report said.

"In many cases, the first point of contact for a new or returning rider is the experience she has when she first enters her local bike shop. It is at the local shop that she can tap into expert knowledge, experience quality products, and connect to a community of bicyclists."

The report includes case studies from several bike shops that are considered welcoming to women, as well as a look at brands in other industries, including Lululemon, Harley-Davidson and the running market.

The retailer survey had 156 respondents, from bike shops in 35 states and the District of Columbia. The survey asked them to report current training, programming and amenities that they are offering and asked them to report on their own ability to effectively market and sell to women.

The League conceded that "a self-reporting volunteer survey has its empirical limitations." And in interviewing people connected to the retail industry and seeking other reliable data, the report's authors also concluded that the IBD industry lacks detailed retail sales data.

"Sales data that goes beyond product categories is needed to arm dealers and manufacturers with information that can lead to solutions," the report said.

Nevertheless, the League gathered enough information to conclude that two pieces of conventional knowledge in the IBD industry are likely false: They found that the gender of the store owner has little effect on the shops's ability to attract female customers and that outside training in customer service did not correlate to an increase in women's sales.

The report made two recommendations:

  1. "Shop owners must relinquish old models of bicycle retail that, by their very nature, perpetuate stereotypes about bike users, and unintentionally exclude new consumers to the market. The reality is, for bike retail to continue, the industry as a whole must market bicycles for everyone. And to do that, there must be clear plans of action that shop owners can use to expand their market base.
  2. "Shops must proactively work to make people of all backgrounds feel that bicycling is for them. That's contingent on creating a shop in which many different people can feel comfortable.

"There will be some who lament the changes coming to their shop, but the reality is, the small percentage of current consumers has flatlined.

"The only risk shop owners have at this current juncture is do nothing at all."

More information: bikeleague.org/content/report-bike-shops-everyone.

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