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State of Retail: What are your expectations for the holiday shopping season, and how are you preparing?

Published October 12, 2020

A version of this feature ran in the October issue of BRAIN.

BOULDER, Colo. (BRAIN) — For our October magazine edition, we asked our State of Retail panel members: “What are your expectations for the holiday shopping season, and how are you preparing?”

SEATTLE: Christiaan Bourdrez, owner Ride Bicycles

Christiaan Bourdrez

Even though there have been supply chain shortages during COVID-19 and there may be some challenges with kids’ bikes this holiday season, as a small- to mid-sized bike shop, I am confident I will be able to get enough inventory to supply my customers with products for the holiday season. I don’t expect shortages to have a negative impact on our holiday business. We will probably have more inventory available, as I am taking on more fall product to guarantee I have spring inventory and to refill holes in my inventory created by the busy season. As for hiring during the holidays, I would say we will have a similar amount of staff as previous years.

BOISE, Idaho: Diane Cutler, owner Spokey Joe’s Bikes & Gear

Diane Cutler

This year, instead of waiting until November to start stocking up on holiday items, we are already buying and ordering whatever we can as it becomes available due to the uncertainty of the supply chain. As for staffing levels, we do not anticipate any changes. This holiday season could be a very good one for the bike industry with so many new riders this year due to the pandemic. We anticipate a moderate increase in demand for accessories and even bikes compared to the past two years. Whether or not that demand results in sales will depend on product availability. I suspect we’ll still be seeing holes in inventory through the holiday shopping season, but we are hopeful that enough will be available to have a decent selection of popular products for holiday shoppers resulting in a Merry Christmas for our bottom line.

CHICAGO: Justyna Frank, co-owner Cosmic Bikes

Justyna Frank

It's very difficult to make any plans with respect to holiday buying, not knowing at all what products might be available from our regular suppliers. The biggest impact to our holiday sales may be from shortages in children's bicycles. Also, it's difficult to know what to expect for the year-end season because in our location, we don't usually see a sharp spike in holiday shopping. While we hope that as people adjust their transportation habits in the wake of COVID-19, our season will extend well into fall, the demand is likely to taper off significantly as winter weather sets in here in Chicago.

As for staffing, we usually lay off most of our crew for the deep winter months, however we are being cautiously optimistic this year about being able to provide more steady employment to our regular staff. This season has forced us to more carefully define how we interact with customers — in terms of setting appointments, setting communication expectations, having online offerings, revising our pricing structures, etc. — and we hope to use the upcoming slower season to reevaluate and incorporate the best of those into our daily practices for the future seasons. 

FULLERTON, Calif.: Mike Franze, owner Fullerton Bicycles and Buena Park Bicycles

Mike Franze

Buy, buy, buy! My preparation is to get my hands on anything we can. People will buy what you have available, and I feel this Christmas we will be in uncharted waters for sure! I predict that COVID-19 will make for a very challenging Christmas. I don't think we are going to be able to hold our day-after Thanksgiving sale due to pandemic-related restrictions, yet, I feel we will not have the supply to handle the volume. We have a good amount of kids’ bikes because I have taken as many as I can to start getting ready, but I’m still worried about supply. There is no way the big manufacturers can get enough inventory stocked up to provide what shops will need. 

I also think with more people riding there will be more gift cards, more clothing sales and more demand for accessory items. As of early fall, we are not seeing a slowdown in sales and our service department is still full. COVID has been 110% out of control. We’ve added 10 employees, so I guess that is a good thing. I think we will continue running the same weekly hours through the year's end to get bikes built, and we will also need to have some guys ready to do some custom builds, which have been a good way to recoup sales on the lack of bikes.

KANSAS CITY: Christina Baanders-Decker, owner Midwest Cyclery

Christina Baanders-Decker

Honestly, the way the year has gone, who knows what the holidays will be like? Supply chain shortages will be the new norm for a few years. I’m planning on fewer bike sales and more accessories, such as helmets, bags, and racks. As for predictions, if we sell the same as last year, I’ll be satisfied. A gain in sales over last December would be a bonus. To prepare for the holiday shopping season, I’m stocking the shelves moderately and making sure any and all invoices are paid in full. I’m also planning vacation time for everyone in the shop. We have three full-time employees and two active owners, plus three part-time employees. I do not expect to employ the part-timers over the holidays, and I anticipate that the “active owners” will become “inactive” a couple extra days a week. My secret goal is that all of our sales numbers will be blown out of the water compared to last year.

BROOKLYN, N.Y.: Joseph Nocella, owner 718 Cyclery and Outdoors

Joe Nocella

For the holiday shopping season, I think that the current boom, in addition to the typical holiday sales increases, will result in more shortages than we've seen already. At my shop, I am buying more out of fear of not seeing an item again for a while. I don’t expect to add any staff for the holiday season. I am now and will continue to be a one-person operation.

SAN DIEGO: Mike Olson, owner Trek Superstore and Bike Gallery

Mike Olson

We expect the demand for kids’ bikes and recreational bikes that are given as gifts will be very high. I am guessing that it may be four times as high as last year. We will definitely employ more people than the same time last year. We are going to be really short on inventory and don't see how we will meet this demand. We are getting every kids’ bike we can get now. I keep reminding myself and my team that it's a privilege to have the kinds of problems we are having. We focus on controlling what we can and pacing ourselves. We also make time to celebrate and have fun so we don't burn ourselves out.

CHICO, Calif.: Kate Sage, bicycle technician, and

Kate Sage

How COVID will impact the holiday shopping season is still very uncertain, so we are approaching it ready to learn and adapt as best we can. With ongoing shortages, we are still not in a position to be picky about product. The busy season is always busy, and we don’t expect this year to be any different. Our biggest challenge continues to be uncertainty. If 2020 has shown us anything, it’s that we have to be prepared for every contingency. Our main goal is to have product to sell, and we are working closely with our reps to achieve that goal. We always run lean in order to prevent layoffs during the slow season, but this year, we are still looking for folks to handle an increased online shopping volume. We continue to hire more staff.

Joe Nocella
Topics associated with this article: State of Retail, From the Magazine

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