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More than half of retailers have added service staff this year, PBMA survey shows

Published November 11, 2019

By Jenny Kallista

Editor's note: Kallista owns the Appalachian Bicycle Institute and PBMA Board member for writing it up.

Towards the end of this past summer season, the PBMA conducted a survey to help us (and others) judge the current state of affairs in the service department. We wanted to know just how bad things seem to be, since most of retail news is made up of doom and gloom headlines ... so let's see what's happening.

The survey was made up of eight loosely focused questions asking about staff counts, training and general service department business. We received 400 responses in total, with most answering all eight questions.

Of the respondents, 55% said they have added service staff this year, so things can't be all that bad if we are upping staff counts! We see numbers averaging out at five service department staff per location.

The "retail is hurting" headlines really bother us, but we think a smart shift in what you do in your bicycle business can help secure your future. Out of 400 respondents, 79% indicate that service-related revenue has increased. For 250 shops, this could be directly related to the increase of the shop's base hourly rate for service.

Since the PBMA is very focused on educational initiatives, we wanted to know who's been trained, where they did that training, and what future training was planned. Out of the 400 respondents, 63% stated their service staff had attended training at a bicycle mechanics school, which is a good indicator that many shops are focused on hiring trained mechanics.

Here's some more interesting stats:

  • 89 of 400 shops increased their service department footprint this year
  • 143 reduced their spending on retail stock
  • 167 have already sent employees somewhere for training this year
  • 155 plan to send employees somewhere for training later this year
  • 165 attended an industry tradeshow
  • 103 added a service they didn't provide before such as fitting, coaching, or pickup/delivery
  • 145 added a service menu item such as suspension services or tuning

The above numbers likely represent shops with a focused vision of their future, and they are finding ways to increase or maintain their overall revenue by shifting from heavily retail-supported to very service-focused.

How do these shops ensure their employees have access to training? One hundred and eight sent employees to bike brand training such as SBCU or Trek Certified Service, 100 attended component manufacturer training such as SRAM's STU or Shimano S.T.E.C., 155 were permitted paid time to go through online training from various manufacturers, and 134 attended training provided by manufacturers in their region.

A troubling statistic for us is that only half the 400 respondents paid for all of the training the employee received, leaving others to split the costs. In some situations, the employee actually paid for training themselves.

Investing in your employees is an investment in your own profitable future. If you are afraid a person will take your money and run, then build policies that protect you. An agreement can be made that the employee will stay onboard for 3 years, or 2 years ... or they owe you back a certain percent based on their departure from your employment within a predetermined timeline.

Promoting your investment will warrant financial rewards, ensuring your customers know that your employees are well-trained, which brings confidence and word-of-mouth referrals. I can't imagine a shop anywhere in the country or world that doesn't want more people coming through the doors engaging your business for service and repair, perhaps the most profitable element of your bicycle business.

For complete survey data, visit the results on SurveyMonkey.

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