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Roll: Bicycle Company expanding footprint by appealing to ‘underserved’ market

Published February 18, 2020
On a roll with a unique but proven sales approach

Editor's note: A version of this article ran in the February issue of BRAIN

COLUMBUS, Ohio (BRAIN) — For Roll: Bicycle Company, a retailer with three stores and its own bike brand, it’s all about control.  

Specifically, the control the brand gives consumers over how their bikes look and are spec’d.

Roll is on a … growth curve. It is adding a fourth store in March as part of an aggressive expansion plan for 2020, when it hopes to double sales.

“A niche of the market was being underserved,” said Ryan Hughes, COO of Roll. 

Roll sells Giant, Cannondale, Santa Cruz, Electra, and All-City in its stores in addition to its custom Adventure, City and Sport custom bike bike builds starting at $799. Roll bikes also can be purchased online or through 59 U.S. retail locations and one in Vancouver. 

Hughes said it’s targeting 100% growth of its dealer base in the next few years.

Challenges include educating retail sales staff and outside reps about what makes the brand different.

Roll's sales floor.“Any time you’re offering something different, you feel confident you have a stratified offering within the shop. But at the same time you are attempting to get a bike shop’s sales people to sell something in a different fashion,” Hughes said. 

“Having someone walk into the shop and say, ‘Well do you want this bike or that bike?’ As opposed to, ‘Here’s this size, it’s a medium, if you’d like to come over to the computer, we can customize this in hundreds of different ways.’” 

Roll has added two sales rep groups to cover Florida/South and California/Southwest. “This is an area where I’m learning a lot,” Hughes said. “We’re trying to figure out how we get outside reps up to speed as quickly as possible on what differentiates our product and why bike shops should be excited about it.”

Depending on the Roll model, customers have six choices for frame color, and two choices of frame type (standard or step-thru), component color (polished silver or matte black), wheel size, and accessories (fenders, bags, racks). All builds are shipped within 72 hours. 

Roll frames are manufactured in China and Taiwan; bikes are assembled in Columbus. 

With roots as an IBD, Roll treats shops as partners, Hughes said. 

“We’ve seen a number of shops close in town, but we’ve got every indication we are not subject to some of those failures within the industry,” Hughes said. “We’re pretty bullish about what we can offer brick-and-mortar shops.”

Roll founder Stuart Hunter brought on Hughes in 2019. Hughes came from Bath & Body Works, where he specialized in retail analytics. An avid mountain biker, he said the career move was inspired by passion as much as ambition.

“I really enjoyed the analytical components of what I was doing at Bath & Body Works,” Hughes said. “But I have no connection to body lotion whatsoever. It was inherently never going to be a strong part of fulfillment in my career.”

Count Spoke-N-Sport in South Dakota a believer in the Roll model. Owner Chad Pickard brought them into his main store in Sioux Falls last summer. 

“There is a type of customer who is willing to pay for something that is more unique than a production bike but who doesn’t want to pay thousands for a full custom bike,” Pickard said. 

“It's always tough to create the perfect bike for a customer when looks are the primary concern. Roll’s multiple color options for each model go a long way toward achieving that,” he said.

Another advantage is the small initial investment, Pickard said. Spoke-N-Sport started with six Roll bikes in late July. 

“We sold about one a week until the end of summer. Not huge numbers, but we will continue to stock them at our main store and bring them into our second store.”

Roll may offer e-bikes and kids bikes as its dealer base grows, Hughes said.

E-bikes are “an aspiration of ours,” Hughes said. “I come into that with a little trepidation, knowing how rapidly that is changing year after year. As a company of our size, entering the e-bike world might be a bit ambitious at this point.”

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