Help your local bike shop keep the nation moving

Spokes of Bagshot saw bike sales go 'stratospheric' last year, but then supply problems struck
Spokes of Bagshot saw bike sales go 'stratospheric' last year, but then supply problems struck. Photo: Trusted Photography
The past 18 months has been a topsy-turvy time for bike shops, with increased demand coinciding with lockdowns, staff shortages and supply problems. They need our support more than ever to sustain Britain's bike boom

Saturday August 28 2021 is Local Bike Shop Day, when independent bike shops come together to showcase the passion, knowledge and personalised service they offer to neighbourhoods across the UK. To celebrate the day, participating shops will be offering their customers special offers and discounts, and in some cases free bike checks. (If you are in England and your local shop isn't offering a free check-up, find a Dr Bike clinic using the map on our Big Bike Revival page.)

A year ago, the industry was still getting to grips with the new normal, facing a topsy-turvy situation where unprecedented demand came at a time when it was most difficult to meet it. Although bike shops were classed as essential services and allowed to remain open during national lockdowns, many still closed or reduced their hours in order to stay safe. Those that did stay open often struggled to source bikes and parts as supply chains dried up, and had to contend with staff isolating.

But amid the terrible human and economic toll of coronavirus, the pandemic also changed behaviour in positive ways, with lockdown leading to a “bike boom”. As Arek Bartniczak, owner of Velo Times in Sale, Greater Manchester, told us at the time: “Lots of people who had a bike that had been stored away made the decision to get it fixed up and start riding again.” Meanwhile, those who didn't started shopping for a new one.

For Surrey bike shop owner James Thompson, of Spokes of Bagshot, bike sales went “stratospheric” last summer, and by mid-July 2020 his workshop diary was booked up for October. The demand soon took its toll on the supply chain. Within a few weeks, Thompson says, the manufacturer Giant had sold 98% of its inventory. Suppliers ended up scouring the globe looking for stock. “We even had a shipment of bikes come from Poland that we had never heard of, and didn’t even have any pictures to show customers. Despite this, by the time they had landed, they had all been pre-sold!”

Fast-forward to 2021 and Spokes of Bagshot has taken on nine new brands, bringing its total to 19. “This strategy has paid off and we have managed to keep a well-stocked shop and warehouse all the way through the pandemic. If we were reliant on one or two brands we would be struggling immensely.”

People are realising that this isn’t just a ‘their bike’ issue, or even an ‘our industry’ issue, but worldwide challenges that everyone is facing together

James Thompson, managing director, Spokes of Bagshot

Shipping costs have also become “a real headache”, Thompson says. "The cost is hitting nearly £20,000 for a container from the Far East, compared to as little as £1,800 previously. We are told this is down to demand and shortage of containers globally, but also a Brexit-led problem where we have little or no return trade, so shipping companies are pricing this into shipping to the UK.”

This has led to problems in managing customer expectations, as “goalposts keep moving and new challenges present themselves”. However, Thompson says that for the most part, customers have become more understanding. “People are realising that this isn’t just a ‘their bike’ issue, or even an ‘our industry’ issue, but worldwide challenges that everyone is facing together.”

So if your LBS is struggling to find the bike or part you need, or schedule a slot in the workshop, be patient. In an era when people have become used to next-day delivery at the click of a button on a faceless website, it’s easy to overlook the expertise and support of a local expert – until you need some advice or hands-on help.

To find your nearest participating shop, and discover what special deals are on offer, visit the Local Bike Shop Day site, and show your support by giving your LBS a mention on social media with the hashtags #SupportYourLocalBikeShop and #LocalBikeShopDayUK.