CYCLE shops in Warwickshire have had to adopt a new business model to keep people on their bikes during lockdown.
With thousands of people across the county returning to two wheels for recreation and commuting, the area’s cycle sales and repair businesses have remained open throughout lockdown with business returning to levels of 2012 when Britain experienced a boom in the past-time after the Olympics and success in the Tour de France.
Now the push is on to ensure that people keep pedalling once everyone is cleared to return to work, while the road bike season is also helping sales.
Mike Vaughan, a third-generation family business based in Kenilworth, which sells children’s cycles and electric assist bikes right through to top of the range road and mountain bikes, had to graduate to an appointment system to ensure safety – and it has proved a good business move.
Mike said: “For the first few weeks there was just me and a mechanic really handling servicing, as quite a few of our staff did not feel confident enough to return to work.
“We did free services for NHS workers while some of our suppliers kindly donated some kit for front line workers to allow them to get to work. With our shop effectively closed apart from service appointments, we managed to match last year’s level of business with some very long hours.
“After that initial period and with Easter and the good weather, we had a real upturn in sales and we were getting around 30 calls a day.
“The beauty of the appointment system is that people tend to have made a decision to buy and just need the right advice which we can give, and as a result our business is up 60 per cent over the last two months on the same time last year.”
Rugby Cycle Repairs in Rugby, has brought several bikes back to working order and remained open during lockdown.
Manager Eliot Blundell said: “With the repairs and refurbishment, we have had a lot of enquiries for lowered price bikes which are usually used for commuting.
“During coronavirus, we have been working the same hours but we have only opened the shop between 2pm and 5pm for people to drop off their bikes or pick them up so that we don’t have customers in the shop and the doors open.
“We have had a few bikes brought in that have not been used for a while. We had one guy bring in a bike which had been in his shed for ten years and he was quite emotional when he came to pick it up to see it working again. It was in pretty good condition, it just needed a service.”
Warwickshire has carved a reputation as a cycling county after hosting the OVO Energy Tour of Britain and the OVO Energy Women’s Tour over the past few years.
Izzi Seccombe, leader of Warwickshire County Council, said: “Our cycle shops have done a superb job in keeping people on the road to allow them to travel to work, but also in helping new cyclists and returners to the past-time to get valuable exercise.“We will be working to help ensure the interest is continued when life starts to return to normal. We have a schools’ cycling programme and will offer advice and support to businesses who want to encourage staff to cycle to work.
“That combined with new cycle lanes and paths, and the return of competitive cycling to our roads, will hopefully keep the interest alive. In what has been a bleak period for everyone, this is one positive that has emerged and we want to foster it as far as we can.”