The message on the answering machine for longtime Roseville bicycle shop Bicycle Chain says it all. Bike shops, which were deemed essential businesses in the first COVID-19 shutdown back in March, are so busy, it’s difficult for someone to answer the phone. And they’ve made adjustments to provide no-contact service for customers.
Repairs have shops booked out weeks in advance as “a lot of bikes are coming out of sheds,” said Dave Bole, owner of Bicycle Chain. Sales of new bikes are so strong some manufacturers are running out of inventory.
Sales had been flat the past couple of years, Bole said, so the surge is “a huge roller coaster, but it’s a wonderful problem to have.”
The NPD Group, a U.S. retail tracking service, said independent bike shops saw a more than 20% increase in bike service/repair sales in the first quarter of 2020 over last year.
“Even before the shutdown, people started panic buying,” said Jake Helmbrecht, general manager of Freewheel Bike, which has nine locations in the Twin Cities. Sales and repair are “both at maximum capacity now,” he said, adding that spring is always the busiest time of year at bike shops, anyway. “The repair queue is out a couple of weeks.”
Shops adjust to demand, virus
Freewheel has hired two to three times more people than in a usual season to deal with the crush, Helmbrecht said.
“A lot of us are working 12- to 14-hour days.” Managers have been going to the Freewheel locations after hours to assemble new bikes. Thirty to 40 bikes assembled overnight “all sell the next day,” he said.
Manufacturers have “a pretty decent supply” for May and June, Helmbrecht said, “but they’ll be gone by August.”
The great gear-up has been good for mobile bike shop Velofix, said Al Watts, who owns the Minnesota franchise that sends fully outfitted repair vans to customers. Mechanics arrive via appointment at velofix.com, get the bike that needs work, make repairs right there in the van and do the billing via a computer inside the van. A woman asked Watts if Velofix just started because of social distancing. The company was started about six years ago in Canada; Watts and his wife have had two vans operating in Minnesota for four years.
“All it took was a pandemic for business to take off,” Watts joked.
Velofix used to encourage customers to come into the van and carried biking gear like helmets, locks and pedals, Watts said. Now those items can be ordered ahead. Velofix also sells new bikes via direct-to-consumer bike companies.
An estimated 80 percent of…
Go to the news source: Pandemic has led to surge in business for bike shops