LBS - why use them?

General cycling advice ( NOT technical ! )
pete75
Posts: 13696
Joined: 24 Jul 2007, 2:37pm

LBS - why use them?

Postby pete75 » 26 Oct 2007, 4:03pm

I've been looking at this forum for a while now and one thing that keeps cropping up is LBS - always capitalised. Some seem to advocate using the LBS with almost religious fervour but why? What advantages do they offer?
Prices seem to be high, presumably to pay for high overheads and/or inefficient business practices. Whenever anything has to be ordered it takes longer to arrive than a web purchase and, of course, costs a fair bit more.
The idea of using LBS is superficially attractive but I'd like to hear logical reasons for doing so...

Richard
Posts: 423
Joined: 10 Jan 2007, 5:01pm

Postby Richard » 26 Oct 2007, 4:40pm

Can an internet shop let you ride a bike before you buy? Can it adjust the seat height and stem length before you ride off with it? Can they fix your bike the day before you're off on tour or when you're stuck with a buckled wheel when you're already touring?
The answer to these, and many other questions is "No".
There are a number of LBS that can't and no they shouldn't be patronised; but there are many that can and without them we'd be stumped.
I would agree that it's a hard decision to make when you can buy online significantly cheaper but sometimes it's worth the extra money to keep that service available to you.

Tallis the Tortoise

Postby Tallis the Tortoise » 26 Oct 2007, 4:43pm

Loyalty is probably one reason, and does have benefits - they're more likely not to charge you for that quick 5 minute job or to give you better service. It is also important to keep them open as a town without an LBS with a skilled mechanic is not the best thing for cycling.

OTOH, they can be expensive and, in my experience, do not always offer great service. Mine are very good for maintenance jobs, but are focussed towards MTBs, racers and trendy commuters and the associated equipment. If your are a utility and leisure/long distance rider with a liking for good, sturdy, simple and reliable equipment then it doesn't work so well. Have a dynamo and they mock you, ask for mudgaurd safety release fittings and they may not even know what you're on about. For that reason, I do tend to use wiggle and Spa Cycles (the latter sell good, sturdy, simple stuff more than my LBS) quite a bit.

Andy :-)

User avatar
Si
Moderator
Posts: 15188
Joined: 5 Jan 2007, 7:37pm

Postby Si » 26 Oct 2007, 4:49pm

LBS has an advantage if you want to test/inspect before you buy. If you want to discuss, face to face your needs. If you want small parts that cost pennies and don't want to pay several squid in p&p. If you want small parts that many on-line places don't stock, e.g. I wanted some bolts the other day - none on wiggle/parkers, CR had them at around £2, SJSC had some but postage was £3, the LBS had some and charged me 25p each.

Also, if you purchase goes wrong then you have the hassle of sending it back and waiting rather than just bnipping back to the shop and exchanging. Many LBSs will also fit things for free if you have spent a bit of maney.

LBSs are also places to meet other riders, to find out what's going on in your area, and to generally go and chill, etc.

My LBS also does a lot of specialist stuff that you can't get on the web very easily. He will do one off orders to suppliers that won't sell direct to the public. And contrary to popular opinion, many of his proces are cheaper than the net. eg, was after a short stem: on the net the cheapest was £15 with a three month wait. At the LBS it was £14 and fitted there and then. Likewise, a mega range cassette was £4 cheaper than the lowest net price and availible there and then. My LBS-dude is also the secretary of the local CTC and is the main cycle campiagner in the area.

Furthermore, when you are out for a ride and something breaks then popping into the nearest LBS ius a lot easier and faster than finding the nearest internet cafe, ordering a new part and waiting there until the next day until it is delivered. That assumes that the LBSs haven't all shut down because people are buying off of the net.

But LBSs aren't perfect. There are things that are still cheaper/only easily availible on the net. But given the choice I'd go for the LBS if it's only a few squid difference.

DavidT
Posts: 1220
Joined: 13 Jan 2007, 2:05pm
Location: East Midlands (Originally from Devon)

LBS

Postby DavidT » 26 Oct 2007, 4:52pm

I'll start the ball rolling?
A good LBS will offer advice, and free support. Recent examples, 1) when I wanted to change my pedals, I could'nt get the old ones off for the life of me. A quick visit to my LBS and they did it there and then (Specialist tool, specialist positioning knowledge and slightly bigger muscles, in that order of priority I think!). 2) Buying cycling shoes or clothing. Mail order is a nightmare given all the sizing and fit variations. A successful/good LBS will have some stock, and/or be able to get alternatives in for you. 3) Following on from that...No problems with returns, when they are not quite what you want or expected. OK, most mail order accept returns OK but is much more hassle. 4) Servicing generally. If you don't do it all yourself, it's nice to know who's got your bike. 5) Specialist work. I would not take on replacing a bottom bracket. A friend had STI retrofitted. Many people need this sort of physical back up at some point 6) Good to chat to.
Of course you can only get this, and more if a LBS succeeds and you can play a part in that by supporting your LBS by not quibbling about saving a £ or two over the net. I do use the net, but also my LBS.
Luckily I have a good LBS, and I'm also blessed with having Mercian within the immediate region!
Hope this helps

User avatar
Paul Smith SRCC
Posts: 1112
Joined: 13 Feb 2007, 10:59am
Location: I live in Surrey, England
Contact:

Re: LBS - why use them?

Postby Paul Smith SRCC » 26 Oct 2007, 4:54pm

A valid question and something I have been asked several times, from the perspective who some one who has been in the cycle trade for the last twenty plus years this is how I see how a LBS needs to compete in today’s market and benefits to consumers in general. I have also mentioned how the cycle retail industry has changed and how competition is having an impact on not only the LBS, but longer term how this may also effect customers. In all cases when I refer to a LBS I am referring to good ones who offer a good service and by the same applies to competition that I am comparing them to of course.

Although the traditional LBS has more competition now than ever before I am confident that the good ones will survive as they can offer something that their larger competition doesn’t. Of course the market share that the Mail order specialists now have will of course effect a LBS, some for example have changed direction to cater more for the mid range price market which is less effected by mail order.

Parents normally want their children to try bikes before purchasing, many want their bikes serviced by skilled mechanics and to be served by experienced, knowledgeable and helpful staff, local bike shops that offer all this, which many do. Often adults also need to try bikes before purchase, just as important many also need advice and prefer to do this face to face and not via email or telephone, many prefer to try on clothing and see products in the flesh so to speak.

Some of the ‘Mail Order specialists’ who operate from out of town less expensive premises make their profit by stocking an extremely large range and at competitive prices, making the shortfall up with high turnover. However like everything there are good and bad points relating to this. Part of me takes my hat off to them, some run very cleaver websites and provide a very efficient service, if the customers know what they want then of course it is they who in the short term win; with a cheaper purchase.

Long term there is a negative consideration that is a concern, one being that there are many Local Bike Shops that will now be reluctant to stock an item if the supplier has sold them to a discount specialist. Naturally this applies mainly to items bought by enthusiasts, who of course have the enthusiasm to search for items on the internet, as such they are often well aware of the price differences. The longer term effect of this could easily evolve into poor availability of products in the LBS, which in turn of course forces the customer to make their purchase from the larger outlets. This is before you take into consideration that it is far healthier for a manufacturer to have 10 of their products in 20 shops as apposed to 30 in 3. Already we are starting to see this happen to what are very established brands, to the extent that some are now only available from one outlet.

Many will ask why doesn’t a LBS simply reduce the prices to compete, most will not be able to, margins in the cycle trade are not high to start with, 25 years ago the LBS shop was where most had to purchase quality items, even back then most were never in city centres as they couldn’t afford to be. Of course it is not only the large mail order specialists that are competing with the LBS. Some of the multi outlet retailers have now also grown so large that they are indeed in expensive prime city centre locations, although worth noting that their more regular customer base will be somewhat different to those of the mail order giants, as there pricing structure is normally RRP, as such they are generally situated in the areas where their customers generally have a high level of expendable income, these customers often spend as much on products as an enthusiast would, but still need the services provided by what they believe to be a LBS.

The larger multi outlets have also introduced there own brands, although I note not using their own shop name, this achieves a less obvious branding exclusivity and the control of pricing that goes with it. They have evolved I believe in part as the nature of business has naturally changed, 25-30 years ago an independent bicycle dealer would look at a business and calculate what they needed to do to make a living, more often than not this will be a plan to offer long term security, perhaps with a view of passing that business down to the next generation, These days it is seems to be how much can they make their business worth, some have indeed gown to the extent that they are indeed attracting offers of several Millions of pounds; yet their net profit seems relatively low for their size and high turnover, showing just how high their operating costs must be; the rewards are it seems from a business point of view worth the high stakes.

Competition, no matter how good they are, or even bad, if they are selling anything at all then that is a sale that you haven’t made! Everything changes, retailing included, you just have to accept the challenges that go with it, but as I imply above it is not all doom and gloom for the LBS, they will of course need to compete to survive, but IMO the best still can. On a longer term and as far as I am concerned a worryingly negative note it is a concern that anyone wanting to open a LBS themselves will I believe find it increasingly difficult, this is a trend that IMO is not a healthy one. Independent greengrocers and butchers may be a rare sight these days as they struggle to compete with their large competitors, but a good LBS can still compete with theirs; easy it may not be, but achievable I am pleased to say, it is.

These are simply my observations that I have made over the course of my career as to how cycle retailing has changed. On a personal note as apposed to looking at it purely from a business point of view, I love the fact that customers can still be served by shops and by staff who are passionate about the service they provide and genuinely care about what they offer in every respect, a LBS can still offer a shopping experience that few can still offer; long may it continue.

Paul_Smith
www.bikeplus.co.uk


pete75 wrote:I've been looking at this forum for a while now and one thing that keeps cropping up is LBS - always capitalised. Some seem to advocate using the LBS with almost religious fervour but why? What advantages do they offer?
Prices seem to be high, presumably to pay for high overheads and/or inefficient business practices. Whenever anything has to be ordered it takes longer to arrive than a web purchase and, of course, costs a fair bit more.
The idea of using LBS is superficially attractive but I'd like to hear logical reasons for doing so...

fullupandslowingdown
Posts: 614
Joined: 11 Oct 2007, 5:47pm
Location: missing Snottingham, the home of Raleigh and Boots
Contact:

Postby fullupandslowingdown » 26 Oct 2007, 6:34pm

fact: my local bike shop charged £15.00 for the same steel triple chainset that I had been able to buy from the local wholesales for £4.90. In fact most prices were typically marked up by a factor of 3 except for the 'elcheapo' tire which retailed for £4.99 but was pushed out for 99p in quantity from the LW. the only thing that was anywhere near similar priced was assembled wheels, I guess this was because of the labour costs of building them up. Trying to get a quick job done for free by the LBS left one feeling like one had asked Julia Roberts for a passionate embrace and an autographed picture. Also on one emergency when I snapped a brake cable, carefully measured the new one I bought from the LBS, the mechanic gave it back cut to size but after giving me an extra couple inches. Fine but on a racing bike I neaded the pear not barrel nipple end.

PW
Posts: 4519
Joined: 23 Jan 2007, 10:50am
Location: N. Derbys.

Postby PW » 26 Oct 2007, 6:37pm

No names, no pack drill. The shop I worked for used to double the buy in price & knock off 5p. Then they absorbed the VAT.
If at first you don't succeed - cheat!!

User avatar
Paul Smith SRCC
Posts: 1112
Joined: 13 Feb 2007, 10:59am
Location: I live in Surrey, England
Contact:

Postby Paul Smith SRCC » 26 Oct 2007, 6:49pm

"marked up by a factor of 3", that is not the norm'; if it was bike shops would be opening every week and I would be asking for a pay rise :lol: ! I dare say they may have the odd items that they have bought on offer that they do well with, I doubt it is any expensive item though, bikes and high end equipment especially.

Paul Smith
www.bikeplus.co.uk





fullupandslowingdown wrote:fact: my local bike shop charged £15.00 for the same steel triple chainset that I had been able to buy from the local wholesales for £4.90. In fact most prices were typically marked up by a factor of 3 except for the 'elcheapo' tire which retailed for £4.99 but was pushed out for 99p in quantity from the LW. the only thing that was anywhere near similar priced was assembled wheels, I guess this was because of the labour costs of building them up. Trying to get a quick job done for free by the LBS left one feeling like one had asked Julia Roberts for a passionate embrace and an autographed picture. Also on one emergency when I snapped a brake cable, carefully measured the new one I bought from the LBS, the mechanic gave it back cut to size but after giving me an extra couple inches. Fine but on a racing bike I neaded the pear not barrel nipple end.

User avatar
Mrs Tortoise
Posts: 453
Joined: 8 Jan 2007, 11:44pm
Location: Dorchester, Dorset

Postby Mrs Tortoise » 26 Oct 2007, 8:54pm

I will continue to patronise my LBSs because of a sense of loyalty and knowing that it's a two way thing. In the same way that i always take my car to the same garage for servicing and repairs because I know they will help me out when I'm in trouble. I also like the people who run them because they are helpful and obliging and they cycle themselves.

pete75
Posts: 13696
Joined: 24 Jul 2007, 2:37pm

Postby pete75 » 26 Oct 2007, 10:30pm

Very good responses from all :D

Personally I wouldn't take my bike to a shop for any mecahnical work to be done. I'm competent enough at engineering in general and learnt a lot from my father who spent much of his working life making parts for and building Grand Prix cars. Dad regarded bicycle mechanics, rightly or wrongly, as only slightly above agricultural engineers. Certainly this attitude made an impression on me.

I suppose LBS depends very much on the L. Spa cycles are mentioned often on this forum and from that and my own dealings with them I reckon people who live near Harrogate must be very lucky with their LBS. I've had good advice from Spa and I'd rather give them my money than somewhere more local as , for a touring cyclist, they must be the most valuable retail resource in the country. They're one outlet I feel I do have a vested interest in supporting.

My favourite LBS , now long gone, was in my local market town run by Mr Templeman. He was a Methodist lay preacher, part time fireman , bicycle engineer(not mechanic!), gunsmith and clockmaker - all related engineering skills. When we were lads he'd tell us what had gone wrong with our bikes and how to fix them. He actively encouraged us to repair and maintain them ourselves and sold us the parts to do it at pocket money affordable prices.

In my area now people who need bikes fixing and can't do it themselves take them to the village garage where they seem able to repair most mechanical devices.

User avatar
piedwagtail91
Posts: 258
Joined: 23 Jan 2007, 9:18pm

Postby piedwagtail91 » 27 Oct 2007, 8:52am

if you want half a dozen spokes or a specific nut and bolt then shops like my LBS have them. other large well known shops don't bother stocking them or try to sell you the whole box.

User avatar
Peter Rowell
Posts: 134
Joined: 13 Feb 2007, 10:22pm
Location: Near Cambridge
Contact:

Postby Peter Rowell » 27 Oct 2007, 10:37am

fullupandslowingdown wrote: local bike shop


Please use the full name at the beginning of the post, I had to read down 2/3 of the page before an explanation was available.

It's like referring to The Cyclists' Touring Club as CTC. The general public haven't a clue what you are talking about. Cambridge Theatre Trust?, City Technology College?, Cambridgeshire Technical College? (my old college) or a hundred others.

pete75
Posts: 13696
Joined: 24 Jul 2007, 2:37pm

Postby pete75 » 27 Oct 2007, 5:43pm

Peter Rowell wrote:
fullupandslowingdown wrote: local bike shop


Please use the full name at the beginning of the post, I had to read down 2/3 of the page before an explanation was available.

It's like referring to The Cyclists' Touring Club as CTC. The general public haven't a clue what you are talking about. Cambridge Theatre Trust?, City Technology College?, Cambridgeshire Technical College? (my old college) or a hundred others.


Well I even heard the BBC, sorry British Broadcasting Corporation, use the term CTC when referring to the club. This was on the Today program at around 7:30 ante meridiem. It was a discussion about cycle safety on the roads. They also mentioned the views of The Royal Automobile Club and the Automobile Association though the British Broadcasting Corporation , in their sillyness, called them the RAC and the AA.
Perhaps you could write them a letter pointing out the error of their ways.

User avatar
Peter Rowell
Posts: 134
Joined: 13 Feb 2007, 10:22pm
Location: Near Cambridge
Contact:

Postby Peter Rowell » 27 Oct 2007, 6:29pm

I used to belong to the NCU,
National Cyclists Union or National Communications Union?
Both actually.