A year ago I had been asked by Mark Sutton from Cycling Industry News to give him an interview for his magazine. I must say I had never done such thing so it was a little bit scary, but very much fun to do so. I know some of you had probably read it as I shouted about that quite a lot on different social media platforms, but I thought I will add the article here, as I am quite proud of it and as a good start to my blogging here too.
Mark S: If I am starting with a blank store canvas, what are the design fundamentals I should be thinking of?
Gosia A: First, you would need to think about what profit you would like your shop to bring and how many bikes and P&A you would have to sell to achieve it. Then you would have to do the exercise to see how and if the desired amount of product would fit in the space. Second, you would need to define elements of the store you would like to have and see how that would work with the amount of the product. Thirdly, you would need to think about the functionality and flow. These fundamentals are only the beginning and it is important to consider profitability as part of the design plan before you get creative.
Mark S: Is there a period of time a shop should go between refreshes, or should the environment always be fresh to a degree?
Gosia A: Stores should aim to fully refresh their interior every five years. There is a window of time where it is only right to exchange tired and probably scuffed displays, as well as redecorate around these. Within this process you can reassess the store setting, watching how customers flow through the environment and rethink the functionality of how people interact with products. In the meantime, stores should remember to change their window display and graphics to show the latest campaigns or product at a minimum of four times a year, as there are four seasons in the year. Really it should happen more often considering calendar celebrations and featured products arriving. Freshly done window displays and new graphics will catch passing customer’s attention. The bike shop interior should always look fresh, clean and tidy. It should have well merchandised product that is aspirational and thought provoking. A well-maintained store would show the customer that they are respected, welcomed and will be well looked after. From a consumer and even a brand partner’s perspective, there is nothing worse than outdated graphics, dust on displays, chipped furniture, clutter, or a visible dirty workshop. Look out for marks on the walls and be ready to touch them up occasionally. This all should be part of the store’s daily task list.
Mark S: What props would you put in, or how would you showcase a particular type of riding in one display?
Gosia A: There are many ways you could present a particular type of riding in one display. For example, to showcase road riding I would dress a road bike with under saddle bag, two bottle cages and bottles. I would apply colour matching bar tape, add front and back lights. I would later put a mannequin dressed in a kit matching the bike – including gloves, shoes, socks and a helmet. I would also add an inspirational graphic (perhaps with a lightbox) with people riding road bikes in a cool place. Alongside this would be some info plates about the product. I would also merchandise a small pump tyre, tool kit and some energy gels.
Mark S: On the reverse side, what should shops avoid doing when redesigning?
Gosia A: There are quite few things that should be avoided when designing the bike store. I will give you three. When designing the store, you should not overload it with bikes. It is very overwhelming for the customer to come into the store with bikes piled up to the ceiling. It is distracting when you do not know what to look at, or where the bike category you are interested in sits. There is almost a feeling that these bikes will fall on your head! There is common believe among bike store owners that if they do not show on a sales floor every single bike, in every size available, the customer would go to their competitors, which is very untrue statement. There are plenty of ways to have less bikes and product on the shop floor, ultimately creating a welcoming interior and atmosphere. This unthreatening feeling will make a customer want to shop at your store. Another thing that should be avoided is the use of free displays received from different product suppliers. I know this is very tempting, but after the first there will be second and third and that will create visual chaos around the store. Not investing into a good lighting is another mistake when designing the store. Selecting proper retail lighting that has energy efficiency, a good temperature and is well placed is especially important to how appealing your products will look.
Mark S: A bike shop can be a space that is prone to dirt, oil and damage – how can a store build in longevity in design?
Gosia A: It is good idea to invest into robust, easy to clean flooring that is purposely produced for retail, or high traffic areas. To promote cleanliness in store add to that large door mats. In the workshop area each bike repair stand should have rubber matt and spillage cans. There is also special workshop flooring that does not absorb the oils and dirt as easily. Cleaning flooring on a daily basis and as soon as the spillage is created is also good practice and should be one of the points in daily task list that I talk about in my Tips and Tricks videos every week. Walls and corners around service area can be protected by applying metal sheets, or by using washable paints.
Mark S: To encourage customers to spend time in store, what comfort factors are important?
Gosia A: Creating a customer’s area with soft seating and coffee is definitely one of the factors that would bring customers back, but I would say that this should be an extra to the rest of what store is offering. The store’s good atmosphere is created not only by the welcoming, great looking, clean, and tidy interior and exterior, but also by the people that work at the store. If they show passion about the product and cycling themselves that builds trust. Staff should have a way of approaching customer that comes across helpful and positive without overwhelming them, instead making them feel looked after. This is the key to the success and if cup of coffee can be offered during the visit – even better. It is also good idea to organise regular rides and events from the store as this is what creates a real sense of community around the bike shop.
Mark S: To what extent is the bike industry out of kilter with the rest of the high street’s presentation?
Gosia A: There are more and more bike shops that are profession- ally designed, and I am really happy to see that is happening. Unfortunately, that is still very low percentage of all bike shops in UK and Europe. The common image of the bike store is still cluttered and chaotic, where the customer feels overwhelmed by amount of uncategorised bikes. These days people expect an experience from other high street retailers that has a certain professionalism. Visiting many stores over the last ten years, I think finding a changing room placed in a dirty toilet was one of the worst I customer experiences had seen. The bike stores are also far behind with digital technology – that’s LED screens, lightboxes, good window displays and proper merchandising. There is so much opportunity to make bike stores look really great and what comes with it can make them more profitable, without necessarily using any expensive new technology elements.
Mark S: Are there things bike shops can do to actively be more appealing to women, older people or demographics that have proven less likely to cycle?
Gosia A: Cycling is still very male, or at least dominated by an image of fitness and passion. One of most important things is to employ woman as a salesperson and or mechanic to give some balance. Older people and women are more likely to approach woman working at the store as they see female as warmer and more sympathetic to their needs. Organising women’s or older people’s group rides or events, teaching them basics of servicing their bikes – such changing inner tube – is a great idea to make these people to feel less intimidated to go for a ride. Regarding bike shop design, it would be great to create fun, inspirational and very friendly kids or women’s specific areas where they can find everything they need. Best not to do ‘older people’ zone as customer might feel offended.
Mark S: How important are lines of sight in a store and where should product be placed to draw the optimal attention?
Gosia A: Sight lines are extremely important in a store. They give a focus to the points we want to bring the customer to, to create the flow around the space and to determine how the customer should move through key parts of the store. The first sight line is the first impression when entering the store. Right from the doorway a customer decides within a few seconds if they like the store or not. That first greeting place should be where the featured product or appealing display should be done. Then the journey should lead on to focused categories of product displayed in specific areas, or onto the part of the store where the customer came to receive some service i.e., workshop. There are many ways to draw the customer’s attention – it can be something hanging from the wall with graphic, wording, lighting, cool merchandising, or a digital screen telling the story about the product. The sight line to that element should not be distracted by anything that can cover it, and the focal points should look good from every angle. Make the customer’s journey pleasant and informative, tell the story about the product you are selling, or simply to give them clear directions which part of the store they should go to if they are looking for something specific.
Mark S: When it comes to things like lighting, touch points and even in store smell, what recommendations have you?
Gosia A: The lighting should be always designed professionally with right temperature, amount, and type of it to not only lighten the space, but to make product look great. You can create various moods in different areas. Obviously it is extremely important that the lighting is crisp in the workshop area. Bikes should be ready to show to the customer with inflated tyres and packaging removed. Clothing hangers in one style and colour should be visible with size cues always facing one direction. It is great to have subtle, but not too loud music playing in the background not only for customer, but also for employees as the music soothes the manners. When it comes to the smell in store, scent marketing is psychologically proven. Customers will associate it with the store and hopefully a good experience. No freshly baked bread smells though as they end up expecting you to serve it.
Mark S: Are there certain display methods that have been shown to lead to increased sales?
Gosia A: There are plenty of display methods that will increase sales. Featured displays with dressed merchandising and mannequins can increase featured product sale by 20%. Placing a few small products near the counter you attract impulsive buyers. These are all proven ways to increase sales. ‘The Rule of Three’ is displaying products in sets of three, instead of one – i.e., short, medium, tall or good, better, best for the customer so they are able to quickly evaluate the value. That works on small and large products, including dressing up mannequins. Asymmetry or abnormality attracts the customer’s attention. This also helps customer to focus on one product each time as it is proven when it is just two the eye catches both at the same time and so customer focuses less. ‘Price Points’ where main products should be displayed with prices on a larger sign will draw customer attention. For the value orientated customer you want to highlight the items that are best value or the deal which would make them walk towards the display. All other items should have pricing on smaller tags.
Mark S: Are there optimal places in store to put things like the workshop or the cash register?
Gosia A: Yes, the workshop check-in should not be placed far away from the entrance and that is to avoid “a walk of shame”. Customers do feel uncomfortable walking with a broken bike through the whole shop. You need to give them the shortest possible way through the bike shop to the service area, that is unobstructed by any display, giving enough space for the customer and their bike to walk comfortably.