We found our online side and click/collect became a bit mental and at the same time took the opportunity to split our store in half which involved taking ALL the stock off the walls and everything off the shopfloor which was a task in itself not to mention try and find somwhere to put it whilst the building work was happenning. We did have a bit of breathing space (excuse the pun) to do this as the retail store was not open and we were not distracted..
Did you take any action from the start or were you thinking this would be over in a few weeks?
Alan: I think we were the first BMX shop to close in the UK, some people thought we were mad, but I knew safety had to come first before anything else even though as a cycle shop we were classed as essential services and were allowed to stay open when other retail had to close here in the UK.
Tom G: We closed our retail side pretty quickly once the announcement was made, as mentioned above we thought it was the perfect time to do some renovations. Alan was pretty sure from the start this was not going to be just a quick thing and started making sure measures were in place for staff to keep safe and thinking into how things would work in the future. Having the Click and Collect feature helped the locals still get parts they needed ASAP without having to wait for the post.
Now, being in this situation for many months, how did you manage to keep your business rolling?
Alan: We’ve actually had time and to set up new ways of working and are way more efficient now than we were before, we also took on two new members of staff who have integrated well. We were involved with the Goggles For Docs programme and with the help of our customers we managed to get hundreds of goggles to nurses, doctors, ambulance stations and care homes that needed PPE.
Tom G: We had the time at the start of all this to readjust and re evaluate ourselves as a business in a way we wouldn't have had time for previously. By being more efficient we have really managed to focus on customer support, organizing pre order products coming in (Which is a nightmare in itself in terms of delivery dates that constantly change) and adjusting our new website we launched in Sept 2019 to be a better experience for both the staff and customers visiting with more information, products and informative guides to help customers make decisions. The common saying of 'Customers are increasingly shopping online' has been accelerated and trying to juggle that with our Retail experience has been a struggle.
The supply chain has also suffered. Has it been a challenge getting the bikes/product in stock that you needed for your customers?
Alan: Definitely, but luckily we were able to react quickly and had good forward orders for bikes in the system. Supply will be a mess for a leats another plus we have Brexshit :/
Tom G: The biggest challenge has been Pre Order products or items that had delivery dates but keep changing. Having to constantly check with suppliers (If they even know!) when items are due and then relaying that information to alot of customers is almost a fulltime job in itself. Add Christmas into the mix and you have a recipe for trouble! We luckily had some decent pre orders in with suppliers and worked with them to either increase to maintain what we had ordered whilst being fair to the other stores.
Have you been able to keep your shop open all this time?
Alans: We closed all of April I think and now close Monday so we can get the mail-order done from the weekend.
Tom G: We now have limited opening hours after reopening end of April. We are closed in the mornings to help with mail order and the afternoon to get the last few orders out in time for collection. We also shut Mondays to catch up with orders from the weekend. We have taken on two new staff members to keep up with one in store and one on mail order and shuffled people around.
If so, what are measures you had to take to keep the door open?
Alan: Limiting numbers in the shop, card only, face covering must be worn (even before this became mandatory), hand gel at the door too.
Tom G: Along with our limited opening hours we also have a mask mandatory policy, card only no cash and maximum of 5 customers at a time. It can get quite busy but people have to queue outside unfortunately.
Have internet sales/mail-order sales made up for loss of shop sales?
Tom G: It helped keep the balance over all, it has definitely skewed towards the online side.
During the pandemic has it been difficult to organize local events to support the local scene and get the customers in the shop?
Alan: Impossible. We were lucky to be involved in 'Vans: The Circle' this Autumn so that kept us busy and focussed with our riders.
Tom G: We had a lot of plans for events this year and were looking forward to things like Backyard Jam happening again. I was about to launch an event for UK shops around summer that got put on the back burner. Vans stepped up and managed to organize the Vans The Circle video contest which was great fun to film for but still a challenge to keep within the local government guidelines during filming with the police often advising we keep to the back streets rather than main areas but was mostly no trouble at all.
What mouth masks do you sell?
Alan: S&M, Animal, our own and some others
Tom G: We had some of our own made that we gave out with certain orders but we have S&M masks, Animal, Madison, and Rip N Dip masks available online and instore.
When do you believe this mess will be over?
Alan: Honestly? To an extent we will live with this for a lifetime. Man has to learn to co-exist with nature better, we shouldn't be expanding into forests and exploiting animals, there is a direct link between man’s actions and this pandemic.
Alans BMX: Our customers for supporting us. All our suppliers. Madison for their help with Thor goggles for PPE. Our staff for being amazing. Vans for including us in The Circle.