Finding it hard to find nice cycling kit or great bikes, or generally detest the usual cycling shop retail experience? There may be an answer. A new crop of women’s specific cycling shops are beginning to open up, designed and stocked to cater to the female cyclist.
It’s been a bugbear of many a female cyclist for years now that finding effective, comfortable, nice kit and equipment is hard. Walk into the majority of bike shops and the women’s section, if there is one, is often hidden at the back, and consists of a bland array of the usual black, pink and yellow kit.
But things are changing.
Female cyclists represent a massive and growing market, and it’s a foolish business that doesn’t cater to a market that’s ready, willing and able to spend. With new companies springing up and larger companies increasing their women’s product ranges, it was only a matter of time before retailers too started to adapt.
Everyone Bikes, a female focused shop located in Clapham, West London, opened early 2014 and is doing a roaring trade. Bella Velo is just about to launch, placed strategically on Surbiton High Street.
There have been others. IzziVelo in Ulverston opened in 2011, but is sadly now defunct. Dame Cycling in Swindon built a successful community of cyclists, and now focuses on its own race team rather than retail. Flare Clothing are opening a women’s specific section at Creation Cycles in Nottingham.
These shops are dedicated to understanding and answering the needs of the women in their local area, which will of course vary place to place. They’ll very often not just offer products and maintenance, but also a range of peripheral activities and support, such as classes, social rides, social evenings, talks, and events.
Everyone Bikes is a success story we hope will be repeated elsewhere. “The aim of Everyone Bikes is for women of all cycling abilities to feel comfortable and confident. We provide a friendly and reassuring environment where you can find the very best in women’s bikes and accessories, plus quality servicing and expert advice. We also repair bikes and offer bike maintenance classes for everyone. We hand-pick each supplier and only work with brands that we truly believe in.”
There are of course pressures on retailers, especially in these economically depressed days, even in a growth industry such as cycling. Retail space and staffing costs add up, location is important, as is marketing yourself online.
So it’s hardly surprising then that we are also seeing a surge in women’s specific online shops.
These, like the bricks and mortar stores, will often carry the brands that can be hard to find elsewhere, and tend to be first adopters of new brands to the market. For example, Female Riders Inc is one of the few UK retailers to stock Swiss brand Zimtstern.
This isn’t just happening in the UK either. Bike Belle, based in Poland, is a a ‘Bicycle Boutique’ packed with beautiful cycling accessories. In South Africa there was (and hopefully still is) Femme Sportif. In the US, Gladys Bikes and Pedal Chic are two of a growing number, and there’s more around the world springing up all the time.
The retail giants aren’t sitting back however. They too recognise the importance of this market, often driven by champions within the companies themselves.
Evans Cycles have been working on this, increasing the range of women’s products in-store, the number of premium brands on offer such as Castelli and Sportful and adding more women’s shoes and helmets. In the physical stores they are gradually working to bring the women’s sections towards the store front, and have added female only Fix It classes and more women’s evenings.
Online shop Wiggle are also working on it. They’ve told us that, as a percentage of total sales, sales of women’s specific products have tripled over 2013. They’ve doubled the number of women’s products they stock over that time and now produce a targeted bi-monthly email for their female customers.
It’s not just the retailers who realise that the current situation needs to change. Brands are as keen to improve the retail experience for their female customers.
Specialized have embarked on an ambitious program to change the atmosphere and ethos of the stores they retail through. “We are helping our retailers to become industry leaders in women’s retail by encouraging them to build community in their stores, educate their staff on the ins and outs of women’s products and to have empathy for the women walking through the door – appreciate that they are serious cyclists and provide for them the product that they are looking for.”
Will the women’s specific bike shops show the big shops how it’s done? Will the larger chains out compete the smaller retailers? Only time will tell, and retail is a complicated beast with many factors that affect success or failure.
What’s important is that these shops aren’t only supplying a market, they are a visible reminder of how big that market is, how much it’s growing, and what their retail interests and habits are – essentially, what kit women are buying.
And although there is undoubtedly more out there, and product is becoming more readily available, choice is still limited in certain areas.
Variety is a great thing. It indicates a thriving and diverse market, so when it comes to retailers who focus on the female market, the more the merrier, which also means more choice for women who ride.
Know of a great women’s specific bike shop that we haven’t mentioned here? Let everyone know! Pop the shop name and details in the comment section below.
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