While the acceptance of e-bikes has been slower in the UK than the rest of Europe, companies like The Electric Bike Shop have carved out a niche as e-bike specialists. Commercial director Iwan Jones explains how the chain hopes to continue its ascent
This piece first appeared in the May issue of BikeBiz magazine – get your free subscription here
How has The Electric Bike Shop developed in recent years?
We have been selling electric bikes for several years. We started in 2014 as eCycle UK in Stroud, Gloucestershire. Over the past two years, we have opened six new stores across the country.
The newest of these is in Harrogate, which opened in February this year. Its opening brings our number of stores to nine in total. But it doesn’t stop there, as we are due to open another store in London very soon and have our sights set on a handful of other locations in cities where we don’t yet have a physical footprint.
Our website and telesales continue to go from strength to strength, and we have ambitious growth plans for these two very important channels for 2022. We have delayed this until now as we first wanted to grow our national network to enable us to be nearby to support our customers nationwide and in person.
E-bikes are the biggest growth area in cycling right now, and that’s definitely working in our favour. But I think the main reason we at The Electric Bike Shop have grown so strongly in recent times is because of our customer relationships, which we need for our business to thrive.
We know that if we create what is best for the customer, it is usually the best thing for us and also for our suppliers. Our customers are absolutely at the heart of our business processes, and this strongly guides our decision-making.
We’ve built a very special team around us at The Electric Bike Shop. We have a tight-knit group of talented colleagues from inside and outside the cycling industry. Everyone who participates really feels like we’re onto something pretty special here, which is very exciting.
How have consumers reacted to the emergence of e-bikes?
Those who have tried an eBike usually want one and those who then understand all the potential benefits end up wanting even more: fitness, freedom, activity, fresh air, using the car less, saving money, etc.
In terms of growth here in the UK we have been a little slower to adopt e-bikes compared to mainland Europe, but at The Electric Bike Shop we are confident that the trend here will match the growth pattern that we saw through the chain.
What do you think of the response to e-bikes in the wider bike business?
There are many factors at play here. Other retailers have gotten involved in e-bikes to varying degrees. From fully embracing them and championing them like we at The Electric Bike Shop, to complete avoidance at the other end of the spectrum.
In some cases, perhaps a low representation of e-bikes in a sales floor could be due to stock availability, but there are ways around this – we’ve managed to keep our floors full. I imagine some retailers are afraid to commit cash flow to electric models out of fear of the unknown or the belief that e-bikes are just a fad.
Perhaps a handful of retailers worry about how they would handle aftermarket and maintenance without the proper equipment and training. There will be cycling purists who would not agree to put an electric model on their sales floor based on their personal opinions.
I think there’s been an understandable hesitation to commit to a strategy over the past few years, as there have been so many curveballs and changes thrown at everyone. Anyway, we are 100% electric, we are fully committed and it works for us.
How do you see the electric bike market evolving in the years to come?
In short, it will grow a lot. There are still so many people who have yet to experience that e-bike smile, so we are doing our best to spread the word about the countless benefits that e-bike can bring.
We reach out to our local communities and work with them to spread the word. Undoubtedly, technology will further improve over time and e-bikes will become more mainstream. We believe e-bikes will become the norm, not a bizarre option as they may have been perceived in the past and we see ourselves as an important part of this mindset shift.
During the pandemic, we started to recognize new groups of customer profiles and made sure that our colleagues in the store recognized them so that we could meet their service requirements and provide them with the best assistance.
Groups such as commuters who need to avoid public transport, gym goers looking for an alternative workout, vacationers switching to active vacations, and mountain bikers who want to try the unique thrill of an electric model.
More and more customer groups will follow, evolve and grow. The future looks very bright and we are at the heart of the action.