I hope business is good for you. We, like hundreds of other smaller cycle shops really like your products, and really like recommending them to our customers. We probably don’t sell as much as even a small online retailer, but we do convert new customers to your products everyday. It could be argued that a small part of the success of Hope has been due to 100's of smaller bike shops liking and recommending your products over the years.
It’s therefore very troubling that it’s possible to buy a set of you really good hope hoops at Halfords, at a price which is LESS than we pay you for the same product. When I’ve spoken to your representatives at trade events, we have often asked about your discounting policy, and have been told that you offer the same price to all your customers, either your standard trade price, or a 5% discount for larger customers (of which we are one). It is hard for me to believe this when I see a number of large online retailers discounting your product, and now a national chain selling at what would appear to be less than cost price.
It’s been often argued on this forum, that smaller bike shops need to ‘up their game’, or do something different to compete, however I ask how much can we up our game, and do something different when the playing field is quite so steeply sloped?
I also ask you as a manufacturer whether supplying to businesses whose model is to be cheaper (not better, not with great service, just cheaper) is really sustainable for you. Once the local bike shop has ceased to exist (like the local electrical store, or many local butchers etc etc) who will recommend your products to your end users? Who will service the products of those who can’t or won’t service their own? Yes you can pay for advertising, but will that be as effective? Once the bicycle market in the UK is controlled by an oligopoly of Halfords, Evans, CRC and Wiggle what will you do when they decide that your products don’t offer the same margin as imported products from the far east and no longer stock your products? I ask you these questions now, as if you continue to support businesses who’s competitive edge is to be cheaper you may find that you have done a deal with the devil in a few short years time.
I am aware that I am singling out a relatively small company from the myriad of companies who supply the UK bicycle trade, my arguments apply equally to most other suppliers. I am not expecting a reply from you to this letter, but have chosen to share it on a public forum as I feel it may have more impact on both you and other suppliers than another small bike shop owner complaining to you at a trade show.
Keep making those great products!