Halfords move for bigger slice of cycle market

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  • Halfords move for bigger slice of cycle market
  • daftvader
    Member

    maybe in their ‘3 gear training’ they can include some product knowlege and customer service training. all the ones i have been to near me have been awful. and i used to have to use them for the cycle to work scheme…..

    Premier Icon piedi di formaggio
    Subscriber

    New guy has come in and from what I’ve read, he recognises that it was somewhat rubbish and plans to make it good

    Premier Icon wonny j
    Subscriber

    I was in my local halfords last week and the place has now got a lot more stock. Looks good, almost like a proper bike shop.

    Wasn’t convinced by Dare2B gloves at £25.00 though. I just picked up my 50p Bikehut seatpost and left.

    shotsaway
    Member

    Selling over 1 million BSO’s a year, Halfords said it sees good opportunities for growth in the cycle market.

    Unfortunately and I am generalising here, I think most STW forum members are unlikely to buy their next bike from Halfords. My nearest store is less than a mile away and I’ve lost count on the number of times I’ve popped in to pick up, lube, degreaser or other small consumables. I’ve lost count on the number of times they don’t have the items I want in stock! Once i needed a rear shifter cable which they didn’t have in stock! Surely this should be one if their core service products!

    They also occasionally have offers on GT85 (£2.49 a can) if I buy any other cycling item, but for some reason their tills don’t recognise the offer and unless you flag it, the till charges the full price!

    My local store also seems to have numerous donor bikes on display. Many seem to be missing key components (shifters, callipers, seats, mechs, grips etc). If you take something off a display bike for a customer, take the bike off display until the part has been replaced!

    I know they do sell a handful of decent bikes but unfortunately most or their bikes are BSO’s built on visual appearance over function. I believe their main target audience will be mum and dad’s buying their kids highly overpriced and then highly discounted Apollo or Trak bikes because they don’t know any different.

    And I can’t see that changing now or ever.

    Premier Icon GrahamS
    Subscriber

    I know they do sell a handful of decent bikes but unfortunately most or their bikes are BSO’s built on visual appearance over function.

    I was very tempted to buy a Boardman CX from them, which is definitely a “decent bike” and it’s a good price, especially if you add in British Cycling discount and/or Cycle2Work.

    BUT.. the main thing that put me off was that Halfords didn’t allow test rides. Not even in the car park. In fact they don’t even want you putting a leg over it in the store!! 😯

    If they want to be taken remotely seriously as a real bike shop then they definitely need to sort that out.

    Premier Icon mattjg
    Subscriber

    The folks in my local Halfords have always been helpful and the carry some odd but useful spares (eg brake calliper spacing shims).

    I’d buy a bike from them if they sold one I wanted. I’d check it over of course, as I would from any shop.

    It’s not like the ‘proper’ LBSs have covered themselves in glory in my experience, they can be pretty poor too. I don’t see why Halfords shouldn’t go for it.

    I know they do sell a handful of decent bikes but unfortunately most or their bikes are BSO’s built on visual appearance over function. I believe their main target audience will be mum and dad’s buying their kids highly overpriced and then highly discounted Apollo or Trak bikes because they don’t know any different.

    I use the wokingham one fairly regulalry, there’s always 4 “half price” BSO’s at the door (mum, dad, girl, boy models), near the ‘camping’ section which probably gives a clue as to the market they’re aimed a, people who buy ‘tent shaped objects’ in Halfords, rather than the latest and greates gore tex lined 3 bedroom bungalow etc as advertised by some rugged looking fella with ice in his beard at costswold outdoors (strange name, costswolds are hardly going to test you to your limits!). But upstairs 75% of the bike floor space is devoted to ‘propper’ bikes (i.e. £300 and up), mostly boardman and carrera, but stil good quality bikes, the other 25% is kids stuff.

    As far back as I can remember it’s been like that in most halfords, i remember getting my first propper MTB from there in about ’97!

    jonnyblease
    Member

    I worked for Halfords for nearly 5 years in a mixture of part time and full time positions within the bikehut whilst at College and University. As a company they served me relatively well and I think in return I offered some much needed experience with bikes and products, as well as meaningful advice for customers.

    For me one of the main problems with Halfords is the staff, they pay minimum wage and only incentivise sales of accessories with bikes as opposed to customer service. This leads to ‘pushy’ sales techniques and a distinct smell of desperation at the till whilst someone was almost forced to buy some lights or a helmet… Many of the staff across the 3 stores I have worked are not interested in cycling nor have any desire to learn, it’s a pure 9-5 type job. Compare this to your LBS and it’s not hard to see why there is such a difference in customer service.

    Halfords need to work hard to attract staff that are passionate about their strategy for bikes and balance this with part time people who don’t have as much knowledge but are trained appropriately. I have many a horror story of bikes going out of the store PDI’d by someone who has received no training and the bike has failed and caused injury.

    Halfords have a long way to go in my opinion as the damage is already done from what I can see

    mindmap3
    Member

    I use my local store to pick up degreaser and the odd cleaning product. They do seem to have quite a lot of ‘proper’ bikes in there and a couple of the guys who work in there do at least like bikes.

    What they have been really good for in the past is popping on headset crown races for nowt. My nearest ‘proper’ shop didn’t want to know and wanted it booking in for a couple of weeks time.

    As said above, the biggest issue they face is the fact that the damage has already been done to their brand name. They’re going to have to work very hard to make any gains with the enthusiast.

    nigelb001
    Member

    I can’t see this working without a major upgrade of attitude and skills for the staff at Halfords. I hope it happens as effectively Halfords is my LBS(?) but don’t use it much as nothing much of interest there. Their latest advert in MBUK is a six page cover foldout showing stuff from FSA, Hope, Thomson, Troy Lee, XT and XTR etc none of which is currently available (bikehut anybody?)

    Given this huge advert they have some way to catch up, unless all the good stuff is going to be web buy and collect, which is rather defeating the object.

    Also given the huge adverts, you can guarantee that Carerra, Boardman and Voodoo will continue to get great reviews in MBUK and Bikeradar.

    bellys
    Member

    My local store is a joke..staff don’t know what there talking about..
    I was looking at the boardman pro full sus I had cash in my pocket. I asked about sizing and with out even looking said Med. Ok not a bad start I said do you have one I can sit on to try for size…and he gives me a small. ? wtf I asked for a med…sorry none built up but I could try the HT med…I said no so off he go’s and comes back with a large FS as I sat on the bike the rear shock had no air in it and front was very low. He said don’t worry will can fix that for you. But would need to wait until some body else comin later as he was not trained to use tools or a shock pump..so I left and never been back in..

    freeagent
    Member

    I have two Boardman bikes – a base model Hardtail which is 3 years old, and a base model Hybrid which is a year old.
    Both were bought through C2W and both are properly good bikes.
    The hardtail has had a few upgrades, mostly due to me wearing stuff out, and being a bit brutal with it.

    However, I’d say the sales service (bought from two different branches) was pretty poor.
    The guys who sold me the hybrid were shocking – trying to flog me a road bike which was clearly too big, just because they had one built up, whereas they needed to order the hybrid in.
    I never took it back for its 6 week check-up, and I’d not go back for servicing.

    However, I’ve also had variable service from my two LBS’s – one is great, and i’d always use them now, the other was as bad as Halfords.

    I hope they can turn it round and make a serious bike shop out of it – I mean as cyclists what have we got to loose?

    Junkyard
    Member

    the main thing that put me off was that Halfords didn’t allow test rides.

    they were not happy when i did a track stand on one either but I find getting on their bikes is the fastest way to get their attention 😉

    Staff seem ok but stock is erratic tbh

    brooess
    Member

    20% staff turnover tells you a lot. It means even the people who work there are rejecting the company…

    If they’re not recruiting and retaining people who care about a) bikes and b) helping customers, then they’re stuffed.

    If they’d rather be somewhere else, then your staff will neither keep your customers happy, nor be advocates for the brand…

    A few years ago I saw a display bike with the forks on backwards. They’ve no chance if they’re putting bikes together that dangerously and no-one spots it…

    Conan257
    Member

    I worked in one of the flagship Bikehuts back when there were only a half dozen in the country.

    Back then, the system worked. We looked like a proper bikeshop and got a good level of custom, selling everything upto mutliple thousand pound Pace bikes etc etc.

    I think the issue is that they rolled bikehut country-wide, and the management employs people in the same way they do for the car bits. People with no specific knowledge or experience in the field…

    esher shore
    Member

    well the 2 largest quality bike “chains” in the UK are really struggling to find competent mechanics and sales staff because of their poor terms and conditions (minimum pay with no holiday, temporary contracts and no training)

    staff generally get some experience and make a sharp exit to the nearest LBS…

    good luck to Halfords finding any competent staff prepared to work under such similar poor terms and conditions

    brooess
    Member

    well the 2 largest quality bike “chains” in the UK are really struggling to find competent mechanics and sales staff because of their poor terms and conditions (minimum pay with no holiday, temporary contracts and no training)

    I suspect ecommerce isn’t helping here. Bricks and mortar are fighting to keep costs to a minimum so they can compete on price, and wages are frequently one of the biggest costs in a retailer.

    Mind you, Evans service was bad even in 1995 when they had about 5 shops in London and I bought my first MTB – patronising kids who assumed I knew nothing…

    Premier Icon Northwind
    Subscriber

    Very variable, Halfords… My local has always been good tbh, I’ve been shopping there for about 20 years and used to use them for all my servicing, never a really bad experience and some fantastic ones. Probably ingrained in that particular shop.

    My last complete bike was from them, and very nice it was too. If you’re spending under a grand they should always be on the shopping list. Whether STW readers with beards, singlespeeds and SPD sandals buy there probably doesn’t bother them that much 😉

    Premier Icon mattjg
    Subscriber

    Possibly ecommerce, plus click and collect options, could work well for Halfords with their big branch network.

    When I needed an obscure car battery the local guy ordered it in and dropped it by my house the next day. Pretty good IMO.

    mattzzzzzz
    Member

    They need to really start from the ground up, how about binning the BSO market and developing a Trax or other cheap brand that is entry level but not so cheap and nasty a la decathlon – £149 price point with v or cable brakes, no suspension and in 26/29 flavours then build up from there , must be proper bars /stem etc no crappy steel parts and work the range up from that upto around 450 then move to Carrera range
    Train staff properly with video mystery shoppers and real world bonus / disciplinary action for not delivering the companys objectives, imagine everyone getting a weeks wages for scoring high in the results 4 or more times a year.
    Also in the redevelopment of the bikehut brand do track round the shop floor in colour so you can test bikes out and also invest more in stock levels

    Trained mechanics? Have a really qualified experienced one for every 10 stores with a car/ van that does the real complex stuff – win win as it gives the others something to aspire to and their experience rubs off on others- plus the vans will be seen around town, they could do open weekends with them fixing small problems etc and doing workshops for customers, how to- like B and Q
    Need to pay them well though like 30k to attract the best from the LBSs, but could be used for allsorts of training and development, identifying internal and external talent etc

    A few years ago they opened a sub brand called Cycle Republic (I think) in york. It only really sold high end. Was a great shop till it closed.

    Premier Icon Northwind
    Subscriber

    mattzzzzzz – Member

    They need to really start from the ground up, how about binning the BSO market and developing a Trax or other cheap brand that is entry level but not so cheap and nasty a la decathlon

    Think the reality is that the BSO market is huge, and customer-led… Getting out of £100 full sussers and into £150 rigids could see them lose that market entirely so it’d be a big step. Heard plenty of people in the shops “Have you got anything cheaper” or refusing advice to not get the crappy full suss for commuting.

    DT78
    Member

    I thought they were making a move on growing their bike business. Went into my local store at the start of the month to pick up some click and collect kit (gore stuff good price…) and a third of the store had been restocked with bikes and bike stuff. Maybe they realise that the market for car spares is getting ever smaller as manufacturers make them virtually impossible to self service cars anymore….

    Then I saw the big ads in both mbr and mbuk. I actually think their bikes are pretty good, boardman, voodoo and carrea are all good bikes if you stop being a snob. Dunno if they still do GT but I got one years ago from them. With the ctc discount and regular offers they are pret good value too.

    And yes the staff are bad, weekends seem to basically be manned by 17 year olds with hangovers. When I picked up my bib shorts the girl had no idea what they were. Not necessarily a problem but she was in the process of building a bike for a customer.

    I’m about to try out the legendary customer service as some of the seams have gone already on the bibs. Lets see what happens….

    Premier Icon variflex
    Subscriber

    With the right focus and will power for change they could become quite a force in the UK and possibly beyond. I agree with all of the comments above in that many outlets are currently a complete hit and miss. Big investment is needed but it sounds like the new chief exec is willing to do that.

    The advantage they have is buying power with a good distribution system in place with large outlets, they could threaten the online only companies at least here in blighty.

    However the UK is only a small part of the online companies revenue these days. Wiggle is doing alot within Asia and even setting up distribution space in that part of the world to speed up delivery.

    There is significant risk for Halfords as this is sink or swim for them given the money they are going to invest, so I hope they have done their sums or at least poached someone significant from Wiggle or CRC.

    Good luck to them.

    Premier Icon cookeaa
    Subscriber

    I’ve Got a Carrera Road bike and My missus has a Carrera MTB, nowt wrong with these bikes really frame and part on a par with many other more fashionable brands at similar price points, but the in store service has never blown me away.

    TBH their core market has always been BSO’s for the Family Summer Holiday down to Cornwall, I don’t think they’ll ever start chasing “serious” cyclists, it’s more likely that they’ll be going after more cycle commuters, while trying not to loose the BSO market to the likes of Tesco and ASDA…

    I can see their competition being chains like Decathlon or other general sport/outdoors shops (Where you find all the clothing, kit and accessories under one roof).
    They will all be going after the growing commuter coin, and they’ll have to make themselves stand out on service and advice because I expect the products will probably be about on par with the competition in terms of Spec’ and VFM…

    as manufacturers make them virtually impossible to self service cars anymore

    Excepting stupid brake systems that aren’t impossible just a bit more involved, I can’t think of may horror stories of DIY serviceing problems. My focus is pretty much the same routine as my MG Midget for everything upto the aux belt (which needs a tensioner), the cambelt (midget doesn’ have one), and air con (miget doesn’t have).

    The problem is the local garage offers MOT + oil & filter + air con re-charge for £59! Sounds impossible, but i guess once it’s on the ramp for the MOT draining and filling with £20 of synthetic oil is a quick job, and plenty of places do MOT’s for £30, but they’re effectively doing the labour for free!

    Premier Icon ahwiles
    Subscriber

    brooess – Member

    A few years ago I saw a display bike with the forks on backwards. They’ve no chance if they’re putting bikes together that dangerously and no-one spots it…

    i can confirm they’re still wheeling-out* that old chestnut in sheffield, those jokers! 🙂 **

    (*see what i did there?)

    (**i’m assuming that the lads dead-pan incomprehension when i told him was just part of the joke)

    Premier Icon Northwind
    Subscriber

    variflex – Member

    With the right focus and will power for change they could become quite a force in the UK

    They are the biggest bike retailer in the UK, I’d say they’re already quite a force…

    BristolPablo
    Member

    Its almost a given that the £30 MoT garage will find a few failures/advisories though. Coil springs are a favourite at the moment, pads and discs are always a good one and there are always brake bulbs going, I mean how often do you check yours?…. [/cynic]

    Premier Icon Trekster
    Subscriber

    Halfords have a long way to go in my opinion as the damage is already done from what I can see

    Have the likes of PC World not managed to recover from the early days of the horror stories about poor service?

    Have Cannondale not made a good return with some good products ?

    Have Toyota not weathered all their issues over the past few years?

    Probably lots of other examples including all the bikes with excessive failure rates etc

    Not impossible but they do have some work to do.

    As for wages I think we will all or at least youngsters starting out on the “career”” path will be working for less in the very near future imo…..already started at my workplace and we are supposed to be a “world leader”. 🙄

    mattzzzzzz
    Member

    They need some kudos , hence my comment about ditching the BSO and developing a line of bikes like decathlon or even onone/vitus etc
    If I was Matt Davies I would be looking at some senior folks at CRC etc to poach

    milky1980
    Member

    I used to work for them from ’98 to ’05 and they went downhill in terms of staff training and turnover as soon as they were sold by Boots to CVC. I saw a few really good bike people leave soon after the training and specialist days out (did a Hope factory tour back in ’02 – paid too!) stopped. One now runs a good LBS that was directly responsible for my old Halfords shutting!!

    matzzzzzz – they tried the mobile mechanic thing around ’01 as part of the BikeHut launch. I was invited to apply but was put off by the 6 month contract (length of the trial) and no guaranteed job at the end of it. Glad I passed it by as the guy who did do it was a great mechanic (ex pro team) and was cast aside when they realised there wasn’t the customer base to sustain it.

    What they need to do is rebuild the BikeHut from the ground up. Get it run by bikers who appreciate everyone from a newbie to the old hands. Then they will start to change their image from BSO flogger to serious player. It will take a long time to do, but is possible.

    Halfords have a long way to go in my opinion as the damage is already done from what I can see

    From what you can see yes, but your not the mass market. Halfords are the biggest at the lower end and their model works. If they turn their backs on BSO’s and cheap end they will lose a considerable amount of revenue. They need people to keep coming back and work their way through the range of bikes.

    project
    Member

    Took a broken connector for a garmin satnav back, the one who may have been a manager acted like KEVIN THE TEENAGER, ON A BAD DAY.He theew the replacement at me after shouting at someone down the phone asking for a re stock.

    Recently needed a brake light, to be told that the customer help screeen didnt work, and that because the brake light had gone i would need some fuses and and other stuff.Als they could repalce the bulb for 7 quid plus cost of bulb.

    esher shore
    Member

    here’s the thing about the bike industry in the UK:

    the mass market for BSO is dominated by Halfords (356 stores)

    the quality market for entry level and above is dominated by Evans (50 stores) and Cycle Surgery (29 stores)

    then its Cycles UK (14 stores),Leisure Lakes (7 stores), etc.

    then you have small operators like Tredz (2 stores) and many other small chains or the LBS which are independant operators

    a huge problem for the bike industry in the UK is the growth of internet retailers which has decimated bricks and mortar retail, rising operating costs from landlords/business rates/utilities and cycle / parts suppliers like Madison, Fisher, Raleigh (who are being undercut by the “brands” they distribute, these brands are more than happy selling grey stock into the on-line resale market i.e. CRC, Wiggle, Merlin)

    all of which means reduced margins as consumers demands price discounting and increased value for money. Price gouging is becoming a real problem in the industry

    as some have mentioned; facing these rising fixed costs, the only controllable cost is staffing, and its the easiest cost to slash, but ignore the long term impact on your business!

    without good staff, you have no business! As the bike industry has grown in recent years with the boom in cycling, some people have gained serious wealth through smart business acumen, but have certainly not taken their staff with them.

    The old saying goes, “Don’t worry about the people leaving (because they are so employable that other employers snap them up) but worry about those staying behind” (because they are not employable…) you end up with lots of dead wood in your company

    if you don’t pay your staff a living wage, offer a good contract of employment, or professional career training, why are you surprised when they leave?

    It’s a real problem in the bike industry because experienced staff are very short in supply; cycle retailing is not the same as the rag trade (Top Shop), stacking shelves at Tesco or selling I-Pads at PC World

    cycle retailing is a complex beast, and it takes years for an employee to know what they are actually talking about to give a customer confidence in the interaction, especially for senior sales staff and mechanics

    I have interviewed mechanics with Cytech II who could not even build a Specialized Allez road bike out of a box, tells you everything really?

    When consumers are empowered by the huge wealth of information on the internet, and new business are being launched like mobile mechanics and indepandant bike fitters, etc.

    suddenly the traditional bricks and mortar business is in a serious struggle to survive, let alone actually survive and grow.

    Using traditional trade suppliers to place an item under your counter, when your customer (or your own staff) can buy it on-line for 20% less than your trade pricing, cannot mean anything less than the slow death of a business, unless it is smart enough to evolve and survive

    read this: BBC One in Five shops to close by 2018

    Premier Icon mattjg
    Subscriber

    a huge problem for the bike industry in the UK is the growth of internet retailers which has decimated

    it’s not a problem for me it’s a huge benefit, I can get the bikes and bits I want and decouple from having to deal with the LBSs who are, at best, poor to middling.

    Online also means outfits like Cotic, Singular, Dialled, On One can get a business going dealing with their customers, and we’re all better off for that.

    None of this directly affects Halfords IMO, they’re not really in that space.

    But Halfords can get millions of people on bikes. All power to them.

    mooman
    Member

    Arent most LBS staff on similar wages to Halfords?

    I think the training of staff is a huge plus to their strategy. With their added knowlege, it will lead to real ideas of improvement. From stock to services.

    esher shore
    Member

    @mattjg

    I understand your point of view, its generally not a big problem for the educated consumer, and you get better pricing on your bike parts

    It’s simply the way the bike industry is changing, and that retail in general in changing, which is why I posted that link to the article on the BBC website

    However, it can lead to problems for uneducated consumers that benefit from experienced advise, the internet can be overwhelming and misleading in those instances!

    For educated consumers its all good, until they need a specific tool or service, and finding a bike shop that can undertake that work; this can be more problematic when all the LBS have closed their doors.

    But perhaps that LBS did not offer those services anyhow, its a very complex discussion that cannot be easily reduced to simple answers through typing on a keyboard

    I would be the first to admit many LBS do not deserve your business, or mine, with the extremely poor service I have received in them myself!

    From my own experiences as a sales assistant, mechanic, business owner (bike industry), shop manager and currently workshop manager for a leading concept store, its all changing very rapidly, and outdated supply chains are falling away as the transparency of the internet reveals more than some feel comfortably having revealed

    If I owned a quality bike shop at the moment?

    I would be concentrating on selling “protected” brands who do not sell their bikes or parts on-line, no point in price discounting against common brands happy to ship grey stock to huge on-line resellers.

    I would be servicing high-end customers who are happy to pay for timely service and expert advice, and offer in-store bike fitting in a proper studio and quality bike servicing from expert staff

    I have found in the past 10 years that money rich / time poor customers have no problem in paying for quality work when they are informed and engaged

    mindmap3
    Member

    Going off at a tangent, I agree with Matt. I work so its quite difficult to get to the bike shop, who are often pretty slow to get stuff. Especially those that only do orders one day a week….wtf? That might have been fine before the rise of CRC, Wiggle et al but not now.

    Halfords coud be well placed toeing some friends; as someone else has already said, they have a great infrastructure with regards to click and collect and they open late. If they could look at the likes of John Lewis with regards to how slick their click and collect service is combined with the late opening hours and their potential buying power. However, it would require a huge amount of investment.

    With regards to bike shop salaries, as far as I’m aware they’re always pretty bad. My wages when I worked in a shop were p*ss poor but I did it because I lived at home, had just finished uni and wanted something to fund my bike and snowboarding addiction. Given the current economic climate, I can’t see them getting any better.

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