Featured Retailer – Ian Christie, Summit Bicycles

Ian and his girls riding around town

Theres a trend in the bike retail industry, and its not a good one. Independent and instore retailers have undoubtedly suffered over the past few years, thanks to ecommerce giants like Amazon, but certain industries have been hit harder than others. The biking industry is one such industry; steadily declining sales have hurt bicycle retailers large and small over the past several decades. 2.5 million fewer bikes were sold in 2014 than in 2000. 20% fewer children rode bicycles in 2010 than in 2000. For bicycle retailers and manufacturers, these numbers are unavoidablebut not unchangeable.

Ian Christie of Summit Bicycles, like many of his associates in the bike industry, recognized these dwindling sales but wasnt sure of how to combat them. Years and years in the bicycle retail industry had turned Christie into a successful, entrepreneurial salesman. When asked about his start in retail, Christie notes, I was 13. I wanted money and my best friends dad owned a bike shop. From there, Christies passion for the industry only grew. Of course, all the money I made went straight back into bikes and bike parts. I became a manager at 17 and at 19 was given charge of the operations of our second location. At 21, I put together an eight year buyout plan with the current owner We have added two more locations across that time period and grown quite a bit.
Over the years, Christie has learned that success, especially in the bicycle retail industry, is a multifaceted and varied, sometimes unpredictable beast. His experience alone meant that he had seen the plenty of progress and profit. But success, Christie says, is never just one thing. But the thing at the top of our list is happy customers. And a big part of that happiness, Christie argues, is a result of showing that you genuinely care. I cant tell you how many times a customers face goes into shock when I just ask them, What can I do to make you happy? Walls come down and trust is built. Time and time again, Christie found that efficacy, honesty, and genuineness with his customers was the key to keeping them in the store and pulling out their wallets.
The last hurdlethe hurdle so many retailers and manufacturers like himself were also facingwas how to get them in the store in the first place.
Christies solution, along with 19 colleagues and industry experts, is the 20 Collective. As part of the Shimano Dealer panel, Christie already knew that With the right groupit can be tremendously beneficial for all parties involved. Bringing together a series of opinions and experts from across the field led to a blossoming of new ideas and objectives.
The thought behind the 20 Collective is much the same. Rather than having individual retailers or manufacturers create personalized marketing strategies to meet a small market, why not create an overarching marketing plan that would affect and assist retailers, manufacturers and even buyers? The entire industry needed a marketing shift, not just a single retailer.
So, how exactly did the 20 Collective come to be? A very, very good bicycle retailer, Charlie from Bicycle Habitat, was presenting a state of the union for the bike industry, says Christie. He was highlighting the tremendous decline in public participation in cycling and bike shop visits over the last 1520 yearsinformation I honestly didnt know. Dave Getler from River City Bicycles in Portland pointed out the divisiveness in the industry’s marketing efforts and how much we spend on TDF teams, etc., and the little to no effort to attract the casual cyclists. Someone then blurted out We need a got milk? campaign and we all looked at each other and said Ya, that’s a good idea.
And so the 20 Collective came to be. A panel of 20 bicycle dealers from across the country have come together to boost the straggling bicycle industry. With no brand allegiance or even local preferences, this communitys goal is large, but simple: get people to buy more bikes.
We have one idea, and that one idea can make everyone win, says Christie. IBDs, online, big box, mass merchant, all brands, advocacy groups and consumers. We can all win. We are lucky enough that our industry is of a decent enough size that if we make little tweaks, we can make a big difference. But we need everyone to get on board. Other big industries (milk, for example, as that one voice shouted) have released big marketing campaigns in recent years in order to lure customers back to their old favorites. The 20 Collective aims to do the same, just with bikes. It is a centralized fund for a marketing campaign to promote and grow ridership participation across the country, across brands, across ages and experienceacross everything.
The 20 Collective will help everyone in the industry, right down to Christies own Summit Bicycles. Summit Bicycles success is tied to people riding bicycles. The more people riding bikes, the more successful we will be, notes Christie. By helping the industry as a whole, everyone within itmanufacturers, retailers big and smallreaps the profits. Christie himself is absolutely passionate about the project, and has even discovered a new love for marketing. Specifically consolidating and uniting marketing efforts, he says, which drive more people to riding and driving people to bicycle retailers of all types. His newfound passion is reviving a stagnant industry, as is the passion of his 19 colleagues.
And of other retailers, Christie says, We are fighting for you. We believe that this is one of many things that will make all of us more successful. The next three months will be big for the 20 Collective, as they line up campaigns and marketing strategies. But one things certain: just as Christies passion for this industry drove him to Summit Bicycles all those years ago, so will his passion draw new customers to the industry (and even Summit Bicycles) in the future.

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