“It’s been a long time coming,” Sam Cooke once crooned, “But I know a change gonna come.” It’s a song we’ve been singing at The Mann Group for a long time.
There’s a shift happening in our industry. The shops we’ve loved for decades have always been helmed by the same leaders: wizened shopkeeps who stick to their traditions—both the good and the bad. But a new generation is rising. Some of them have been passed the baton from their familial matriarchs or patriarchs, others from their bosses or mentors. But all of them are reshaping the specialty retail industry. With fresh perspectives and a toolbox of modern acumen, these new influencers are poised to redefine retail.
Take, for example, Scott Helvie of Bicycle Garage Indy. Armed with an economic degree from Purdue, a passion for cycling and no retail experience, Helvie snagged a position at the local retailer. Like so many of us, once he found specialty retail, he was hooked.
“I think what truly resonates with me is that the business was started with a passion to change a lifestyle,” Helvie says of BGI. With experience on both the retail and manufacturer side of the business, Helvie understands both the practical and the emotional sides of our unique industry.
In 2014, founder Randy Clark began transferring ownership of the Bicycle Garage Indy to Helvie. As the new COO of the three-store business, Helvie has made efforts to preserve the pieces of the past that have always worked while embracing the potential of new strategies.
“Great retail is still doing well,” says Helvie, waving aside those chiming claims of the death of retail. Great customer service, he points out, is still—and will always be—a mainstay in retail, and it’s one BGI has always excelled at.
But there are other points in the industry that need adaptation, and Helvie is already working to make those changes a reality at BGI. “It’s a fast-paced world and people aren’t interested in slowing down because your processes are slow,” he says. “We are working hard to get products and services to consumers faster.” But that’s not always easy with an archaic system of slow-moving suppliers that make it impossible to compete with the likes of Amazon. “Suppliers to retail need to progress and understand the demands the consumer is putting on retail and how they can support that with increased customer service and minimizing cost getting products to retail. I’m not advocating changing for the sake of change, but if they truly spent time at a real retailer and studied how consumers view their products, we’d all advance so much faster.”
Helvie admits the changes that need to be made aren’t all external, and he’s working to change things within BGI too. In addition to speed, consumers these days are demanding another noun: simplicity. “We are really pushing hard to make all ourprocesses simpler for the consumer, from purchasing goods, to Mobile Service, to trade-ins.” It’s another product of the Amazon age; we’re all used to one-click shopping, and retailers need to adapt in order to stay relevant.
Helvie has other big plans under wraps, but as he mentioned before, it’s not about changing for the sake of change—it’s about staying fresh and applicable. “Change is important so consumers stay engaged,” he says. “Change doesn’t always have to come in the form of product, it can be a mission, culture, initiative or brand position, all of which are better and bigger things to talk about than changing product when it comes consumer engagement.”