The bike retailer Evans Cycles , a Top100 retailer in IRUK Top500 research, has a growing chain of stores around the UK. But, says James Backhouse, marketing director at Evans Cycles, it is keen to retain the local feel within those stores and bike rides have helped in that. While Evans Cycles stages large sporting events based in dedicated event venues, it was also keen to get back to events at store level. “With 62 stores now, we have a tension as we get bigger between being your local bike shop and being a big national chain. We want to make it clear we’re still your local bike shop staffed by and large by people who love cycling. We want to be able to connect with our customers, to go for a ride with them and to engage with them in a way that’s not just about selling them the next bit of stuff.”
The retailer started by trialling bike rides in 2016 and has now found a format that works. Cyclists pay to book a place on a ride, which is promoted in-store and via email to customers who are local to the store. They meet at the store before starting out on a waymarked trail of between 20 and 30 miles, led by Evans’ central events team. After they finish, they can return to the store for post-ride refreshments and to meet like-minded cyclists. A mechanic is on hand to deal with any bike issues and participants receive a £5 voucher they can spend in store.
As Evans has expanded the programme this year, it’s seen twice as many people as it hoped for take part in these rides.
Participants are from a new audience too: 30% of those taking part in its rides had never been on an organised ride before, while 25% were women – higher than the typical 15% female participation of its more sporting events. Some 96% of those who take part say they’d recommend it to a friend. “We haven’t hired new people to be able to do this as we’re using the people we’ve got,” says Backhouse. “We’re chuffed we’ve managed to make this work. It’s scalable, it’s expanded across multiple stores and we have seen lots of traction and feedback. I think if we were to pat ourselves on the back for one thing, it’s a victory for determination and never giving up. Trying, knowing the idea is a good one but continuing to try different ways of approaching a problem until we get to the right answer.”