A business built on “staff knowledge and passion”: Q&A with Leisure Lakes Bikes
One of the most interesting things to emerge from my regular Retailer Q&A features is a sense of how different, longstanding independents are navigating the increasingly multichannel retail landscape – whether that’s the 90-year-old Charles Clinkard footwear business using online as an “engine of growth” alongside continued high street expansion, or traditional department store Havens embracing online in an effort to remain relevant and attractive to the modern consumer.
Common themes emerging from the Q&A interviews are a sense that no business can really afford to ignore online, even if it’s just from a marketing and brand-building perspective, but that even for a retailer with no physical stores – like fashion accessories specialist Tesoros – there is a recognition that consumers still love an opportunity to touch and feel the products, whether that’s at a local fair or a home party.
Like Charles Clinkard and Havens, Preston-based Leisure Lakes Bikes is a specialist retailer founded long before the onset of Internet shopping, whose business continues to grow both online and in the physical space. Indeed, bikes – a high-end purchase, where advice on making the right purchase choice can be crucial – are arguably one of the product types that most lend themselves to still being bought from a destination bricks-and-mortar shop.
That seems to be part of the thinking behind Leisure Lakes Bikes’ new 7,500 sq ft flagship store, recently opened in what, on the face of it, appears to be the unlikely location of Daventry. So, I spoke to Beth Noy – the retailer’s Digital Marketing Manager, and a member of the founding family – to find out more about the new store and how the 30-year-old company aims to communicate a knowledge of and passion for cycling across all its channels.
Q. Tell me a little bit about your business – where is it based, what’s its history, and what does it do?
Leisure Lakes Bikes was established 30 years ago, in 1981, by the four Noy brothers with a great passion for the outdoors. We have now expanded to eight shops nationwide and a dedicated online bike store, and there are now two generations of the Noy family working throughout the company – we really are a family business.
We have recently opened our brand new flagship store at Abbey Retail Park, Daventry. Covering nearly 700 sq metres, this bike store caters for all cycling disciplines to a level rarely seen before in the UK and is home of one of the first Guru Bike Fit systems in Europe that has helped Tour De France winners get the perfect bike fit.
We chose Daventry as a location because it is very accessible being right next to the M6 and M1 so we have customers that make the journey from London as well as the rest of the surrounding areas. If you look at the area of Daventry there are huge distribution companies that use it as a base because of the ease of access from all directions. Our store is a destination store and because of the quality of goods and service we offer people will travel to our store rather than just heading down to the local store in town.
All staff at Leisure Lakes Bikes are keen cyclists and we pride ourselves on giving customers the best possible, unbiased advice no matter their budget or discipline.
Q. And what’s your own role in the business?
Digital Marketing Manager and daughter of one of the founders.
Q. What’s your business model, and why? Is it bricks, clicks or both?
Both! We started the company with one shop in Preston that was built by ourselves and have expanded across the country and now have a massive online bike store. Our goal is to get the staff knowledge and passion for cycling into every single product on our website and our live chat facility has staff on hand to give one-on-one help and advice when buying online.
Q. Looking forward, what do you see as the greatest opportunities for a business like yours at the moment?
The Government backed Cycle To Work Scheme that allows people to get bikes and equipment tax free has been upping the awareness about cycling and getting fit. I think as the world moves into a more health-concious phase it will encourage people to get out on their bike and they will get ‘the cycling bug’.
Q. And what about the main challenges?
Being renowned for offering high-end bikes, clothing and accessories for the last 31 years has been great as we have passionate customers who know we have what they want and will always come back to us. Getting our name out there to new cyclists that don’t know where to start is something we are constantly working on as you have a lot of ‘high-street bike chains’ around now that are more like your local supermarket rather than our destination stores.
Q. Where do you hope your business will be in five years’ time?
Our business has grown every single year that we have been established and I hope it continues to do so! I want to up our profile in the cycling world and be the first stop for not only ‘technical talking’ enthusiasts but offer a non-intimidating, friendly service that can guide keen new cyclists to a new world!
Q. And any final thoughts or comments that you’d like to add?
We also have a VIP Club that now has over 4,000 members. It’s £30 to join giving you a year of exclusive benefits and discounts including a FREE Muc-Off Kit worth £36 when you join. This is a way of giving customers a more personal and exclusive feel when they shop online or in any of our stores.
Retailer Q&A is a format where Soult’s Retail View talks to retailers – large or small, and whether bricks, clicks or multichannel – about their current innovations, aspirations and challenges. As always with Soult’s Retail View, the features are not paid for – it’s all about providing interesting stories and content for the blog’s readers. If you run a retail business and are interested in taking part in the feature, please drop me an email or a tweet.
Remember, my retail consultancy business, CannyInsights.com, also works with retailers nationwide to improve their stores, customer communications and market knowledge. For more information, visit www.cannyinsights.com.