News Article

UK E-bike Independent Pioneers Adapt to Survive

Sales & Trends

UK E-bike Independent Pioneers Adapt to Survive
UK’s pioneering e-bike specialists like the York Electric Transport Shop are no faced with cut-price competition online. How do they cope? – Photo Richard Peace

LEICESTER, UK – Early in 2019 a pioneer of the UK e-bike industry, retailer 50 Cycles, closed their doors, blaming a previous string of motor failures. 50cycles Limited has regrouped as 50cycles Distribution Limited to continue with BH distributorship.

Did 50 Cycles face other pressures common to UK independent e-businesses? When many of these pioneer e-bike specialists entered the market – some 20+ years ago – they were the only places to buy e-bikes. Today e-bike independents face massive cut-price competition online and from huge retail groups such as Halfords.

Bike Europe asked two independent UK e-bike pioneers how they manage to succeed in the face of such competition.

Electric Transport Shop – Independent Retailers

John Campbell is the longstanding store manager at Electric Transport Shop’s York branch. ETS are also at Bristol, Cambridge, London and Oxford and are one of the UK’s leading independent e-bike retailers. He told Bike Europe that whilst it is important to compete on price, there are other ways to stay ahead of the big boys, identifying two key areas:

Personal approach still has value

‘We are not a computer’ says Campbell. Know the feeling of dealing with a machine you get looking for e-bike deals online, or from staff in a large store where the answer is always to look at a screen? This is precisely what ETS avoid, for example offering free fitting and service at all their branches.

The shop’s location is important too, as the attractively located premises mean they get both passing trade and customers from as far afield as Scotland.

Most ETS customers are not existing cyclists. That means they are quite open to information and advice in a way established cyclists aren’t. 98 five-star Google reviews out of 101 means the message is getting across.

Good staff and knowledge

Campbell and mechanic Jamie are trained to service all major brands of e-bike motor with ETS selected manufacturers giving good parts backup under a no quibbles guarantee. Over the lifetime of an e-bike the value of the support can add up to hundreds of pounds.

ETS also stock their own brand retrofit ‘Sparticle’ kits which are particularly popular with trike and handcycle users. Experience and knowledge allow ETS to offer e-bike repair and battery recelling too.

Volt Bikes – manufacturers, distributors and retailers

Volt Bikes manufacture e-bikes using own-brand Spintech hub and Shimano mid-drive technology. Whilst the liquidation of UK e-bike manufacturer Freego in 2019 sent shivers through the UK e-bike manufacturing community, the likes of Volt are expanding their range into 2020. They sell direct online, through their own London shop and via independent bike shops.

Lyle Metcalfe has been with the family firm since its inception and stressed Volt’s strengths.

Get there early

‘Our early entry to the market gave us a head-start over the competition. We have in-depth knowledge of the sector and long-standing alliances with technology companies. This means we’ve gained customer loyalty and growth through word of mouth.’

Independents retailers still strong

‘With the larger cycle retailers heavily focusing on e-bikes, we remain focused on supporting the smaller independent high street stores.’

Use teamwork

‘We currently produce our e-bikes in Poland and share the facility with a Scandinavian e-bike brand who we have pooled resources with for quite a few years. This alliance means not only economies of scale but also for sharing product development ideas and knowledge.’

Comment on this article