Letter to our Good Neighbors, Riders, and Esteemed Patrons,
If you are a new or returning customer who has just recently decided to shop for a new Electric Bike or Scooter – or even just shopping around for a specific part for your current ride – please read this. The cycling industry is experiencing unpreceded product shortages nationwide.
Earlier this year, we all awoke to a new reality called Covid-19. The pandemic reality soon forced millions of Americans to “Shelter-in-Place”. Since then, the pandemic has re-shaped how many families are choosing to exercise, enjoy some good weather, and travel to and from essential businesses.
Shortly after Shelter-in-Place was mandated, the cycling industry and its network of retailers experienced a dramatic surge of new traffic! Web traffic, phone queries, and emails began to flood into major branded shops as well as independent small mom & pop shops.
The increase in customer traffic volume that our business experienced went from 20 calls an hour, to 80, to 140 to 300+ per hour within a few weeks. We hired a phone service for several weeks to take messages and learned that they were only capturing 20% of the total volume coming on the main line.
By mid-April, phone and email traffic had increased 10-fold over the previous record month. Returning calls and returning messages became impossible after the first 200 of the day. By early May, in-store visitor traffic had increased to unprecedented levels that we had start telling customers they couldn’t enter the shop and would have to come another day or else schedule an appointment online on our calendar. Other bike shops were forced to turn off their phones and to post auto-replies on their business info-email explaining similar challenges and issues.
Here we are at the end of June, and the surge continues to intensify. Now, we are seeing complete sellouts of stock with some of the biggest brand names in the industry. B2B websites show warehouse stock in real-time. Page after page display "0"s and "Out of Stock until Further Notice".
We are feeling this pressure intensely. Our service warehouse is filled up with repairs, warranty services, parts requests, and special custom builds for persons with disabilities for the remainder of the summer and likely well into the fall. We’ve scrambled to find more warehouse space and set up more work-stations to address the influx of new builds. All or the major bike parts suppliers are now reporting stock shortages across all component groups. Today, replacement tubes for some of the most popular tire sizes are facing severe shortages. Shortages are likely to get worse.
If you are someone who has recently decided to join the cycling community by either purchasing a new e-bike, or else restoring a bike that you already own – that’s wonderful news! We love to hear this. Some of us dealers have caches of bikes, e-bikes, scooters, and other cycling gear that we are still able to sell and are still providing service. But the choice of color, sizes, and options is severely limited. It’s important that you take a moment to appreciate that while we may have some stock, there are other things we may not have – and in fact, may not have for the remainder of 2020. Please try and appreciate that the industry has been affected by Covid-19 and that most everyone in our sector is trying to find supply and trying to meet their customer's needs.
There’s more. For some customers, same-day delivery, and immediate service is so ingrained into our cultural psychology that we are incensed when we have to wait more than an hour for a response - or a reply to our email request.
We get it. Service is everything – and when we can’t deliver it timely, it’s unforgivable. Right?
When there are extenuating circumstances unprecedented like Covid-19, everyone is challenged to figure out how to navigate this new reality while keeping employees employed, and keeping customers riding their bikes. We are certainly experiencing one of these “exceptions”. If you have a hard time empathizing with this condition, imagine yourself serving a Thanksgiving Dinner that starts out comfortably planning for 10 people. The day before Thanksgiving, you start receiving calls from family and friends that they are going to bring some other friends who have no where else to go - and asking if you can add a few extra seats to the table. Now imagine that those calls start flooding in over the next few hours until your table needs to seat 30,000 people. Now imagine that most everyone is planning to stay the weekend!
This example is literally the scale of surge the Cycling industry is experiencing each week Stores like ours are trying to figure out how effectively respond to 2% of that total in a single day. What to do with the other 98% is still unknown. We hope they will find other stores with stock, and other service departments with available mechanics. Many are just getting angry that they can't get through, can't get someone to answer their phone messages, and can't get someone to respond to their emails. They assume that we must not care - or worse, we are incompetent. When they finally get through to someone, their patience is all be evaporated and they are now in full-out melt-down mode. I can't imagine what it must be like to work for the D.M.V.
One town over from us is a Jersey Mike's franchise shop. There’s a big sign printed and displayed inside the shop. The sign is hard to miss because it is displayed directly over the counter where all the ordering takes place and where all customers get to watch their sandwich being assembled. The note reads
“Please Be Nice”
It seems out of place with all of the other announcements and directions informing customers exactly where to stand, and what to wear. Whoever owns that Jersey Mikes Franchise values their employees and has likely had some unpleasant interactions with Joe Q. Public. You would think that during a pandemic with so much loss of life, income, security and uncertainty, people would be at least – compassionate. Sadly, that is not the case. It sometimes seems like the opposite holds true. People simply can’t be nice.
Hey - It’s a Free Country!
All this is to say that if you are shopping around and considering where to purchase your new ride, we would be honored to serve you. We are still able to stock e-bikes, trikes, and scooters and are working very closely with our core brands on stock supplies, newest imports, and ETAs. We are still finding parts and component groups of repairs and services - often times from other dealers or 3rd party suppliers. Sometimes, we can get a hold of small lot of bikes and when we do, we list them immediately and put them on the floor. A lot of this is taking us extra time to track down. And everyone on the team is working insanely hard, and working very fast.
We are far from perfect. Everyday, the entire team for our shop and our warehouse – a team of 8 - comes to work with bright eyes and big smiles ready to take on the next tsunami of visitors, happy and not-so-happy patrons, and a very impatient line of new and returning riders. Our employees keep the business going, and somehow, through all of this uncertainty, they continue trying their very best to fulfill your order and find you that perfect ride. It's quite extraordinary to see.
Please be patient with us. Things are taking way WAY longer than normal to handle, and parts are much harder to find - that doesn't mean we aren't doing our jobs, or that we are something less than village idiots. We've been called a lots of names these past few weeks - and some reactions are just plain mean. We are all giving 120% and continually working overtime 7 days of the week trying to meet the demands of many new riders, and many new demands. Our business - like most others in our niche industry - was not designed to handle a national surge like this. Everyone is experiencing the same challenges. All that we ask in return is to treat our staff with respect.
“Please Be Nice”
It’s a small boat and all of us are in it together.
And if you find it in your heart to say something good about someone working on the team, please do so. They appreciate the words.