The decline of the local American bike shop is nothing new. Since its zenith in 2001, the industry has seen a continuous reduction in the number of stores operating nationwide, from nearly 6,300 at the turn of the century to around 3,700 today.
What’s perhaps more surprising than this visible slump is what’s missing from the picture. You might be tempted to think that, in an effort to right the proverbial ship, supplemental revenue streams like rentals would be trending in the opposite direction. In reality, however, they barely register on the radar, accounting for a mere 0.8% of all earnings generated by bike shops in 2015 according to the NBDA.
Which begs the obvious question: how could this be? The maturing millennial generation has displayed a well-documented preference for rentership over ownership, so much so that the Brookings Institute has called the asset-to-service trend a “major part of the global economy.” How is it, then, that American bike shops have been unable to translate such a thriving market into even a single percentage point of annual income?
As it turns out, there are several key factors at work. In developing our Spinlister Pro software, the team at Spinlister set out to identify and solve the predominant challenges within the bike shop rental sphere. Here’s what we learned from countless conversations with local shop owners across the globe, and what we’ve implemented to solve each problem.
1.) LIABILITY, PAPERWORK, AND LOST TIME
It’s an arithmetic that rental shops know all too well. As with any outdoor activity that involves physical exertion and forward momentum, there’s an inherent risk to cycling. This means liability protections have to be established on the front end of every transaction, which in turn requires both a mound of paperwork and a staff member to help explain it all.
If you’re a bike shop owner, this can be a particularly difficult cost/benefit analysis to make. How much time can you afford to set aside for a customer’s $40 rental while another customer waits to purchase a $400 bike?
The Solution: Spinlister Pro is a completely paperless rental management system, guiding customers through a step-by-step rental process online, on their smartphones, or at your in-store kiosk. Our comprehensive liability waivers are built into every rental request, with the details clearly spelled out in user-friendly language. It all adds up to a faster, smoother rental experience for your customers, liability coverage for your shop, and no wasted time for your service staff.
Find the Solution to Your Bike Shop’s Rental Problems:
2.) INVENTORY DAMAGE AND REPAIR
No matter how well tuned you keep your fleet, or how selective you are with your renters, you can be assured of one thing: accidents are going to happen. These can range from anything as plebian as a punctured tube to major spills that result in derailleur damage or a cracked frame.
When serious incidents occur to a shop’s rental inventory, the losses are often twofold: the time lost by the mechanic repairing the bike and the time lost by the manager attempting to recuperate those repair costs. The shop can avoid this latter issue by collecting a security deposit on the front end, of course, but this comes with its own set of headaches including additional paperwork, coordination of refunds, and an unnecessary financial inconvenience to the renter.
The Solution: Spinlister Pro offers a $10,000 USD guarantee on every bike rented through our platform. This covers everything from bike and equipment theft to inventory damage above and beyond normal wear and tear. It’s an industry first for rental bike shops, allowing you to concentrate on repairing your fleet while we cover the financial expenditures associated with unforeseen accidents.
3.) COMPETITION FROM CITY BIKE SHARES
Since the concept first took root in Europe a decade ago, city bike shares have become an increasingly common part of the American urban landscape. As of year end 2016, there were nearly 120 subscription-based public bike schemes available in the US, offering a low-cost alternative to traditional shop rentals.
Though the recent failure of systems like Seattle’s Pronto! bike share highlight the ongoing difficulties faced by these enterprises, there’s no denying the numbers. In 2016, New York’s Citi Bike alone saw a record-setting 14 million trips taken, forcing smaller outfits like the private bike fleet at McCarren Hotel in Brooklyn to simply close up shop.
The Solution: By emphasizing the joy and diversity of cycling, Spinlister has successfully established itself as the global alternative to a one-size-fits-all model of bike sharing. We’ve spent years cultivating a community of cyclists with diverse tastes and riding styles, and now we’re giving local bike shops unfettered access to this expansive market via our Spinlister Pro platform. It’s the single largest network of riders and renters anywhere on Earth, and getting bigger every day.
Article Header Image Credit: Ken Lane