Wiggle moves offline to offer bike repair and servicing at business parks

Retailer partners with property firm in Oxford, Reading and Hampshire; follows Rapha in establishing physical presence

by Simon_MacMichael   April 4, 2014  

Wiggle logo

Online retailer Wiggle is moving into the offline world, partnering with international property group Goodman to offer bike repair and servicing at three of its 21 business parks in the UK. It follows Rapha as an internet-based cycling business to establish a physical presence.

The locations are in Oxford, Reading, and Solent, the latter located halfway between Southampton and Portsmouth, which together house 120 businesses with around 10,000 employees.

It is hoped that Wiggle’s presence there, with servicing starting at £35, will encourage more people to cycle to work, and it also hopes to attract custom from the local community.

“Our website is popular with cycle enthusiasts and those new to commuting on two wheels,” said Wiggle’s new business development director, Stephen McAlister.

“However, we want to expand our services beyond products sales to after care and maintenance work to improve our overall offer to customers and to do this we need a physical space.

“We want to ensure that this service is where people are already working and so a partnership with Goodman – which has an extensive network of business parks across the country – was an ideal way to enter the market.

“Like Wiggle, Goodman is committed to improving the health and wellbeing of its customers and so this partnership seemed like a natural fit,” he added.

Initiatives Goodman has undertaken to encourage people working at its parks to get healthy and active include providing fitness classes, giving away fresh fruit, and putting on events related to cycling and sustainable travel.

Its property services director, Richard Potter, said: “There has been a huge increase in the popularity of cycling in recent years, a large part of which is down to the government’s Cycle to Work scheme.

“With summer just around the corner and all the excitement building up around the Tour de France’s stint in Yorkshire, this seemed like the perfect time to launch the service.

“We are keen to see people who work at companies located in our business parks take up cycling.

For people who are new to cycling, bike maintenance can be a little daunting, and difficult to fit around their busy working lives.

“As part of our ongoing commitment to offering sustainable travel options to all our customers, we hope that our joint initiative with Wiggle will make bike repairs, and therefore cycling, more accessible.”

He added: “We want our business parks to be enjoyable places to work and making it easy for people to stay fit and healthy is one of the best ways to do this.

“Our health and wellbeing initiatives are proving popular with businesses and their staff and we hope to roll out more services in this area throughout the year.”

Wiggle isn’t the first cycling brand to have been founded as an online-only company and then set up a physical presence, although for the time being, retail doesn’t appear to be on the agenda; Rapha now has five permanent Cycle Clubs worldwide – in London, New York, San Francisco, Sydney and Tokyo – plus a pop-up on Mallorca.

The brand plans to open in Manchester, Amsterdam and Los Angeles this year, and last November its co-founder and chief executive, Simon Mottram, explained to BBC News why it had set up the stores.

"The Cycle Clubs are conceived as meeting places for road racing fans and great places for like-minded people to hang out," he said.

"Rapha is the host of these places and it's great for us to engineer connections between customers, not just between the customer and brand."

Mottram, who worked in brand consultancy before setting up Rapha in 2004, went on: "It's hard for brands to engage with their customers in a purely digital way.

"That may be fine if your business is only about conducting simple transactions, but if you want to truly connect with a customer and create a deep, ongoing relationship with them, then a physical experience is invaluable.

"Many people like to shop in bricks and mortar locations. There is the possibility of theatre and human interaction there - these things shouldn't be underestimated."

Mottram said that a shift was happening in the retail landscape, "with brands having a core website that covers the majority of purchases, with a number of high-touch, physical 'brand experiences' on top of that platform - allowing the customer to really engage with the brand."

14 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

It's all very slick and cleverly done - at least in Rapha's case; but you can see why this sort of thing is taking off. The kind of 'brand loyalty' and associations that businesses are looking to develop in people's minds can't really flourish if the said brand is nothing more than a single website floating around in the corners of the internet. It's like trying to get people to be friends with a ghost. I'm sure Rapha's 'Cycle Clubs' have helped establish them no end as purveyors of not just cycle clothing, but 'the spirit of cycling itself'. Which is probably why they can get away with charging so bloody much. They sell lifestyles as much as clothing. And they're irritatingly good at it.

On a less cynical, businessy note; there are certainly advantages in having both the conveniences of 'try before you buy' and a near infinite online catalogue to potentially choose from.

I wonder how the market changes will affect LBSs... This connection between online and instore seems to be the way things are going, so I wonder how they'll fit in... perhaps they'll become more 'online based', just as the online companies are becoming more 'instore based'. I don't know. Regardless, I expect/hope the 'cycling boom' (if it continues) can keep them busy and active, even if if some of the market share becomes increasingly online based.

Oh, and after having done all that Rapha comparison, I don't actually think Wiggle and Rapha are particularly alike as businesses. Wiggle are a bit like a general supermarket, whereas Rapha is a bit... I dunno, Heinz - a single brand. So I'm sure there will be differences between how the two operate.

posted by Quince [127 posts]
4th April 2014 - 21:32

like this
Like (34)

Quince wrote:
Oh, and after having done all that Rapha comparison, I don't actually think Wiggle and Rapha are particularly alike as businesses. Wiggle are a bit like a general supermarket, whereas Rapha is a bit... I dunno, Heinz - a single brand. So I'm sure there will be differences between how the two operate.

I'd be thinking more Sainsbury's (where you can after all buy a tin of Heinz beans) versus a Louis Vuitton or Prada Wink

I've worked a lot in retail/luxury goods analysis, and from when it started, I thought Rapha had really nailed its audience - when I found out Simon Mottram had that consultancy background, including working with luxury goods brands, it made sense.

And yes, it's an entirely different business to Wiggle, but I think it emphasises the point that once you have your customer base online, there are opportunities to grow further offline on a select basis and further build the brand.

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8006 posts]
4th April 2014 - 21:44

like this
Like (25)

That'll see a few LBS in those areas struggling or giving up completely. As soon as someone that big moves into your market, you are screwed.

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8798 posts]
4th April 2014 - 21:46

like this
Like (32)

good to see wiggle expending but its a shame there will be no parts available to buy, lots of locals hate the fact that we have one of the uk's largest online bike companies on our door step yet they wont allow us to collect orders and we have to wait days for items to be delivered via royal mail etc..

even if they charged £1 per collection to pay for a staff member to man a collection desk i think everyone would be happy to pay it.

there are no shops that stock good selection of road parts at decent prices in portsmouth and its frustrating when you realise u need something in a hurry so you can go for a ride at the weekend yet you cant get the part you need that day.

posted by kev-s [32 posts]
4th April 2014 - 23:31

like this
Like (48)

Yes, I didn't mean to criticise the article for linking the two together, it was a very valid point to make. I was trying to reel in my own comment which has gone off on a bit of a tangent about Rapha (as, I'm afraid, will this).

And yes, it does make perfect sense. It's produced a company that irritatingly difficult to hate on any legitimate grounds (although that doesn't stop people from trying). They have completely nailed the market, which must have been quite a challenge for a new business entering into an industry so steeped in tradition.

It's been quite an inventive and elegant bit of market nailing though. The business seems to have carved quite a unique hole for itself, rather than just trying to squeeze up alongside other established brands. It's spread itself neatly around the 'sport' and the 'lifestyle' elements of cycling, painted the whole thing in a neat, elegant colour scheme, filled in the gaps with soft-focus lens effects and softer-spoken poetry, and then wrapped it up in a tidy musette and let people pass it around. The coffee shop, online social presence, and organised rides keep the business dynamic and connected. As real as it is aspirational. It reminds be of bees spreading pollen. A flower so alluring that the bees can't help returning and spreading ever more pollen as they do. It's quite neat really.

Anyway, I'm sure this site has seen enough talk about Rapha in its time (which is really testament to its effectiveness), so I wont continue any longer.

Oh, and you're right about Prada - it's a touch more accurate than any Baked Beans analogies I can think of.

posted by Quince [127 posts]
5th April 2014 - 0:58

like this
Like (25)

Gkam84 wrote:
That'll see a few LBS in those areas struggling or giving up completely. As soon as someone that big moves into your market, you are screwed.

Take heart, Gkam. Although the likes of Wiggle can sell parts cheap, they cannot possibly compete with rates charged by an internet savvy home based mechanic, a price positioning concept with which they are no doubt familiar Cool

"Hey..... Let's be visible out there."

Neil753's picture

posted by Neil753 [451 posts]
5th April 2014 - 1:38

like this
Like (31)

I wouldn't bet on that Neil, they have the infrastructure in place already, they have tools beyond what they could ever need.

So all the need to do is employ some decent mechanics, cover their wages and thats it. Their overheads will already be factored into their existing costs.

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8798 posts]
5th April 2014 - 1:46

like this
Like (29)

Neil753 wrote:
Gkam84 wrote:
That'll see a few LBS in those areas struggling or giving up completely. As soon as someone that big moves into your market, you are screwed.

Take heart, Gkam. Although the likes of Wiggle can sell parts cheap, they cannot possibly compete with rates charged by an internet savvy home based mechanic, a price positioning concept with which they are no doubt familiar Cool

tbh there is only one bike shop around here that really specializes in repairs and has a large and well equipped workshop and that is velocity bikes but there stock of parts is poor imo, most if not all the other shops just sell a wide range of different style bikes/parts and do general repairs etc.. so i cant see wiggles repair centre impacting greatly on other local shops

Portsmouth seems to have quite a few general bikes shops but no real specialist ones which can be frustrating when your after a specific road bike
part in a rush

posted by kev-s [32 posts]
5th April 2014 - 7:25

like this
Like (20)

I live in fareham and use wiggle a lot for parts, I also feel the pain of not being about to collect directly. That said I also use a great local chain of bike shops, solent cycles. I'll continue to us wiggle online but everything else will I'll be going to solent, they give great service and have fare prices.

Housecathst's picture

posted by Housecathst [48 posts]
5th April 2014 - 20:48

like this
Like (21)

The best LBS, and the one most likely to survive probably doesn't sell any or many complete bikes, but will stock a massive array of parts (including obsolete ones) and have a 'can do' workshop with a reasonable labour rate. They will also do full custom builds, rather than a stock if boxed bikes.

The big guys just can't compete, it's too specialist.

All Campag

posted by Flying Scot [522 posts]
6th April 2014 - 9:19

like this
Like (12)

The problem with stocking a massive selection of parts and obsolete ones is you will only ever sell a few of this or that.

Financially that just doesn't make sense at all. This is why most LBS only stock a bare minimum and order things in as needed.

There is no point in having thousands tied up in stock that you are unsure of being able to sell, it is just a way to go bust quicker.

I agree with doing custom builds, must from experience, most custom builds come on the back of the frames and bikes you already stock and people wanting to change things to suit themselves. That way, they have a test ride of the bike and then say, I like the way it rides, but I want X wheel set, Y handlebars and Z gearing....

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8798 posts]
6th April 2014 - 10:32

like this
Like (9)

Flying Scot wrote:
The best LBS, and the one most likely to survive probably doesn't sell any or many complete bikes, but will stock a massive array of parts (including obsolete ones) and have a 'can do' workshop with a reasonable labour rate. They will also do full custom builds, rather than a stock if boxed bikes.

The big guys just can't compete, it's too specialist.

Yep, that sounds specialist alright. Three factors which massively drive up costs (high stock, high customisation, low utilisation rates for a 'can do' workshop attitude) Several unstated but implied high-cost qualities like excellent product knowledge and personal service. And the key ingredient for success is 'reasonable prices', aka restricted revenues. So high costs and low revenues for the winning business.

This, of course, explains why those local sports shops with expert advice who can restring your racket for you on a Friday night before the tournament are thriving while Mike Ashley's 'Sports Direct' retail barns never took off.

Oh, wait....

posted by Malaconotus [39 posts]
6th April 2014 - 11:47

like this
Like (17)

Many sections of the bike industry must be quite gleefully anticipating the mainstream adoption of things like electronic shifting - high value items (thus appealing to the affluent) that need specialized knowledge and diagnostic (*other atheist welshmen are available.....) equipment.

posted by allez neg [4 posts]
6th April 2014 - 14:06

like this
Like (12)

Many of us are PAINFULLY awaiting the mainstream adoption of electronic shifting, having already done a course on them, I've just to fix any Wink

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8798 posts]
6th April 2014 - 17:49

like this
Like (12)