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."
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.