Thursday, August 27, 2009

One retailer's perspective

An entry from Paul @ Helo Velo in Canada.

A small (or any size) retailer has many tough decisions. When stocking things to sell, there is stuff that is a sure fire sell and others that represent a high value to you as a professional in your particular industry, but may not move very quickly. For me, in cycling, the former are bicycle tubes and the latter are saddles. The high-value items align with an element of my passionate philosophy but are not clear winners on the surface (due to investment cost). Here is an example:

The ISM saddle. To some this is an ungainly piece of bike equipment that looks very non-traditional. Those who ride it look like they have a problem with their groin. And for anyone who has read a little Middle-English, groin issues are not good. However, the discerning customer, who is passionately involved in their sport, believes that love (for their bicycle) does not need to hurt (in spite of whatever the rock band Nazareth has to say).

I know this is the highest performing saddle in existence. It allows you optimal positioning and deals with many of the comfort issues associated with bicycles. I can position someone on this saddle fore or aft, female or male. Float over the saddle or stick to it. Here is the dilemma for me as a small retailer:

They are expensive: 1) Because of design exclusivity and 2) Because they are still not as popular as other brands. But I tell ya, this is the best saddle in existence. We can put you at a virtual seat tube angle of 82 degrees in your aerobars or slack at 72, nose up on your track pursuit bike. This saddle works, and the other application specific iterations are solid as well. Sure, some of them look like inflatable donuts you buy to relieve back-door issues but they are purpose built. When I first started in cycling in Canada, I was the only retailer stocking these saddles. It cost me a lot to do this (as of August 2009 the ISM Race retails for $240), but I knew their value and so I invested in the brand. And now I can barely keep them in stock. This is not just because they are the best saddle out there, but because I will always do the positioning work with someone to dial it in right. And I guess, that was the next lesson for me: #2) Products support services (TBC).

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