How to Make a Bike Shop More Appealing to Women

This was the topic of the seminar that I gave at the CABDA Expo with Vanessa Buccella, co-owner at BFF Bikes. In 2014, 62% of women bike owners did not make a single trip to a bike store. Not once! That is worrisome to a lot of bike stores, especially as male ridership decreases. Vanessa and I thought it would be helpful to share our experiences as the owner of a bike shop focused on women customers and maker of bike accessories for women riders, respectfully. This blog post is an overview of what we talked about.

Image from @brentknepper

Did you know that between 2011 and 2012, the number of females riding increased 8%, while the number of males decreased 6% during the same period? Not to mention that more than half of adult bike owners are women and that women's participation in bike commuting alone has grown 56% from 2007-2011. (Source

Yet, at the same time that ridership has increased, the number of bike shops has decreased by 35% from 2000 to 2013. (Source) There are many ideas about why that could be happening, but one thing that is probably not helping is the likelihood of women to go into bike shops to buy things. 

Obviously this is of concern to the bike industry, prompting the League of American Bicyclists to conduct a study in 2015, entitled Bike Shops for Everyone, which specifically focused on make bike retail more welcoming to women.  The first half of the presentation that Vanessa and I gave drew largely from this material.

League of American Bicyclists Bike Shops for EveryoneRead the entire report here!

What are some ways that bike shops can attract more women customers? The League's report outlines Seven Keys to Success:

BFF Bike Racing Team

BFF Bike Racing Team

1. Sponsor women's racing teams and events because part of the appeal of bicycling for women is the community and the feeling of being a part of something larger than yourself. The camaraderie keeps women invested in the sport and loyal to your store.

2. Challenge assumptions about women and bicycling and confront sexist behavior head-on. There are plenty of horror stories of how women have been talked down to in bike shops, so make sure your staff is trained to be welcoming (as in, greet the customer in a nice way, not ignore her, or grunt in her direction) and to not make assumptions about what your female customers want. Not everyone woman wants a hybrid bicycle and not every woman is a newbie to bicycling.

Women in Bike Shops

(Image Source)

3. Hire more women. It will do the industry good across the board to have a better gender balance, but in bike shops in particular, it is good practice to have more women on staff. Not only will it help your female customers feel like they belong but it will give them someone to talk to about more personal things, like chamois cream, or how a certain garment fits.

Women Bike Clinic(Image Source)

4. Host women-only instructional clinics and shopping events. Many women prefer learning in a women's only environment which is often perceived as being less judgmental. It also arms them with information so that they feel good about their purchases, making them more likely to make future purchases with you.

BFF Bikes

BFF Bikes

5. Create stores that are welcoming & inclusive. Women enjoy the activity of shopping, so create a space that even non-cyclists will feel comfortable hanging out (and spending money) in!

6. Invest in a store's aesthetic appeal. This one goes along with #6.

7. Commit to high standards of data collection at point-of-sale. A less glamorous suggestion but helpful to understand what is working and what is not, and to better know the differences in purchase behavior between your male and female customers.

The second half of the presentation was devoted to giving ideas about how to create stores that are welcoming and inclusive, and improving a store's aesthetic appeal, through merchandising. You can see all of these photos and more on our Pinterest board devoted to Merchandising Ideas.

• Tell a Story - Set the Scene. Put like products together - don't necessarily have apparel in one area and baskets in another.

Merchandising that tells a story

• Don't be Afraid to Spell It Out. You chose your products for a certain reason, make it super clear to her why they go together (and offer a discount if she purchases all of them?)

Merchandising Ideas

• Don't be Afraid to Copy Ideas You See Elsewhere. Here are two examples of displays that Vanessa saw and recreated for her shop.

• Shoppable Selections. Display the options in a manner that is visually appealing and lets your customers see her options. Train your staff to understand why you have the assortment that you do so that they can guide your customer to the right purchase. Photo on the left is Gladys Bike's Saddle Library.

• Engagement Ideas. Even if your customers don't purchase anything on a given day, make it easy for her to share her great experience in your store with her friends on social media. Display your social media handles prominently and invite her to take photos of parts of your store that she likes. Something that's worked well for Vanessa at BFF Bikes? The #NewBikeDay tag on photos of customers with their new bikes.

• Creative Displays. Use what you've got! Ideas for bike parts and packaging that you have in your shop already as merchandising displays.

• Don't forget about the dressing room! If you're selling apparel, you must have a dressing room, and a bathroom doesn't count. These photos of BFF Bike's dressing room show the full-length mirror, a place to sit, and a place to hang clothes.

After the presentation, we had a lively session of Q & A, with dealers in the audience sharing things that have worked in their shop to attract more women shoppers. 

Vanessa brought her son to the presentation, which gave us the opportunity to talk about some other issues that women tend to deal with the male shoppers generally don't. Women still do the majority of child care and running errands, which means that having a child-friendly place in your shop will make it easier for her to shop there. Vanessa cited the sofa in BFF Bikes as a good place to let children hang out.

Vanessa's son Joey, all decked out for his first bike trade show

The CABDA (Chicagoland Area Bicycle Dealers Association) Expo is a industry-only event where independent bike store can meet with their vendors and suppliers and check-out new products. After holding the expo for many years, CABDA took a long hiatus, and finally started up the Expo again in 2015.

Your presenters:

Left: Maria Boustead of Po Campo; Right: Vanessa Buccella of BFF Bikes

 Other blog posts you make like:

Why We Bike: My Speech at the Women's Bike Summit
Rising Tides Lifting Ships

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