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Guidance for an Old Bicycle Shop

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Guidance for an Old Bicycle Shop

Old 07-05-19, 03:59 AM
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Im Clueless
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Guidance for an Old Bicycle Shop

Hello,

I've recently moved to Japan from the UK for a year to help out my wife's family's cycling business after her father passed away.
I really don't have much experience with bicycles but I have a very good business sense.

The cycling shop is very well known for having an enormous variety of every different bicycle part you can possibly imagine; however, as a result of this, there is almost no room to move about in the shop.
We are looking to modernize and reduce the stock without losing the essence and character of a family run bicycle shop. Also, when people from all over the world come to the bicycle shop, they are stunned at what they can find in this bicycle treasure chest and end up taking lots of photos back with them.

Whilst the wow factor is an obvious bonus, my wife's family is also struggling to fill the knowledge gap left by her father. There are a lot of very old, classic parts that I'm sure many cyclists would trade an arm and maybe even a leg for that we just don't know what to do with; nor do we know which of them are actually classic or which are just old.

I'd very much appreciate if people could give me some guidance on what they find special about their favorite bicycle shops, what people generally shop for online and what they'd look for in a shop, and any suggestions for how we could go about managing the current inventory of old classic parts.

Obviously if anyone has anything to add other than what I've mentioned above, any input is greatly appreciated.

Kind Regards,
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Old 07-05-19, 04:24 AM
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You might want to try posting this in Classic and vintage forum where there are people with a fair amount of knowledge of old bikes. It will be hard to give advice without some idea of what the bike store has in stock.
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Old 07-05-19, 04:42 AM
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Thank you, I will try and formulate some kind of a list or spreadsheet. There is just so much!
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Old 07-05-19, 04:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Im Clueless View Post
Thank you, I will try and formulate some kind of a list or spreadsheet. There is just so much!
Start with some pics of the bike shop. The C&V crew is pretty visual.
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Old 07-05-19, 05:04 AM
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Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
Start with some pics of the bike shop. The C&V crew is pretty visual.
OP just hit 10 posts. Good timing! Pictures can now be posted.

The situation almost seems to cry out for some online marketing, maybe small scale to sell off some of the older parts. OP probably should talk to people who are knowledgeable about the practicalities of doing this in Japan. I doubt that the late owner's knowledge can be replaced, so much of this is going to have to be shifting the store to strategies the family can maintain while retaining enough of the qualities of the old store that they have the competitive benefit of the store's reputation.
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Old 07-05-19, 11:03 AM
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Seems like the challenge might be making space to have a typical retail showroom / walk in and pay for problem solving experience for new customers without entirely packaging and sterilizing away the aisles chock full of a wealth of parts that existing customers sound like they love.

Virtualizing it sort of works, though doing the equivalent of putting things on eBay probably just results in someone more knowledgeable grabbing whatever is valuable to profit off of, meaning little return to the family and loss of a resource to the community.

Maybe there's a knowledgable longtime customer who could be hired?

Last edited by UniChris; 07-08-19 at 01:24 PM.
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Old 07-05-19, 11:12 AM
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If the shop is old and well-established (as it sounds like it is), perhaps you might ask a couple long-time customers and enthusiasts to give you a little advice regarding what sorts if items are valuable and which are not. Getting parts sorted may be the biggest chore. You might also pull a number of similar parts (rear derailleurs, e.g.) and take a high quality picture of them and post that on the C&V forum. That might allow some of the pros to focus on areas that might help you. It sounds like a daunting endeavor, but it should be worth the struggle. Good luck!
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Old 07-05-19, 11:44 AM
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A shop that is doing well in Tokyo selling older and classic parts is Blue Lug. They have two shops. Have a look at their websites and get a feel for what they are doing. If you happen to be close to Tokyo, then visit the shop in person. Good luck on your new adventure.
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Old 07-05-19, 12:30 PM
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If you wish to do a purge, then E-Bay is a good way to do a purge. And, get the descriptions right, and make sure that you ship to both Europe and the USA, and you can start low, and let E-Bay set the prices.

I presume from Japan, you have a lot of Shimano and Suntour parts. Sugino?

The first thing I'd do is start to separate the parts that are mostly aluminum (tend to be more desirable) from those that are mostly steel (less desirable, but good for "commuters"). If you have prices marked on them, it will help, although it becomes a problem if the prices are 10 or 20 years old (with some stuff more valuable, and some less valuable today).

Here, used auto parts stores typically have rows of shelves with boxes organized of auto parts in the back, accessible only to staff.

Then out front, a few more common "show" items, plus things like oil, batteries, etc.

I'd anticipate a bike shop might operate similar to that, although browsing through the archives can be fun.

You're in a tight spot. Sell all of your good old stuff, and you won't have anything left (unless you can acquire buy-out lots). On the other hand, sitting on a hundred thousand worth of dead inventory can be a problem too.

Sometimes when old stores close, old inventory will pop up that nobody knew still existed.

Start with some photos.
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Old 07-05-19, 02:10 PM
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Selling the old stuff on eBay there is still a large contingent of Japanese buyers.

There are way more old bikes and old bike parts than will ever find custodians. There just aren't enough customers who know what this stuff is and also want to keep it in their homes. As for riding the old stuff, very few of us do that. On the other hand there are old parts still worth real money that ten or twenty years ago were pure dead stock, not imaginably worth the trouble of keeping. Making good guesses about what will be worth money ten or twenty or thirty years from now is impossible. What is always needed is good dry storage at low cost. What is needed next is the ability to know what you have and some ability to access it.

There is just no way to replace an old guy who had massive knowledge in his head. All across the bike business everyone is wondering what happens next as the old guard moves on. They can't keep working forever. All of us who begin to liquidate the collection quickly realize we can't find homes for these bikes. Getting money for them is not a thought, just finding someone who will have them is the challenge. Shops where we can get some work done - very few of those, and all dependent on one old guy who is not eternal.
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Old 07-08-19, 09:07 AM
  #11  
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You really can educate yourself fairly quickly.

Try some classic websites like these:

https://www.steel-vintage.com/bicycles/

https://bikespecialties.com/ Mike Barry, the owner of Bicycle Specialties, died last year, but a lot of his knowledge is on this website.

Posting here is a good start.

Also, check out these two places: https://forums.thepaceline.net/ and https://www.velocipedesalon.com/forum/index.php. Some of the most knowledgable bicycle people in the western world frequent these sites.

Finally, check out the eroica movement too. Today the market is truly worldwide.

Keep at it.
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Old 07-08-19, 12:21 PM
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If, as you say, "The cycling shop is very well known for having an enormous variety of every different bicycle part you can possibly imagine" then those parts are, in fact, the "essence and character" of your shop. If you liquidate the "every different bicycle part you can possibly imagine" then you are losing the very thing that makes your shop unique. Then it would be just another ordinary family run bicycle shop. If you want to continue running the business, then you should keep the parts, create a good inventory of exactly what you have, then creatively display some of the gems that bring people from all over the world to your shop, store the rest of the parts safely and organized so that you get rid of the clutter, but can find a part easily when a customer inquires about a hard-to-find part. The rare parts didn't end up in the shop by accident, they were sought after and collected, which I think you should continue to do, as practical, to preserve the reputation, essence and character of the shop. The rare parts might not sell quickly, but they are irreplaceable and, to the right customer, valuable. Having the rare parts will help bring customers to your business and help you sell the more common parts as well as service. Good Luck.
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Old 07-08-19, 12:40 PM
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Listing your inventory for sale on auction sites such as ebay will help you determine what is "classic" and what is "just old". The rare and valuable "classic" parts will be scooped up by your competitors, resellers, rebuilders and collectors who know their value and you will be left with the "just old" parts. Do you want to be a family run bike shop that is known for "just old" parts?
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Old 07-08-19, 01:04 PM
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I think the people here who are posting essentially to keep things as they are have really underestimated the loss of knowledge that can't be replaced. It isn't a matter of whether the old parts should be sold, that is the business they are in. The questions are whether they can connect the product to the people who will pay what the parts are worth, and whether the store is going to be able to resupply after the parts are sold. I imagine the old man's knowledge of sourcing was encyclopedic, and just hope they can figure it out from records, friends of their father, etc.

If you're going to be the store that has the parts no one else does, you have to find supplies of those parts. If they can't do that, they may have to become a different sort of store if they want to stay in business.
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Old 07-08-19, 01:11 PM
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Originally Posted by StillBiking@71 View Post
If, as you say, "The cycling shop is very well known for having an enormous variety of every different bicycle part you can possibly imagine" then those parts are, in fact, the "essence and character" of your shop.

If you want to continue running the business, then you should keep the parts, create a good inventory of exactly what you have, then creatively display some of the gems that bring people from all over the world to your shop, store the rest of the parts.
I believe the purpose of the business is to sell parts for profit.
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Old 07-08-19, 01:13 PM
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For Ebay, they do pretty well with pushing results to customers searching for things.........but, a bad description or title can mean lots less money.

I scored an item or two on there because the item was totally wrongly listed in one way or another or the description was very poor.
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Old 07-08-19, 01:40 PM
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How id the shop do financially under your father-in-law? How is it doing now? What sort of help do you have?
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Old 07-08-19, 02:54 PM
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Yeah, that's what I meant, keep them until you can sell them for a profit. As opposed to dumping them to remove the clutter. Thanks for clearing that up.
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Old 07-08-19, 11:58 PM
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
I think the people here who are posting essentially to keep things as they are have really underestimated the loss of knowledge that can't be replaced. It isn't a matter of whether the old parts should be sold, that is the business they are in. The questions are whether they can connect the product to the people who will pay what the parts are worth, and whether the store is going to be able to resupply after the parts are sold. I imagine the old man's knowledge of sourcing was encyclopedic, and just hope they can figure it out from records, friends of their father, etc.

If you're going to be the store that has the parts no one else does, you have to find supplies of those parts. If they can't do that, they may have to become a different sort of store if they want to stay in business.
Hi Livedarklions,

That is very true. We are trying to keep 1 or 2 of each old classic part just incase a customer comes knocking, but realistically we can`t offer advice for these parts or help with their service due to the lack of knowledge we have about these things. I imagine that if a customer comes to the shop and buys a product, they`d also expect the shop to be able to help them fit/service that part as well.

My wife`s older brother is also in the process of taking over the shop and he`d like to bring it into the 21st century with modern road bikes and mountain bikes. However, this does riase the issue of holding spare classic parts for the customers who previously bought classic touring bikes etc off her dad who would build them.
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Old 07-09-19, 02:06 AM
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Hey OP, why not contact Jan Heine at Rene Herse bicycles? He often travels to Japan as his wife is Japanese and he is very knowledgable when it comes to classic bikes. Maybe he, or someone else, could help you to find a person who can do an inventory and give you an appraisal. There are several bike builders in Japan and many knowledgeable people, but it sort of depends on what the parts are for. Are they for classic French randonneurs? Kieren racers? Italian racing bikes? Once you find out what type of bike the parts are for, you can find an expert who can help you through the process of categorizing and appraising.

You may be sitting on a gold mine, in which case, putting things on eBay etc, without knowing their true value to collectors, may be a huge mistake, in that you might ask too much for some things and not enough for others. Most people in the classic bike world would go crazy to be able to check out the collection, you are in an enviable position, IF you can find the right person to help with an appraisal.

https://www.renehersecycles.com/

https://janheine.wordpress.com/
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Old 07-09-19, 04:51 AM
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Originally Posted by PDKL45 View Post
Hey OP, why not contact Jan Heine at Rene Herse bicycles? He often travels to Japan as his wife is Japanese and he is very knowledgable when it comes to classic bikes. Maybe he, or someone else, could help you to find a person who can do an inventory and give you an appraisal. There are several bike builders in Japan and many knowledgeable people, but it sort of depends on what the parts are for. Are they for classic French randonneurs? Kieren racers? Italian racing bikes? Once you find out what type of bike the parts are for, you can find an expert who can help you through the process of categorizing and appraising.

You may be sitting on a gold mine, in which case, putting things on eBay etc, without knowing their true value to collectors, may be a huge mistake, in that you might ask too much for some things and not enough for others. Most people in the classic bike world would go crazy to be able to check out the collection, you are in an enviable position, IF you can find the right person to help with an appraisal.

https://www.renehersecycles.com/

https://janheine.wordpress.com/

Great idea! Also, there might be someone willing to buy it for a fair price as a lot. They have to basically reboot the store, and this could raise a lot of capital to do it.
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Old 07-09-19, 05:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Im Clueless View Post
Hi Livedarklions,

That is very true. We are trying to keep 1 or 2 of each old classic part just incase a customer comes knocking, but realistically we can`t offer advice for these parts or help with their service due to the lack of knowledge we have about these things. I imagine that if a customer comes to the shop and buys a product, they`d also expect the shop to be able to help them fit/service that part as well.

My wife`s older brother is also in the process of taking over the shop and he`d like to bring it into the 21st century with modern road bikes and mountain bikes. However, this does riase the issue of holding spare classic parts for the customers who previously bought classic touring bikes etc off her dad who would build them.
Wow, this sounds like he ran an amazing shop. Was this pretty much a one-man operation or are there any employees who might be able to help?
@PDKL45 has given you really great advice, I didn't know about the Japan connection, but Jan Heine would know more about this than almost anybody.
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Old 07-09-19, 05:44 AM
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Understanding the inventory and being able to help customers is very important. However the most important factor is the staff of the shop listening to customers and treating them well. If you don't do that, eventually things go downhill. You may have to get customers to help you find what they need. If the reputation of having lots of odd parts, selling them on line will not help. Typically small shops make very little money. Analyze this before doing anything. it may not be worth it. Especially if you change the focus of the shop. That will drive old customers away. Understanding what the customers want is very important. Much more than selling old inventory, if you want to keep the business running.
Knowledge and attitude is what I would look for in choosing a favorite shop. The first thing you sell is your self.

Changing the reputation of a shop from hard to find parts, to new bikes, will likely not work, unless there are a lot of walk ins for new customers. If there is a lot of traffic on foot, car, and bike customers coming in all the time, it may work.
What is your 5 year business plan?

Last edited by 2manybikes; 07-09-19 at 05:55 AM.
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Old 07-11-19, 11:14 AM
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Create two businesses out of one. The vintage pieces need to be gone through with a knowledgeable eye and sorted as valuable vintage or just standard old spare parts. This stash of parts can certainly be pared down as how many vintage commuter bikes are still operating in your part of Japan? All the vintage pieces go off site and are sold electronically online. The brick and mortar site is now free to update and sell more modern, marketable bikes and service.

Walk-ins to the store looking for certain parts can be paired up with them using a well thought out database, and can pick up at the store the next day.
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