Evans Cycles has been in the news a fair bit recently. The recognised brand has had some serious financial challenges of late. It’s been into administration after profit and debt issues, been ‘rescued’ by multi billionaire Mike Ashley, and then it was announced that a fair few of evans stores were profit making but nearly half would have to close at some point. Not great news, and a bit of a rollercoaster for the staff involved.
Quite exactly where the Sports Direct owner will take Evans I don’t know, but there’s a few things that he’s keen on doing to help his high street brands. He’s proposed a 20% web sales tax, where online retailers would have to pay a 20% levy on all web sales if less than 80% of their total company revenue came from high street outlets. This would put his retail conglomerate in a stronger position with online retailers hiking prices to cover costs, it would also drive big online retailers to open high street stores to try to avoid the tax entirely. That’s the theory. I don’t think this idea would wash, and certainly wouldn’t be backed by many retailers.
What I believe has happened to retail is something completely different, it’s not the difference in overheads it’s the levelling of education between retailer and consumer. The internet has allowed more people to become informed than ever before, to equal levels or above those working in retail. Specialist knowledge is just not needed to ring a t shirt through a till (How many supermarkets have scrapped half of their tills in favour of self serve?) but it is to actually sell something to someone. Yet the retailers have continued to employ minimum wage earners and not educate them in product or sales, essentially putting their staff on the back foot when most customers walk in. I hate to admit it but there’s few bike shops I can walk into now and not be at least as knowledgeable about the product as the junior sales staff (making up the majority of staff). If retail is to survive it needs to be an experience, where there is value placed on that human element (both staff and customer side). That’s what’s being lost here, that’s what people pay for and want to belong to. This competent staff issue is rife in trade and service industries, including the one I work in, finding the right staff is hard. The sales are there to be had but it the ability of top driven staff that win business. Although it’s always been that way where specific knowledge is needed, and where retailers have failed to wake up. If you allow your staff and experience to become something that can be replaced by a computer then get ready for it to happen.
Anyway, back to Evans. A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting the Havant store to exchange a Christmas present due to a size issue. The store was near brand new, well laid out, and with plenty of stock. Another thing it had was decent staff, what I felt was the right mix of knowledge and corporate identity. I probed the staff a little about the companies current situation and they all seemed buoyant. Stock had increased and new models were coming through. I even had a little tour of the clothing department with one of the guys and he was very competent in selling the in house brand Kalf. Speaking of which this seemed good value for money, especially seeing as it comes out of the same factory as Rapha. Yes that might be a bombshell for you, I don’t know maybe not, but I could recognise the fabrics and finish on the bib shorts and jerseys a mile off. Backed up by a member of staff as well……. it’s all about half the price.
Then there were these………..
I love a BMC. I think they are one of the best looking road bikes out there and would love to try one. Im sure the engineering would be there to back up the aesthetics.
The other good news to report is that there were no Donnay, Dunlop, Slazenger, Muddy Fox, or Firetrap bikes or accessories in the shop! Sports Direct haven’t infected it yet….. but what I do hope happens is that sports direct start selling a decent range of own brand cycling gear to make it more mainstream and available. More cyclists is what we want!
Anyway, I really hope Evans manage to stick around in more or less the same format, retain their brands, and not muddy their offer with cheap tat. I hope they don’t close too many stores and I hope the staff have prosperous futures. Lets not see another brand go to waste due to short term profit and poor foresight.