MINNEAPOLIS, MN (BRAIN)—A few good weekends can make or break the season for retailers in Minneapolis-St. Paul. And thanks to some sunny weekends this spring, retailers visited on BRAIN’s Twin Cities Dealer Tour yesterday reported a strong start to their selling season.
“We’re one of the most seasonal markets—though I haven’t been to Buffalo, New York,” said Erik Saltvold, owner of Erik’s Bike Shop, with 13 stores in greater Minneapolis. Saltvold said his business does the majority of its bike sales from March through September. “I’ve always felt we were more weather reliant than economic reliant,” he said.
That belief may prove true for retailers in this northern city, who reported that sales through May are holding steady compared to last year.
Ron Kadera, owner of County Cycles, an old-school bike shop in Roseville said at the end of April his sales were up just slightly above last year. “You can do the same amount of business in a busy April weekend as in the month of January,” said Kadera, of the good sales month.
Sales last month slowed, however, and as a result he said sales through May would even out to a zero percent change. “I think zero is good. It would take the economy to take a lot bigger nosedive for us to go out of business,” said Kadera, who has survived 28 years in business.
Kadera said one boost to his business is the commuter market, which has seen an upswing over the past couple of years. “It’s wonderful for me because it’s kind of what I had thought about 30 years ago when I started the business,” he said.
Just down the road in a strip mall in Roseville, Dave Bole said his store, Bicycle Chain, is off single digits from its five-year average. “It’s always hard to go backwards,” he said, coming off two years of strong growth.
Nonetheless, his gut tells him sales are going to be OK this year. Bole said he still sees strength in the commuter market and enthusiasts who place value on cycling are still coming in.
Dan Casebeer, owner of Grand Performance, a performance road shop that occupies a former corner grocery store, said he sees continued strength at the high-end thanks to his dedicated customer. Casebeer said Grand Performance is up $50,000 over last year, which was its best year in terms of dollars. He attributed continued growth in a slow economy to a client that buys a bike over a car or household appliance. “We’re not selling to the masses; we’re selling to specific customers,” he said.
Still, Casebeer is being cautious about orders and is trying to sell through his deep stock of accessories such as handlebars and stems, which overflow in his store basement.
Saltvold, whose stores appeal to a wider consumer base, said he has seen a downward shift in price points with softness at the high-end. He has also seen a shift to commuter bike sales as consumers look for ways to save money. As a result, he said sales of pavement bikes have been stronger than expected, as have sales of racks, fenders and bags.
Like Casebeer, Saltvold is running leaner on parts and accessories this season. But he has maintained deep inventory of bikes due to the seasonality of the business. With the short selling cycle, it’s essential to be prepared to supply his stores with bikes when they need them.
“On the bike side, it’s hard to be streamlined,” Saltvold said. “We’re concerned about being out of product. If you miss a couple of weekends because you’re out of product, you miss the season.”
Photo: County Cycles owner Ron Kadera. Photo taken by Jake Orness/Giant Bicycles