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Some Specialized dealers say they'll make the most of it

Published January 27, 2022

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (BRAIN) — Kent Cranford, the owner of Motion Makers bike shop here, said the more he thinks about Specialized's new consumer-direct sales channel for bikes, the more accepting he is.

"I was fairly upset at first, but having discussions with my staff about it, we know they've already been shipping D2C with equipment since 2001 or so and then kids bikes and frame sets for the last two to three years and we never feel like we've lost a sale or had to deal with a customer that bought that way," he told BRAIN on Thursday.

"Specialized is probably the highest priced product in the bike market right now and if someone's willing to pay that price, why wouldn't they want the premium service that comes with it. It's not like they're discounting because of the lack of a middleman like YT or Canyon.

"My biggest concern is their lack of understanding of our cost of doing business and the margin reduction that they're doing to us," he said.

Dan Hughes said the program could be a challenge to his business, Lawrence, Kansas's Sunflower Outdoor and Bike Shop, which has been a Specialized dealer for more than 25 years.

"We are trying to figure out how to lean into it and use it to make a connection with our customers," he told BRAIN on Thursday. "The energy we would spend on wringing our hands and gnashing our teeth is better spent figuring out how to make this work for us."

Hughes said Sunflower, which is a Tier 1 Specialized dealer, is prepared to take on the Specialized Delivery option, which provides dealers with 75% of the margin they would get on the sale of a bike in their store. Sunflower has a "fledgling" delivery service already, he said.

Several other dealers that BRAIN spoke with this week asked to remain anonymous, in part because one of their biggest concerns about the new program is whether there will be enough bikes to go around, and who will get them. Making public comments critical of Specialized might not help them get the bikes they want.

"I’m a glass half-full guy," said one. "I’m going to say it’s good for me. Specialized in its history has conducted business in a manner that a lot of people don’t feel great about. But they make great products and you kinda have to go along.

"When something like this happens, guess what? You kinda have to figure out … It’s us the retailers who are getting kicked in the teeth, so are you going to sit there and keep getting kicked in the teeth, or are you going to change?" he added.

Another retailer said he was curious to know how much inventory Specialized will allocate to the consumer-direct channel. "It's an interesting time to do this: availability is already poor, and now they add another channel. I already have a hard time getting bike inventory," he said.

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