“In 2013, my brothers started with twelve bicycles, which we bought at a cheap place. We started with very simple brands, because you do not just become a dealer of a large bicycle brand. And from there we moved on. But what really makes you great is the service. We are here in a new residential area, the best advertising we get is word of mouth. It really knows us here. Everyone knew us within two or three years. Shortly after, we also took over a building in Zoetermeer from a bicycle workshop that went bankrupt. But in a short time we have that company sky high created. There was a Chinese in this building in 2016, we stripped and renovated the whole building from top to bottom. Step by step, we also got more and more brands in our range. In the hallways it sounded: you have to be with those guys. ”
How did you ever ‘get into cycling’?
“My middle brother started working in the bicycle industry in Leiden when he was fifteen. He did a lot of tinkering with bikes at home, liked it and really learned the cycling trade. He inspired my other brother, and my other brother infected me with the bicycle virus again: now we’re all in it. At one point, the ball began to roll. We now run three companies, and together we have twenty employees. ”
The business went well, and then came the corona. How was it for you, for example, have you been shut down?
“First we were allowed to stay open. Soon there was a run on bikes. People bought bikes as if it were nothing. At first we thought there would be a dip in sales, but it was just the opposite. People were afraid that parts were no longer available and started buying. Besides, people suddenly had nothing to do anymore. Nothing had to go on anymore and the gyms were also closed so people went in droves by bike. We only had to close in December, in 2020 and 2021. Only our showroom, but the workshop remained open. ”
(The text continues below the image)
It was not good for sales, how did you handle it?
“People called because they wanted to buy a bicycle. It was not possible in the store, so we drove around with vans to the customer. We took a laptop, threw some bikes in the back of the bus and drove on the road. In their living room I made the order. Or they came to us, then we stood out on the sidewalk. It was allowed. “
So it made you take a creative approach to running a business?
“Yes. Other bike shops did not want it and thought the risk was too great. But we thought: it is better to do something than wring your thumbs all day. We have also significantly updated, improved and expanded our webshop. Because the showroom was closed, we also had more people available to do so.Many bike shops do have webshops, but you only see a picture of the bike and the price.We started thinking: what does the customer want? How can you tempt the customer to buy a bike digitally? The improved website really helped: Normally our clientele is limited to Alphen aan den Rijn and Zoetermeer, now we received orders from all over the Netherlands – from Friesland to Brabant. In fact, it was a happy accident. The corona crisis has sharpened us. We have found other ways to sell bikes. For example, customers could also pay online so they could buy a bike contactlessly. These are things we have started using because of the corona. “
Still, the store had to close for a while and you had staff on staff. Were you forced to fire (some) people?
“Luckily not. Of course we had a hard time. Spring and summer are high season for us, in December you hardly sell bikes. Of course we also had a dip in the number of sales, but it’s about how to handle it. We have changed the contact. You have stress for a few weeks. But at some point you ask yourself: what can we do, what can we change? We have never been unemployed. “
(The text continues below the image)
Have you ever worried about the survival of your business?
“In the days of December, you have moments where you ask yourself: how are we going to do this? But the repairs and the orders continued. In fact, we never got to the point where I thought: we’ll never get it done. Never.”
Has your company emerged stronger from the crisis?
“Still. In the first wave of the crisis, many bicycle companies stopped buying new bicycles as they feared they would not lose them. We continued to buy. Our warehouse is now full of bicycles. And now there is a huge scarcity of bicycles and parts, so we take advantage of it. There is a huge race on bicycles, including batteries. We have them in stock. The one who has stock now has power. For without stock, the customer will look further. We bought in on the right time. It was hard to swallow, because you have to pay for those bikes after all. It’s exciting because it involves a lot of money. And then you have to sell them. But it’s also the risk of the profession. People often think that they just buy a bike, but there is a whole process behind it that you as a customer do not see.The service is also very important.Because of the corona we have adjusted several things in our company, which has allowed us to grow enormously. ”
On the other hand, it can also be bitter: You grew strongly while stores around you were closed. Doesn’t it sit a little?
“The shoppers in the mall here are quite creative. Most stores were not really closed, and when they were closed, they found a creative way to still sell products. So the florist started selling on the street. I think entrepreneurs in Alphen aan den Rijn are very creative anyway. “
In the series The Winners and Losers of the Corona Crisis, Alphen CC makes status: How do entrepreneurs look back on the crisis, and what have they learned from it? Do you have any tips or would you like to answer? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.