Bike Shops are important to our communities – what a nice surprise!
On Monday 23rd March Boris Johnson announced that all non-essential retailers were being forced to close as part of the Government’s measures to contain the spread of the Coronavirus. Giant Liverpool is a family owned independent bike shop and the family were expecting this announcement. We made plans to all meet at the store to put signs on the door and alter our website.
What a shock then to see that we were listed as essential to the Government’s strategy and were allowed to remain open if we wished. Ministers had at last acknowledged the importance of daily exercise and listed cycling along with walking and running as being allowed. Key workers were possibly commuting by bike and needed to be able to get their bikes repaired or serviced. With participation in all sport being cancelled and gyms forced to close then perhaps there would be a surge in demand form people returning to cycling?
Of course we had to assess the risk on the health of our staff and customers. We thought we should try and support those who wanted to ride and thought we could trade safely.
Lots of people had campaigned for cycling and bike shops to be judged as a special case. The chief executive of British Cycling wrote to the health secretary urging ministers to add cycling to the list of recommended activities during the Coronavirus outbreak. Also, a group of nearly 50 academics and experts on public health and transport wrote an open letter to the government urging ministers to encourage walking and cycling amid the pandemic, noting their vital importance in the wider public health issue of combating inactivity. Precise figures are hard to estimate, but one often quoted statistic suggests that in England alone 80,000 plus people die every year due to the health consequences of inactivity.
One week into the heightened lockdown and what has happened in our bike shop? Footfall has been steady, and we have managed to maintain social distancing with ourselves and our customers. We have a hand sanitiser at our front door (which is more than our local Sainsbury’s does) and notices in store. Of course our cleaning regime has been massively stepped up.
We have seen signs of people returning to cycling but we are only one week into the new regime and things could change at any time. We too could be forced to close or if we fail to cover our overheads we could choose to close.
On my daily rides it is wonderful to now see the numbers of families riding on our quieter roads where they feel safe. Maybe all these new walkers and cyclists will keep this up even when we return to normal life. What will the “new normal” look like? There are predictions for massive business failures.
In the long term though this brings me onto wondering about the importance of bike shops in our community.
There were no bike shops in or around the city centre when we opened 11 years ago when Giant asked me to open their first brand store in Europe here in Liverpool. Our nearest competitor has just closed and another chain has announced it’s intention to follow suit.
The leader of Preston Council, Matthew Brown, coined a phrase “guerilla localism” to explain their strategy for transforming the city’s fortunes. They positively encouraged organisations and individuals to spend locally. The Federation of Small Businesses has published research by CLES showing that for every pound spent with a small or medium-sized firm, 63p is re-spent locally. That drops to 40p for every pound given to a large or multinational company.
Please read the full article at https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/31/preston-hit-rock-bottom-took-back-control
Of course that makes sense. All four of our directors live and work on Merseyside – so do all of our staff. We have paid Liverpool Council over £92,000 in Business Rates. We pay National Insurance and Corporation Tax at the proper rate. We don’t employ anyone to devise ways of dodging our responsibilities. We have taken on apprentices over the years and would like to do so again. We would like to employ more people but need to be more confident about our future.
When all of this is over we will get the community and the High Street we deserve.
Director, Liverpool Bicycle Limited and Liverpool Bicycle Co-operative Limited
Hightown Cycle Repairs
I run Hightown Cycle Repairs a small workshop based in Hightown. I initially closed when the lockdown was announced I have type 1 diabetes. I had so many phone calls I reopened last Monday with some social distancing measures in place.
I have had a super busy ad exciting week, with the vast majority of work for new customers using their bikes for their daily exercise. It’s been great to see people getting their bikes out of garages and sheds and starting to ride. I was out riding one evening with my son and overheard a young girl riding with her Mum, she said Mum this is ace can we do this more. I hope that many people will have to rethink there leisure time and use their bikes even more once the lockdown is rescinded.
Stay safe and healthy.
Quinns Bike Centre is closed over Easter, open again on Tuesday 14th.
379 Edge Lane, L7 9LQ