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Want to tap into consumer trends? Get on your bike!!!

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With the summer holidays upon us, water cooler moments here at TMP Towers have been spent bouncing around ideas of what to do with bored offspring for seven long weeks. Seriously, I’m surprised the parents on my payroll haven’t been headhunted by the military because the planning that goes into successful school holidays would put the army’s Chief of Staff to shame.

One investment every parent I know has been glad to make over recent years has been in kid’s bikes – and it’s not just the children who are discovering the joys of pedal power. Adults have been enjoying a second youth with family rides at the local park and an army of committed fitniks have burnt some serious rubber on rides that literally cover the length and breadth of the country. I’m exhausted just writing about it…

All this biking means that cycling businesses are leaving other parts of the fitness industry trailing in their wake. Take Halfords. The car parts and bike retailer recently committed to pushing its cycling products and they’re reaping the rewards. In the thirteen weeks to July 3rd, like-for-like bike sales grew by 4.2% and only last month the company announced that sales for the last financial year had passed £1billion for the first time in its history.

So what’s going on?

It’s all about tapping into trends. Halfords saw that cycling has enjoyed a massive revival since the London Olympics – and got some of the game’s biggest stars to endorse product lines. Victoria Pendleton bike anyone?

According to the Association of Cycle Traders, British cycling successes and initiatives such as city cycle hire schemes have lead to a 15% increase in the number of bike shops over the past decade – and now the market is thought to be worth more than £2billion. This shows that Halfords really understood what was going on for consumers when they decided to prioritise two wheels over four – and their own revival has lessons for us all.

No restrictions.

A few years’ ago, Halfords reputation was for cheap bikes but not necessarily quality products. Most customers were looking for kid’s bikes that were going to get trashed or grown out of pretty soon, or adult’s bikes for the occasional cyclist – but things have been changing.

I know some serious cyclists that until recently would never have contemplated visiting their local Halfords for their very particular biking needs, but only this week, a TMP bike aficionado was caught drooling over the latest high spec bikes to be offered on their website. She didn’t even see her choice of lunchtime browsing as a guilty pleasure.

As my bike-loving team member proves, Halfords have gone all high-end, with Pinarello, Boardman and Tifosi being just three of the brands they sell for over £3,000 apiece. It’s hardly reminiscent of the lilac My Little Pony trike I coveted all those years ago… They still cater for the occasional cyclist, but now help them upgrade when their occasional potter round the park turns into a full-on obsession.

Small changes, bigger market share.

In other words, they’ve stopped limiting themselves – and stopped trying too hard. Recent marketing campaigns have focused on the joys of cycling – the lifestyle buying from Halfords can give you – while they’ve let their band of happy customers riding high-spec bikes do the talking. Steadily, over the past few years, consumers’ preconceptions have changed, meaning they can reach a bigger market share. It’s not just bikes either.

Halfords new CEO Jill McDonald might be the only person in the country who’s pleased to see a pothole, because the company’s in-store repair services brought in £26.7million last year. The company have also extended their range of bike parts and accessories – and that means they can cater for DIY repairs as well as meet the needs of customers who prefer to get someone else covered in chain oil.

Know your tribe!

We’re not all as lucky as Halfords to have a pack of Olympic medallists who make our industry achingly cool, but we can still spot the trends that are crucial to our market – as long as we know our customers. A few years ago the serious cycling tribe wouldn’t have been seen dead in a Halfords store and yes, that’s still true for some, but their numbers are dwindling.

It’s the same for all those savvy shoppers that are proud to park their top-of-the-range cars outside their local Aldi. So what changes? The emotions behind consumer decisions. Buying value products is no longer to be done under cover of darkness. Bargain hunting is seen as a way to have your cake and eat it – just replace cake with skiing holiday, private tuition fees or personal trainer.

So what are the emotions behind your customer’s decisions? How are they feeling about life right now and what are their dreams for the future? How do they want to be seen by others? Understand that and you’ve just tapped into a trend. It’s what The Monachie Project’s consumer research consultancy is all about – helping you understand the most important people in your business: your customers.
Interested in tapping into your own trend? Get in touch to find out how we can help.

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