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Circling Rutland Water is 23-miles of track

The two-level Whitwell branch

the 23-mile track…and the rest is history. Since growing out of that hire bike shack into the larger footprint store over two levels at Whitwell, the retailer opened Giant Rutland on the south shore of Rutland Water, revamping what was a very basic retail unit into a slinky modern brand store, in 2010. It’s been a sizable success, according to Middlemiss: “Despite the shops being only a few miles apart, the Giant store hasn’t cannibalised the Whitwell’s store’s success. Both have grown simultaneously.” The retailer has also opened Grafham

Cycling, which boats 7,500 sq ft of retail space over two floors, closer to London and also enjoying waterside cycling facilities. Finally, Fineshade Cycling is based in the wood of the same name. Now three years old, this Forestry Commission Trail Centre is joined by Rutland Outdoor in Fineshade Wood.

SPLASHING OUT Back at Rutland’s Whitwell HQ, the shop has recently expanded its kids offering, with more bikes from the likes of Frog. The shop has a separate hire till to keep customers happy in peak times and there’s a separate workshop counter too, which also doubles up as the seminar area for in-store out-of-hours talks on maintenance and the like. Since August, Whitwell’s bike service customers get a free courtesy bike, with 2014 road, MTB and hybrid models on offer. Rutland might be the only bike shop to offer this (though let us know if they’re not). “The customer might find that they prefer the courtesy bike while their own bike is in the workshop, so there’s always upgrade potential there.” It’s about keeping up with the best practises of the wider world of retail, Middlemiss tells BikeBiz. The workshop also offers a breakdown


service for cyclists who run into trouble around Rutland Water, RAC-style. There are seven full-time Cytech trained workshop employees at Whitwell alone, with more at the other venues, as well as three Fox Shox qualified mechanics.

The maintenance classes and seminars the shop hosts will be followed up with courses, the retailer hopes, in a bid for further “knowledge sharing” to benefit customers. Upstairs at the Whitwell store is the new Bike fit area which is one of many key changes at the shop in what has been a big year behind the scenes. Though it hasn’t shouted about it, Rutland

has gone through a takeover in 2013. An MBO completed in July has seen the company returning to the ownership of the founding family. It’s brought about a refocus of the business with new measures and details like those courtesy bikes and the revamped events calendar. The MD tells BikeBiz: “We started with hire bikes and we’ve always been about putting people on bikes. That’s in our DNA and we’re putting that into the foreground post-takeover.” The retailer has now recruited a training, ride

and event coordinator to that end. “All the events are about explaining how fun cycling can be and engaging with the customer. We’re not waiting for them to come in the door.”

The retail environment is key too: “We’re trying to keep the excitement on the floor. We want to be a destination store with a big volume of product, but at the same time we have to keep it coherent for customers in-store. I’d like to think we’re really on that line.” “Internally we want to show genuine

passion, provide great service and have great products we are proud to stock. It's also about getting everyone on board with the vision,” Middlemiss admits. With a keen eye on all aspects of the

“We’re an independent local bike shop. We just happen to be quite big.” David

Middlemiss, Managing Director, Rutland Cycling

business and where things can be improved, the family is also determined that the shop moves to fit the needs of the people who come to the site – hence the increase in kids bikes, for example. The brands in-store have been rationalised and the women’s range has been ramped up, not least in the MTB sector. In fact MTB is still absolutely key for Rutland, despite road seeing huge growth. The boss praises the enthusiasm of the off-road fans and cites enthusiasm for 650B wheels sizes as being highly encouraging. On the road side, more steel rides are coming in, while brands like Scott, Trek, Giant and Specialized are all flourishing in-store.

EAU K, COMPUTER A shift in focus online has come about post- MBO too, with the family keen to avoid a ‘race to the bottom’ discounting war. “Online is more of a challenge,” Middlemiss says. “We wanted to replicate the store experience online, so we underwent a six month project with Citrus-Lime.” Launched in September, the store now offers

click and collect, including timescales to manage customer expectations “a surprising amount of customers will reserve an item then turn up just a couple of hours later to pick it up”. It’s one of many new offerings designed to make it easier to convert online visits to sales. Rutland’s vast hire fleet covers a range of

brands and everything from e-bikes and bikes adapted for the disabled to MTBs, road bikes and everything in between. “We have around 78-full timers working

across the store, including 14-full time technicians in the workshops and five Breeze champions in the staff. “We’re an independent local bike shop. We just happen to be quite big.”


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