It may be a tough climate in retail – but long standing Doncaster firm Don Valley Cycles is bucking the trends.
While many in the industry may be reporting falling sales as more and more people shop online, the cycle shop, on Chequer Road, has seen sales on the up.
Business is strong enough that it is now looking at relocating later this year to a bigger premises, as it marks 25 years in business.
Owner Martin Maltby opened the store up after retiring from racing himself.
As a teenager, he raced bikes at a high level, representing Great Britain at a junior level. He went on to live in Belgium, then seen as the cycling capital of Europe.
He learned to repair bikes, doing his own mechanical work as he pursused a career in racing.
Giving up on racing, he decided to remain iinvolving in cycling, initially working for a chain of retailers, before setting up his own business in 1993, selling bikes and accessories, and doing repairs. It has remained on the same site since.
Initially, he lived in the flat above the shop, which had previously been a motorbike accessories store.
The rent was manageable, with the store just outside the town centre. People knew where he was because it was close the the museum and St Peters in Chains Church, bringing passing trade. At the time it was easy to park.
Now, he is looking to move into new premises on Carr House Road.
The property, the former Outram and Field ironmongers, came up last year, and initially he missed out on obtaining it. But it came up on the market again, and this time he has successfully put a bid in for it.
He hopes to move there in November.
He estimates the shop to be around a third bigger than the current site.
“There may be more stock, and it will also give a better retail experience,” said Martin. “Every time I mention the new site to people, they know where it is.
“It will be easier to pull up and park, because it has its own parking spaces. People will see a bigger range of stock eventually. We are looking at more bikes, and more space for repairs. We already employ three people. As business grows, we will be looking at possibly taking on more.”
For Martin, there are a couple of factors in bucking the trend in what is generally seen as a shrinking retail market.
Cycling has been a growth market, believes Martin, who thinks the shop has benefited from the success of the British cycling team in the Olympics in the last few years.
Yorkshire’s role in hosting the Tour de France a few years ago has helped, he believes, as has Doncaster’s role in the subsequent Tour de Yorkshire, set up following the success of the Tour de France in the county.
Cycling has frequently been in the headlines, and returned there again recently when Simon Yates won the Vuelta a Espana to complete a clean sweep of British victories in this year's Grand Tours.
But Martin believes another major part of the success has been engagement with the community, and aftersales.
“We’ve seen growth on road bike sales,” he said. “From our perspective it has probably doubled in the last 10 years.
“A lot of that is probably down to the work I put in to the business doing proactive things. I’ve organised the Doncaster Cycle Festival for the last five years, which was a direct result of the Tour de France coming to Yorkshire. That’s in partnership with Doncaster Council.”
Martin is also a committee member at the Doncaster Wheelers cycle club.
“A legacy of the cycle festival has been a thriving youth coaching section,” he said. “There is coaching for under 16s in cycle racing. There are 50 to 60 young riders a week at the Keepmoat Stadium
“The last few years have seen children’s bike sales increase.
“Year on year we have seen more turnover and bucked the market with increasing sales, but it gets harder and harder to achieve that. The biggest threat to retail industry is online. We don’t do online. There are companies that do that very well.
“We stick to the customers who want face to face dealings with people. We are experts in our field and we can give good advice. We can give good customer care and aftersales, and have always been proactive and that’s how we stay ahead of the game.
“You may be able to get something cheaper on the internet, but we think we offer more. We offer customers the chance to come on a beginners bike ride, with the option of going on two a month. It’s a whole lifestyle thing. Customers don’t just buy a bike and leave. They get support, aftersales, and guided rides..
“I think the secret is giving extra added value. If you don’t fit in with your community and put something back in, you’re just another retailer.
“I think small shops have to think out of the box and engage them with a lfestyle to keep the customers.”