Damien Lack, owner of Flemington Cycles.
The local bicycle shop, always the mainstay for parts and accessories for the Malvern Star to professional road bikes, is in crisis.
After 65 years of representing the interests of bike shop owners Retail Cycle Traders Australia has voted itself out of business, succumbing to dwindling membership and the power of online shopping that has seen industry sales of everything from snazzy Lycra to high-tech speedometers go offshore.
The explosion in online retail has been stalking the nation’s $1.1 billion bike shop industry for years, and was made all the worse argues insiders by the $1000 GST-free threshold on goods bought overseas and mailed to Australia, with premium bike accessories once sold by bricks and mortar stores now cheaper and more widely available on the web.
However, some stores are combating the growing popularity of online sales by charging to fit items bought online and selling dealer-only available stock.
Flemington Cycles owner Damien Lack customers were often unable to install items bought online correctly, usually due to a lack of knowledge or the correct tools.
‘‘It’s a safety issue. There were a lot of people coming in. There was a a lot of guilt that they did not buy it from a bike shop’’ Mr Lack said.
‘‘But we can’t begrudge people for buying from overseas.’’
In a letter sent to members and obtained by The Age, RCTA executive officer Graham Bradshaw said the peak body had decided to close down at its recent annual general meeting.
It is an industry employs 10,000 people across an estimated 1052 shops and 432 wholesale businesses.
Mr Bradshaw told The Age many members could not compete with overseas websites that did not pay the same level of staff wages and particularly GST.
The $1000 GST-free threshold was a huge problem for local bike shops as customers were buying accessories, such as uniforms, wheels, gears and bike computers, online from overseas and bringing it in GST free.
‘‘Bikes themselves, there are some coming in, but its a big product and shipping becomes an issue ... it’s the accessories, clothing, shoes that sort of stuff,’’ he said.
‘‘A store that has a good service department, does a lot of service and repair, it impacts on them if the customers are walking in – and some people do this – they walk in with the stuff [bought online] and ask can you fit this on, and it doesn’t take long to find out they have bought it from overseas.’’
City stores are not alone in battling online sales.
Regional centres such as Bendigo are also affected despite having a large cycling community and several bike shops.
Bendigo Cycles sales manager Richard Martin said the store had turned to offering a point-of-difference in selling dealer-only brands such as Specialized to support their business.
‘‘We started focusing on things that you can’t buy online,’’ Mr Martin said. ‘‘They’re [Specialized] dead against it.’’
He said parts are often found at similar prices except tyres, discounted online to what stores would pay cost for.
However, online parts will often come without a warranty and service.
‘‘Customers come in and say they can match it online. We always try to give them the best price. It’s just awkward people because think they’re getting the right advice online,’’ he said.
‘‘I ride in a big bunch and a lot of those people we ride with buy things online. You have to accept it.’’