The XX Factor: 4 Ways Women Are Good For Business
On either side of retail, women will make your independent bike shop a better place to work and buy
Words by Jonathon Nunan
Turnover or net profits not quite what they used to be? Can’t see the forest for the trees on how to improve store traffic and revenue? Women could be the answer.
That’s right, the very same people bicycle retailers have historically ignored, alienated and failed to cater to, take seriously or employ.
Involving more women in your bicycle retail business—not only as a matter of political correctness and social sensibility, but for plain and simple smart business reasons—could not only save it, but could also help it grow significantly. Here’s why:
Women Spend More Than Men
We already know that women control 80% of all household budgets, and 95% of low-income household budgets. You know when that guy who’s spent three hours with you kicking the expensive tires in your road section says he needs to go home and check with ‘the boss’ first? That’s the financially responsible, household managing, discretionary spending influencer in his household. The same people you really need to be talking to more as customers.
And you want to better engage with women not just because they influence spending decisions, but because they are genuine, serious, informed and passionate cycling consumers in their own right. If you think that women just buy baskets and baby seats and step-through bikes, you are totally missing the market, not to mention totally misreading women as cycling customers. Amazingly, they want exactly the same technical benefits of the bikes and P&A you happily sell to men. And they’re ready and willing to spend the money, too, if you are willing to take them seriously.
Women are more sophisticated and better ‘educated’ retail customers than men. Why? Because they are typically exposed to the most sophisticated, scientific and dynamic of retail categories— cosmetics and beauty products, women’s fashion (both online and physical retail), department store and food retail. Hence, women are better trained to respond to store layout, strategic product positioning, emotional imagery, POS displays and impulse buys. And for the same reasons, they are more attuned to buying in outfits and ensembles—something men are generally crap at. The result is that when you better cater to women, you can expect an increase in the average dollar spend on soft-goods, bicycles and accessories purchases.
Women Make Great Managers
What do you want in a store manager? An emotionally intelligent, savvy manager of money, personnel and suppliers? One who can multi-task, delegate, negotiate, be firm-but-fair and prioritize their time and that of those who work in the business? Same here. Now write down the men you know who could tick all those boxes in one column and the women you know who would satisfy that description in another. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got women’s names about five to one on my piece of paper.
Women Improve Shop Culture
You know when you visit a house or apartment where only men live, and it’s typically ‘functional,’ not terribly warm or inviting, often a bit untidy, has strange gaps and smells a bit? That describes an awful lot of bike shops, doesn’t it?
When you hire women, whether they’re in sales, admin or in the workshop, you’ll witness the tone and atmosphere of the store change. The conversations will be more adult and intelligent. The customer service will be warmer, more respectful and less monosyllabic. The store will be tidier, better organized and regularly re-stocked. It will also be more engaging and welcoming to women customers, those very same people we want to attract, because they influence spending, increase your turnover, and expand your sales opportunities and customer base.
Women Force You to Retail Better
Appealing to, and involving more women in, your bicycle business doesn’t mean replacing or disenfranchising male customers. It’s also not about fundamentally changing your business, your supplier relationships or necessarily the brands you stock (although that might need to be part of the review). It’s about changing culture, communication, language, atmosphere and attitude, so that you and your business are proactively welcoming, engaging and respecting women and their needs.
You already stock more “women’s products” than you realize—they’re called pumps, locks, lights, tires, cassettes, oils, nutrition, groupsets, wheels, etc. You get my point. Tailoring your store for women is not about filling it with pink accessories and flowery comfort saddles or pannier bags. It’s about dialing up all aspects of your store to meet the more sophisticated, dynamic and engaging atmosphere women are used to experiencing in the other retail environments where they’re used to shopping (i.e. most categories outside of bicycle retail).
Opening up to women in your bike business is ultimately about increasing your sales categories and opportunities, expanding your accessory and workshop sales, improving your customer service, management, efficiency, consumer engagement and overall business culture. It’s about being a modern, relevant, more successful retailer. And that’s something we all want, regardless of gender.