There was a lot of discussion at the National Women’s Bike Forum about bike shops and how they could be more welcoming to women. Georgena Terry, founder of Terry Precision Bikes for Women (and then Heart of Steel Bicycles), shared her opinion that things have not changed much at bike shops. She believes there is still a disconnect with retail bike dealers when it comes to women customers. Terry suggested that bike dealers think (or maybe even say to women), “You’re probably here for a hybrid bike.” Or “You probably don’t want to spend a lot of money.” One panel participant reported that she walked into a bike store in San Francisco, was looked up and down by the salesman was asked “YOU want to ride a bike?”
Things might be different if there were more women in independent retail bike shops. Saleswomen might be more sensitive to the fact that many women may not feel that their biking for fun, or transportation, or whatever, is worthy of a significant investment in equipment (by britta). Julie Harris, Retail Sales Director of 12 REI stores in the Bay Area, CA, said that even after 10 years, only 40% of the gender-specific sales is for women’s products.
Giant Bicycles is hoping to shift that trend. Elysa Walk, General Manager for Giant USA, reported on the launch of a women’s specific brand, LivGiant. If a woman finds a better fit in a bike, then she will be more comfortable, which will make her feel safer on the bike.
One of the breakout sessions at the forum focused on “The Bike Shop Barrier: Making Bike Retail More Welcoming to Women”. Some of the things bike shops can do to be more appealing to women include:
• Clean, attractive layout – a “boutique” instead of a supermarket
• Clean bathrooms
• Female employees
• A staff that listens to the customer, making sure it’s about her
• Use appropriate terminology, based on the customer’s need – for some customers, it may be more appropriate to describe how a bike will help her ride up the hill more easily, rather than talking about derailleurs and gear ratios
A discussion with one female participant who works at a bike shop in Missouri said she was able to keep her baby with her at the bike shop for a year or two. Women coming into the shop responded extremely favorably to that.
You can read a compilation of Twitter comments about the forum here.
Carol Ireland is a board member and officer of Bike Delaware.