Cycle retailer Tony Debio has lived in Knutsford for a little over 33 years and has been in the saddle of his cycling empire for almost nine years. He took over the store from the previous owner in 2000 and became one of Knutsford’s more specialized businesses.
Bikes & Gear has been a familiar destination for cyclists and local fitness enthusiasts for many years. Its catchy name by default draws people through its doors to ponder over the next bicycle purchase.
Naturally, you would think that premium bikes would not be top on the list of priorities in credit-crunch Britain but it appears that a wide range of companies and retailers are bucking the trend. Bikes & Gear is also enrolled in the Cycle To Work scheme enabling commuters to obtain bicycles via a voucher system. Although there are certain restirctions – £1000 limit of cycles, and servicing exclusions the scheme promotes a steady turnover of sales.
“I’m so far unaffected by the downturn, thats not to say it wont ever affect me, but I’m having a good year and in fact it’s better than last year”
Tony, who’s King Street shop is always well stocked with the latest cycles and accessories, does not offer internet sales due to a combination of manufacturer restrictions and servicing issues that arise with distance selling.
“I offer two years free servicing with my top bikes, its impossible to honor that remotely. I prefer to build the bikes when they come in and make sure that they are exactly right for each customer”
This demonstration of attention to detail and customer service is where traditional independent retailing will always win out over larger almost industrialized operations. Tony’s message of quality is essential guidance to those companies wishing to capture local trade and prosper from business that it is on the doorstep. The question could be asked that “In the current climate can service win over price?”
Tony already had strong shopkeeping experience before pinging the bell in the world of bicycle sales. His DIY store enabled many customers to source valuable household items and home maintenance products. It wasn’t long before he diversified into fitted bedrooms to grow his home improvement business but sadly due to large scale competition, trading restrictions and the historical economic climate he was forced to close.
His previous life was spent working up through the ranks of the motor industry from the shop floor right up to sales and onto management positions with manufacturers such as Citroen and Mercedes before starting his DIY business.
Once a month Tony pays homage to the steam age by driving and firing some of the more well known steam engines on the Severn Valley Railway. Only last week he drove the Nunney Castle Engine from Bridge-North to Kidderminster. Steam has been a passion for him since child hood and, although not to everyones’ taste, his leisure time activities highlight his passion for engineering. Tony has often met steam rail entusiast and multimillionare music entrepenur Pete Waterman on the lines.