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CRC Warehouse, how far do you think the numbers go to?

This is the reason that we look elsewhere, like to Chain Reaction Cycles, for our products.

It's something that's being addressed as can be seen with Dial'd and to an extent, Evo. Naas from Evo brought in what he wanted. The demand came when people saw what he was bringing in. It seems like we as South Africans will often settle on getting what we can because we know that we will either not get what we want, or will have to wait a long time to get it. So when what we want finally comes around, we take it. I think this in particular made Naas really decide on going online, because the local bike shops weren't interested in his products, rather opting for the really popular best selling items. And that's great, not falling in with 'what's easy to sell'.

ccs-41808-0-53140100-1384951011.jpgCRC showroom. Can you imagine a wall like this in SA? That'd be worth waking up early on a Saturday morning to go drool over.
But even with the big manufacturers, we don't see all of the bike models coming into the country, and if we do, it's in very small amounts. No surprises there, really, as SA is more catered to XC and road riders than anything else, so the specialised bikes will rarely come into the country because it's simply not worth the risk: you can't guarantee that all the stock will be sold, the market isn't big enough. Or so the distributors say.

It's hard being in a country so far from all the major manufacturers and players in the market because we don't often get the products that we want, and so look elsewhere for them. The local online shops do counter this, at least partially. Dial'd caters for the gravity crowd, at least more so than anyone else.

And that's sad. How long do we have to wait to get what we want? The SA cycling industry isn't just lycra and going uphill. I may have a bias otherwise, but I am not alone. It's a long time coming and the people who are in a position to make a change don't care to do it. That's why it's great to see people like Andrew at Dial'd taking that initiative to bring into the country what the vast majority may not be focussing on, but what there is still a demand for.

On the other side of things, Chris and Naas made some great points about pricing. The local distributors have been hesitant to supply products to online retailers, based mostly around the fact that they believe online stores will drastically reduce the retail prices and that will of course upset the LBS's. To a large extent, this has been reduced - local distributors have been more relaxed, and will supply to online shops.

But it still forced some shops to look elsewhere, like Europe in particular. That Evo Bikes can shop at an LBS in Europe and get better prices than from a local distributor is ridiculous. I understand the economy of scale and that, but how is that even possible? That local distributors don't want to supply legitimate online bike shops is hugely biased towards LBS's and in a large way puts more pressure on LBS's because they sell the locally distributed products at higher prices than people can get overseas.

It's good to see that local distributors are joining the bandwagon, because - as Chris of CWC said - online isn't going anywhere. It's like wheel builders refusing to supply the first car makers with wheels. It's too much of a convenience to go anywhere, so distributors should really just make it easy on themselves.

That the distributors refused the online guys service was a service in itself. It forced the online guys to also look elsewhere, and they found what they were looking for, and cheaper too. This, in turn, forced distributors to readjust their views and prices to accommodate what is undoubtedly a growing industry.

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Jenson USA warehouse. Also a no-joke powerhouse online shop. // Image credit: mtbr.com

Distributors are hiding behind the idea that pure online cannot provide the backup service, but as you can see, Andrew from Dial'd easily can. And if that was the case then a whole lot of LBS's would not be receiving products because of their unsatisfactory service. It's a matter of priorities on the side of the shop and should be the same for the distributors. The industry should come first.

We have become accustomed to the ease at which we can browse bicycle equipment. And we're not going to give it up. If we can have even more convenience, in that we don't have to wait a number of weeks for our package to arrive from overseas, then awesome. We're going to get used to that. It's a service in itself, the ability to not be constrained by opening hours. SA has its own legitimate online shops that are slowly but surely providing cyclists with what they want. It may be some time before we can compare with the likes of Chain Reaction Cycles or Jenson USA, but South African online bike stores are quickly growing to accommodate the real local market allowing people to not have to look overseas for their cycling needs.