45: On the Sharp End of Retail with Erik’s Bikes Founder Erik Saltvold

“What’s important in specialty retail, whatever channel, is to try different things. You never know what’s going to work. In specialty retail, we’re just throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what happens.”

– Erik Saltvold

EPISODE PREVIEW:

Erik Saltvold is decidedly bullish on independent specialty in the bike market. His optimism makes him less of a bull and more of a unicorn in the industry, especially considering he’s been through fire and rain in his 41 years of owning a chain of Midwest bike shops. And still, his business is successful and growing because he refuses to see the omnichannel evolution as a hindrance.

 

Where others see destruction and dismay in the change, Erik see opportunities and relishes in the challenge to change and evolve.

In today’s episode we talk about the state of the bike industry, the rise of e-bikes, the curious catch-22 of bike share programs, and how cycling literally saved a town. If you’re feeling world weary, this may just be the jolt you need to modify your perspective and charge at the excitement of the challenge.

GUEST PROFILES:

erik saltvold

Erik Saltvold’s LinkedIn account is a thing of beauty. His experience is listed as “paper boy” for three years, followed by a 41-year stint as owner of Erik’s Bike Shop, Inc. If you’re really paying attention, you’ll notice that he founded the bike shop two years before he entered high school.

When he graduated high school, his shop had outgrown its original location in his parents’ barn, so he moved into his first storefront. Today ERIK’S employs over 450 people and has 29 locations throughout the Midwest. His business philosophy has remained constant: professional, knowledgeable service in a friendly store environment. And Erik still enjoys working at the shops and helping customers find that perfect bike.

TOPICS COVERED:

State of the bike industry, youth entrepreneurialism, e-bikes, independent bike dealers (IBDs), specialty retail, bike share programs, acoustic and e-bikes, legislating e-bikes, specialty retailers on creating demand, competing with Amazon, aging in the industry, the cycling renaissance of Lanesboro, Minnesota

SELECT QUOTES:

“What’s important in specialty retail, whatever channel, is to try different things. You never know what’s going to work. In specialty retail, we’re just throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what happens.”

“E-bike is a great category. Look at it not only from a demand standpoint, but also from a barrier standpoint to other channels of distribution.”

“You have to be able to deliver the product anytime, anyhow, anywhere the customer wants it.”

“We create the demand as specialty retailers and Amazon harvests the demand. That’s what brands need to understand. Without that strong specialty channel, how do you create that demand? So the sweet spot for a physically retail is just that.”

“You always have to move forward. I’ve been in the bicycle business for 41 years, but I haven’t been selling the same bikes for 41 years.”

“If you want to be a complete brand, you have to have all channels.”

“Business is changing faster than I’ve ever experienced it. There’s more opportunity than I’ve ever experienced in my career as well, because of that pace of change, and because in some of the destruction and the indestruction we can find opportunity.”

CONNECT:

Erik’s Bike Shop

Connect with Erik on LinkedIn

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