Bike shops in Toronto are seeing a surge in demand as they scale back operations
Bike shops in Toronto have remained essential services throughout the pandemic but according to several stores it hasn't been without its complications.
"We have half the staff and we're twice as busy," said Matt Morrish, from Cycle Solutions.
Robert Bateman, owner of Bateman's Bicycle Company, told blogTO that staying open through all this has "been really, really, really hard", detailing the various logistical challenges him and his staff have encountered.
"We had to tighten up and change our operation. We closed two of our three stores and now we're running everything with five people," he explained.
"We're busy and it's been really challenging to execute at a similar level and stay safe."
Kevin Wallace, who owns Gears Bike Shop, has had a similar learning curve.
"We have different insight today than we did three weeks ago. We've learned a lot," he said, telling blogTO they even hired a health professional to help educate their staff on proper protocols and procedures.
As bike shops navigate the pandemic they've all adapted fairly well to accommodate social distancing guidelines and other health and safety precautions.
For example, most have chosen to switch to pushing online sales and are offering curbside pick up only.
They've also all stopped allowing customers into the store and aren't letting people do test rides. Also regular tune up services have been a challenge for some businesses who couldn't get access to personal protective equipment right away.
But even during the pandemic there's demand for bikes – in fact, there's been a huge jump in people buying bikes.
"We had to close down [our] website. We couldn't keep up with orders!" said Wallace. "It feels like we're the only bike shop in town. We're just trying to do our best to help everyone."
Bateman's and Cycle Solutions experienced similar spikes.
But the sharp rise in demand comes with it's own problems such as supply shortages, which is a cause for concern as most bike shops make the majority of their income between March and June.
"Demand is so high we can't get bikes. We have a four week supply but now we're going to run out of bikes in the next two weeks," explained Morrish.
But despite all the challenges, all the bike shops are extremely proud to be considered an essential service and are more than thankful to still be open.
"We feel proud bikes are getting the respect they deserve. I think about all the other businesses [that had to close] and it's very humbling. We're proud to be able to keep people employed," said Wallace.
"It was nice to be deemed essential. That felt good," said Bateman. "It's added a lot of credibility to our profession."
"We count our blessings and in times of uncertainty the bike industry is providing a lot of stability," added Morrish.
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