Winners Edge changes gears to ride out pandemic
As business owners, Greg Hopkins and Paulo Medeiros have survived some hard times.
They opened the Winners Edge bike shop during the 1992 recession, and rode out another recession a few years later. Still, the duo call their challenges during the pandemic “absolutely unprecedented”.
Since March 2020, the Winners Edge has been hit hard by a worldwide shortage of bikes and parts triggered by global shipping delays and factory shortages.
“It has been very difficult to get bike shipments,” Mr Hopkins said.
Customers used to wait just a few days to import exactly the bike they wanted.
“Now the factories are telling us the wait is six months, eight months, 12 months, and in some cases not until February 2023,” Mr Hopkins said. “It is very frustrating.”
The store is getting bikes in, but in piecemeal fashion, and mostly at the whim of the factory.
"We just received a container from Trek,“ Mr Medeiros said. “We got that because the company was overstocked. Trek called us. I looked at what they were offering and said I will take them all.”
The Winners Edge has just ordered more than $500,000 in merchandise for 2022, but are not sure when exactly they will see any of it.
“You have to make the order otherwise you won’t see anything,” Mr Medeiros said.
Customers now have to choose from what has been pre-ordered.
“If we ordered four sizes, and someone needed a size not in those four, there is no way of getting it any more,” Mr Medeiros said.
Mr Hopkins said people often look a little shocked when they drift into the Winners Edge and find the place half empty. In good times, the shop was stuffed with new bikes and cycle gear such as helmets. Now, most of the bikes on view are actually there for repair.
Mr Medeiros said the Winners Edge was always one of the few places on the island to do bicycle repairs. Now, repairs have become a key source of income while they wait out the hard times.
“That is what keeps us going,” Mr Medeiros said.
But he often spends hours each day scouring the internet to buy the parts he needs to repair bikes. There is so much competition online, that if he hesitates for even a minute or two, the item is often snatched up.
Mr Hopkins said owning a business in Bermuda right now is exhausting on several different levels.
“It can be tiring just trying to talk to customers while wearing a mask,” he said. “And when you really want to be able to provide the customer with what you want and you can’t for reasons totally out of your control, it leads to a lot of restless nights. You wake up and all of these things are on your mind.”
Global shipping delays have been caused by a shipping container shortage. And many bicycle factories, mostly in Cambodia and Vietnam, have struggled with labour shortages due to staff being out sick with Covid-19.
There have also been shortages of the raw materials needed to manufacture bicycle parts, such as gears.
The shortage is not hitting children’s bikes as hard because many children’s bikes do not have gears.
And the situation is pretty much the same all over the world.
“We had a guy come in from Toronto, Canada,” Mr Hopkins said. “He was here on business. He came in to see if he could buy a pedal cycle.
The three or four cycle shops near him in Toronto just did not have anything that fit him. They said it would be three to six months before they could get what he needed.”
And Mr Medeiros said the cost of importing goods has shot up.
“What used to be a $4,000 container, now costs $12,000,” he said. “So you can imagine how that impacts the price of things.”
An increase in demand for pedal cycles might also be fuelling the shortage.
“A lot more people are working from home now,” Mr Hopkins said. “During the work day you often see a lot of people out riding their bike and exercising, because they are not tied to the office.
“People are a bit more health conscious. We all hear that if you are a healthy person, and you get Covid-19, you can handle it better.”
Despite the challenges, Mr Hopkins was staying optimistic about the future. “We will survive,” he said.
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