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Winners Edge stays ahead of the pack

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Greg Hopkins, left, and Paulo Medeiros say they are full stocked again at the Winners Edge on Front Street, after two years of shipping problems (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

A specialist Front Street retailer is beating the odds after watching other Hamilton shopkeepers go out of business and fearing that still more will fall this year.

“A lot of people have not made it and we are going to see a lot more people not making it this year,” said Greg Hopkins of Winners Edge Bike Shop. “But we are going to survive.”

Six months ago, Mr Hopkins and Paulo Medeiros, the owners of one of Bermuda’s leading bicycle shops, were having serious conversations about whether they were going to close.

After 30 years in business, pandemic-induced supply chain issues were throwing a wrench into their works.

“We ordered two shipments from China that came 14-months late,” Mr Hopkins said.

And their ability to get spare parts and accessories was also seriously hampered by global supply-chain chaos.

“We probably go through 30 bicycle chains a month,” Mr Hopkins said. “Suppliers were telling us we could only have five chains per order.”

A year ago, supply chain issues meant that Winners Edge was virtually empty of stock (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

Now, the picture has changed and things are finally looking up.

“It took about two years for the supply chain issues to get resolved,” Mr Hopkins said.

After waiting months for shipments of new bicycles, much of them suddenly arrived almost simultaneously. That brought a new set of challenges.

“We had so many new bicycles come in at once that we did not have room for them all and we had to take on new warehouse space,” Mr Hopkins said.

The good news, of course, is they are now fully stocked.

“We have gone from famine to glut,” Mr Hopkins said. “Now, we have a very good inventory that includes all the latest bikes for the next year. That means we will be changing the way our shipments come.”

And they are putting together an order for another shipment of racing bikes. At the height of the global health crisis, racing bikes, a niche market, were particularly hard to acquire.

“We are known for our racing bikes,” Mr Hopkins said.

Mr Medeiros said electric bikes had become increasingly popular.

“With the new technology on them, they will give the performance, if people are prepared to drive by the speed limit,” he said.

He said a lot of people preferred them to motorbikes because they did not need a licence and insurance to get them on the road.

Mr Medeiros said the clientele for electric bikes tended to be older people who did not want to push a bike up a hill and environmentally conscious people looking to commute to work.

“The younger generation will still buy the mountain bikes, hybrids and BMXs,” he said.

But the cost of bicycles have gone up. A high-end bike that cost $5,000 in 2019 can now cost as much as $12,000.

And although a lot of the original supply-chain issues have been resolved, the timing of shipments can still be unpredictable.

Before the pandemic they could usually pinpoint when a specially ordered bicycle or part would come in - usually within a week. Now, there is no average wait time.

“I have ordered a shipment and it doesn’t arrive,” Mr Hopkins said. “We see that the shippers have got it. Then we order another shipment two weeks later and that one arrives before the other one. It can be frustrating.”

He said overheads were continuously going up and that could be crippling for small business owners.

“When you walk around Hamilton now, there are so many business premises that are closed with paper on the windows,” he said.

Mr Hopkins said they were lucky to have a very understanding landlord who made allowances for them during the toughest times of the pandemic.

Longtime employee Dominique Mayho, left the business four months ago after being with them for a decade.

“He was a great employee but we were not going to hold him back,” Mr Hopkins said. “He had a great opportunity. He still comes in here every day.”

They cannot afford to replace him but they have hired part-time help for the weekends.

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Published January 16, 2023 at 7:52 am (Updated January 16, 2023 at 10:38 am)

Winners Edge stays ahead of the pack

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