Varsity Bikes moves next to competition

Varsity recently relocated to a new location on Fourth Street in Dinkytown.

Formerly located at 1306 Fourth St. S.E., local bike retailer Varsity Bike Shop has moved to its new location next to Erik’s Bike Shop.

Varsity owner ¬¬Robby DeHoff said the store’s move on July 31 was made due to the previous building’s poor condition and the need for a larger space.

At three times the size of the former location, the new shop has helped the look of the store and has also seen an increase in service to women shoppers, DeHoff said.

“It is just a different shop, and we have something we’ve never really had before: browsers,” he said. “I think women, especially, like to shop that way.”

DeHoff said it is too early to tell if Varsity’s sales have increased with the move, but added that it has been an “interesting year,” with sales at the old location up 50 percent.

“A conservative estimate would give it another 50 percent, so that is pretty much our sales doubling,” he said, estimating what effect the new location would have on his business.

Despite this increase, national bike sales have suffered, according to the National Bike Dealers Association . Sales fell from 14 million bicycles sold in 2005 to 12.7 million in 2006. But sales increased slightly to 12.8 million in 2008.

But even with an independent bike shop right next door to a large chain like Erik’s , neither store seems to be sweating the competition.

Erik’s Bike Shop President Dave Olson said he’s not concerned about the new competition.

“We really have no issue with it,” he said. “Some good competition seems to breed good customer service, and we like to just focus on providing good customer service and let them decide.”

Erik’s spokeswoman Libby Hurley said that Erik’s is right on track financially since Varsity moved and doesn’t foresee any issues for the coming fall.

But University marketing professor Mark Bergen said it would be surprising that two major competitors nearby each other wouldn’t be concerned about the ramifications.

“If somebody is nearby, certainly it would be easier for someone to check both stores, to go into one and shop at the other,” he said. “Getting closer would make the marketing more intense.”

The two bike shops neighboring each other and two on the West Bank seem to be the beginnings of a bike district, DeHoff said.

“Literally, within a mile to two miles you can go to four shops and see 75 percent of the brands and take care of whatever needs you want,” he said.

Still, local consumers say there may be a little healthy competition. Anthropology junior Patrick Nieszner said he prefers Varsity over Erik’s, and said he believes Erik’s will now have some competition.

“They don’t have to follow the rules that some corporate offices make for them,” Nieszner said. “It’s a private, small business. You’ve got to support that.”

DeHoff said he hopes that both Varsity and Erik’s will be there forever, but said there is one disparity between the two.

“The biggest difference is I’m here,” he said. “Guess who’s not, next door?”