Many people across the world can not wait to see the back of 2020 and welcome in a New Year. It has been a devastating year for millions of people all over the world and our thoughts and best wishes go out to all those families who have lost loved ones and those on the front line fighting the virus everyday. Businesses have also taken a huge blow, many forced to close for extended periods. The virus has taken no prisoners.
At Eat Sleep Cycle, first and foremost we are grateful for the good health of our staff and their friends and families. We have an international team based in Girona, also including local Catalans. Most of us have not seen our families in over one year and welcome the day we can get together and make more happy memories with them.
As for our business, our team reflects on 2020 and looks forward to 2021 with great optimism and for good reason. Eat Sleep Cycle is stronger now than it has ever been.
In 2019, 85% of our business relied on tourism; tours and bike hire for our loyal guests traveling from overseas, with key markets being the UK, Ireland, USA, Canada and Australia. The remaining 15% was our relatively small retail operation.
In March 2020 flights into Europe ground to a halt; it was the perfect recipe for disaster for our business. We observed the virus start in China, move to Italy (affecting delivery from our Italian suppliers), then to Spain (where we suffered one of the strictest lockdowns) and then to other parts of Europe and the USA. The lowest point for us was when in many parts of the world cycling was banned. Hope of tours in Summer 2020 quickly diminished and it was time to get the flipcharts out and idea shower what we were to do.
Dealing with the Unexpected
At the core of Eat Sleep Cycle is our customer service so we assigned the role of customer cancellations first. Every email received a personal and thought through reply (no automatic responses here, ever). We celebrated every guest that worked with us to move, reschedule and accept vouchers for tour and bike hire bookings. We have developed stronger relationships with many of our guests through this process.
Eat Sleep Cycle is as good as its staff and guides. We wanted to do everything possible to keep our core team safe, whilst communicating clearly with everybody else about the reality of the situation. We even managed to pick-up a few highly talented people along the way. In 2020 our team has become stronger and more talented than ever.
Turning Things Around – A Cycling Boom
So we are people-focused at Eat Sleep Cycle, but what on earth were we going to do about our business? We looked at our Strengths, Weaknesses, the Opportunities and the Threats. We did it as a team, we sought advice and guidance when necessary and came up with a plan. We also took measured risks.
We saw first hand the boom of cycling and other outdoor activities. The more they locked people down in Spain, the more people would get out and exercise when they could in the designated time slots. Whilst the general global outlook was negative, this “get up and go” phenomena fueled our work. We realised that we did have something to offer people during the pandemic, especially local people in and around Girona.
We discounted our bike hire prices for local people to give those who did not have a bike the chance to try it out before buying. We sold off our bike rental fleet (intended for tourism) to give local people access to affordable second hand bikes at a fair price and with full mechanical confidence. Whether pro racer or cyclist first-timer we welcome every 2-wheeler with open arms. This new focus on local meant everybodies language skills needed to improve so Spanish and Catalan classes followed, a small investment with a big reward when that local person is greeted in their own language.
But that was not enough to maintain our footprint (a large Hub in the center of Girona), a Tours HQ and Tour Warehouse housing our vehicles. As the virus worsened it was clear that there would be no tourism for the entire year.
Creating an Awesome Local Bike Shop
So we focused on our retail business. We invested heavily in bikes, not just road but gravel, mountain bikes and electric too, even time trial bikes. We stocked up on spare parts and components like wheels, groupsets and everything else that a cyclist needs. Whilst others were putting the shutters down we formed new collaborations with brands telling them “now is the best time to start together”. Some came on board and some missed out. When one supplier or brand could not deliver we ordered from another. We did not turn down a single customer, always finding an equivalent product. Local people really started to notice, coming into the Hub and saying “i´ve heard you guys have lots of stock”. Friends sent friends, the word got out.
As partner of the business I went from managing a large tours business to working on the retail front line. I did my homework on our product, studying the specifications. I rode every bike that we sell, enabling me to highlight strengths and weaknesses of each model. We trained our teams on the new product, they trained themselves too. We became experts in what we sell. I loved it and could see that the team was enjoying the new challenge too. The daily deliveries from suppliers increased and we were excited to see what new tech was inside.
But we could still see the large online retailers taking sales even from our local customers. We also wanted to reach out to our tour guests all over the world with our unique offering.
Maximising Our Potential – Eat Sleep Cycle Hub Online!
We had an online shop but it was not fit for purpose. We formed an online shop emergency squad from our existing team and worked flat out to get our product online. We saw immediate benefit both from local and abroad. People would come into the Hub with the product on their phone. We started getting random online purchases from Singapore, Australia and the USA.
These were new challenges for the team and it was hard work. To keep up team morale we ran daily stand-up meetings, a weekly team ride, monthly bonuses for hitting new retail targets (of course this was credit to be used on our product), week-end trips to Mt Ventoux and the Pyrenees and regular catch-ups and recognition of team performance.
2020 has been a silver lining for Eat Sleep Cycle. Having several business streams (tourism + retail) before Covid was questioned by business analysts but has been a key recipe to our success. A multi-disciplined and international team has been critical, with our core team changing their role as required to support the business and in satisfying our local and foreign customer base. We are also always amazed by the benefit of debate and disagreement before coming to the agreed way forward from a multicultural team. None of this would have been possible without our loyal tour and bike hire guests, local Catalan people, the pros who live in Girona, and our incredible staff team, we thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.
Looking Ahead to 2021: What’s Next?
2021 will be the most exciting year in Eat Sleep Cycle history!
We are ready for the return of our tour guests from all over the world to provide world class bike hire in Girona and tours throughout Europe. We are adding some new destinations and our VIP guests will be invited along to those first excursions. We have completely maintained our Girona footprint including our Hub, logistical warehouse housing fully equipped vehicles and tours HQ. In fact we are working on a further expansion for 2021, full details will be revealed soon!
Our bike rental fleet will be bigger and better in 2021. Our orders have already been in with our partner brands for some time for their latest top of the range bikes. We will offer a wider range than ever by introducing Cervelo, Focus and Kona to our existing fleet of Factor, Ridley, Basso and Focus. The fleet will include more gravel bikes and now full suspension mountain bikes and more electric bikes.
Our plan is to not only sustain but also grow our local bike shop: the Hub, which currently sells a range of bikes, clothing and bike components everyday. This means we will continue to improve our service to the local community too. Our rental fleet doubles up as a demo fleet so anybody can try out a range of bikes from entry level to the latest top of the range tech.
We will work even closer with our partner brands, support their product launches and test their technology in the field. Of course this will all only be made possible by expanding our team, with a focus on local people for our Girona operation. Watch this space!
A Huge THANK YOU from from all of us at Eat Sleep Cycle for your support & enabling us to succeed in what was a very unexpected year. We hope to ride with you all in 2021!
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