Times might be tough, but Urban Rider is a start-up that’s bucking the downward trend in retail. Will Starrit and Andrew Taylor are 20-somethings with a passion for motorbikes who are riding through the storm. They may lack experience, but they’ve used ecommerce technology to rescue an ailing business
Online store www.urbanrider.co.uk went live in December 2008, eight months after the Urban Rider shop opened on the fashionable New Kings Road, in Fulham, west London.
The shop had been around a long time as Bullet Motorcycles and was much frequented by celebrities such as Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman, but it was struggling and run down when Will Starrit and Andrew Taylor bought the lease. Now it is a burgeoning mecca for bikers from London and beyond who want to look cool not crusty.
The high street shop sells a comprehensive range of must-have scooters, motorcycles and accessories, but the website focuses on a select range of biker clothing priced between £40 and £600.
“It’s key that we sell clothing that’s highly desirable and hard to track down,” says Will. “We go to the manufacturers and get exclusive deals where possible.” The duo is aiming at a dual market of commuters on their scooters as well as the leisure biker who rides for the love of it. Both want clothing that is fashionable and different, yet weatherproof and practical.
Will and Andrew’s relatively new venture is a great example of style on a shoestring. For example, they saved the £90,000 they were quoted for the fit-out by doing the work themselves. Will is a design graduate of the Royal College of Art, while Andrew has the muscles. The result is an ultra stylish boutique that communicates the fun and glamour of motorcycling, while appealing to those who are new to the two-wheel world.
The ecommerce site had to reflect the high street store, so they used a web designer but had a tight budget. The results are testimony to what a web designer can do with an off-the-shelf ecommerce package. The eye-catching design is based round a billboard theme and their own product photography, which really marks the site out as different from other biking sites.
Green Jersey Web Design created the virtual store by customising boxed ecommerce package SellerDeck Catalog. “Processing both web and telephone orders as well as day-to-day site maintenance is quick and easy. The software has the right balance between flexibility and features, while giving us room for growth as sales increase,” says Will.
“The software and hosting cost less than £1,000; our total spend including design and professionally produced images was about £7,000. We launched at Christmas 2008 – if we hadn’t we’d have lost about £2,000 in profit. Our website’s not just great for expanding online sales – it’s already driving extra customers to our shop. On a Saturday we can take £5-6k, but half of that is because people have found us via our website.”
The business turned over more than £500,000 in 2009. Online sales made up about 15 per cent of this figure, but the profit is significantly higher on goods sold online, because overheads are much lower. About 75 per cent of online purchases are made by UK customers, while 20 per cent lives in the United States.
And Will and Andy are not just using the ecommerce technology for retailing, but are also building a community by uploading to their site ‘how to’ video guides on different aspects of biking, as well as adding live weather and traffic reports for their London fans. “We want buying from Urban Rider to be a lifestyle experience, not like buying a toothbrush. We’re using web technology to show customers a cool, edgy side to biking that they can aspire to,” Will concludes.