Bike Zone: In The Zone

A new biking franchise melds individualism with all the benefits of belonging to a group.

Bike Zone: In The Zone

The franchisor

Marius Wannenburg’s experience lies in retail, but his passion is motorbikes. Bike Zone is not only the answer to a gap in the motorbike and accessories retail market, but it’s a way for him to merge his knowledge with his passion, help independent store owners to increase their buying power, and give an affordable opportunity to new franchisees who also love the biking world.

The concept

Bike Zone is based on a voluntary trade system similar to traditional co-ops. As the franchisor, Marius brings preferred suppliers and store owners together. This gives franchisees a recognised brand to operate under, assistance with choosing and securing a location, choosing the right stock, preferential buying power and the expertise of an experienced retailer in categorising and setting up the store.

Developing the idea

Marius dreamt of running his own business throughout his corporate retail career. His first move was to become the distributor for Italian Caberg helmets in South Africa. But with the recession beginning to take hold, buyers were cutting expenses. “I opened a retail store to be able to sell my products,” he explains, adding that he learnt through the experience that you can’t be a retailer and distributor.

Back to basics

While Marius would continue to act as the Caberg distributor in SA, he realised he needed to rethink his model. He began working for a hardware co-op franchisor, Essential, and spent two and a half years there learning the system and revising his own model. Aware of Marius’ intentions, the owners were extremely helpful in everything from sharing advice to explaining all the legalities of starting a franchise.

Getting started

The first Bike Zone store was opened in Vereeniging in September 2011. The owner knew Marius through the same biking circles, and was interested in opening a store in Vereeniging like the one Marius had.

This time, the timing couldn’t have been better. Marius had a prospectus ready to go. Within three days he had his first franchisee. One year later there are 14 Bike Zone stores, with big growth plans.

The Model

Marius has worked hard at perfecting models that will assist the independent store owners he is focusing on. For example, independent owners who don’t want to lose their own identity can become ‘Bike Zone’ partners, with co-branded signage.

There are four models to choose from:

Bike Zone boutique
This operates within a larger store and focuses on accessories. Set-up costs (incl a value of stock) are around R250 000.

Bike Zone express
Fully branded and stocked on-the-road trailers for events, functions and rallies.

Bike Zone lifestyle store
A stand-alone building that focuses on accessories, gadgets and will also have motorbikes for sale. Set-up cost (incl a value of stock) is between R500 000 and R750 000.

Bike Zone mega store
This is the full service version of Bike Zone. Over and above sales, a mega store has service and tyre fitment departments as well. Set-up costs (incl a value of stock) start at R1 million.

Company: Bike Zone Group SA
Established: 2011
Contact person: Marius Wannenburg
Call: +27 (0)12 653 6856

Nadine Todd
About the Author
Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.

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