Tri Harder, based in Dereham, received £30,000 from the Business Resilience and Recovery Scheme, which was launched to help companies diversify and increase their resilience during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The electric bike market has grown rapidly and represents a safer way of travel at a time when people are being discouraged from using public transport and car sharing.
Ben Walker, who owns the firm, says it will future-proof the business while the changing areas and additional space in the new premises next door will ensure customers can be better protected when they are able to return after the latest lockdown. The forthcoming addition of an area serving coffee and snacks will meanwhile encourage customers to plan longer visits to the shop and spend more time talking with the sales team.
“That will help us to offer a real experience for people coming to the shop for electric bikes and they can pick up a decent coffee at the same time,” said Ben.
“Part of the plan is for us to broaden our customer base to make us more resilient going forward and, if races are cancelled, we will have another side to the business that will benefit from lockdown because people will travel on bikes more than on public transport.
“Electric bikes increase the range we can offer. It makes journeys less stressful, even if you are quite fit. A lot of showers at places of work are closed due to Covid, so you can get in without breaking into a sweat.”
Tri Harder has been in operation for eight years, selling mainly specialist triathlon cycles and clothing, along with servicing and bike fitting. However, the pandemic has put paid to the triathlon season and left a great uncertainty over next year’s events.
Social distancing and other Covid-19 restrictions also made it difficult for the business to operate safely from its existing premises, resulting in its application to the Business Resilience and Recovery Scheme to fund the move next door.
“We now have more space and hard flooring instead of carpet in the changing rooms, which makes it much easier to clean and safer for customers,” said Ben. “It is allowing us to trade more safely and more effectively.”
Chris Starkie, chief executive of New Anglia LEP, said Tri Harder’s post-Covid plans were a clear example of the kind of project the fund was set up to support.
“The scheme was introduced to support businesses with short-term or longer-term diversification projects that would help them to get through the pandemic and give them more resilience in the future,” he said.
“By going into the electric bike market, Tri Harder will have an alternative income stream should the triathlon season continue to be disrupted by the virus.”
To find out if your project is eligible for funding, go to https://newanglia.co.uk/grant/business-resilience-and-recovery-scheme/