Another large Portland bike retailer has decided to shut down its brick-and-mortar location. Western Bikeworks is set to announce today that their 10,000 square foot shop on the corner of Northwest 17th and Lovejoy will close before the end of this year.
Jay Torborg, CEO of Western Bikeworks’ parent company Velotech Inc, told us via email yesterday that the move comes as their lease is up for renewal and they’ve decided to prioritize their online business. “The expected future costs of operating the store have cast doubt on our ability to operate this store profitably,” he shared.
Torborg opened the retail store in 2011 based on the strength of Western’s online business which had grown steadily each year since it began in 2003. In addition to a wide selection of new bikes and gear, the shop has a cafe and large service area.
“We felt that our strengths are more in e-commerce than brick-and-mortar retail.”
— Jay Torborg, CEO Velotech Inc.
Despite its impressive footprint and great location in the Pearl District, the store accounts for less than 10% of the Velotech’s total revenue. 90% of the company’s business is generated online via their three websites: WesternBikeworks.com, BikeTiresDirect.com and Trisports.com.
In addition to the significant costs of operating the store, Torborg says Velotech’s new distribution center in Charlotte, North Carolina — opened to better serve the eastern U.S. — needs more investment to bulk up its inventory. “It made more sense for us to use our available capital to fund our Charlotte expansion,” he explained.
Torborg said the small retail storefront at Velotech’s warehouse near Northeast Columbia Boulevard and 82nd Avenue will be expanded once the Lovejoy location closes.
Asked what the decision to close says about the Portland cycling market, Torborg said he believes it remains strong and pointed to the many “great stores” that continue to operate in the metro area. “We felt that our strengths are more in e-commerce than brick-and-mortar retail.”
Even though the shop is closing, Western Bikeworks will continue to support local cycling clubs and teams. As for the dozen or so people employed at the shop, some of them will be offered positions at the company’s warehouse. The store will remain open through the holidays and will close its doors for good in early 2020. Until, expect big upcoming sales on all showroom stock.
Disclaimer: Velotech Inc is a BikePortland advertising partner.
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