We love a new retail trend here at The Market Creative, and regularly undertake retail safaris to shopping hubs to make sure we spot them early.

The main thrust of a retail safari is to really get under the skin of a particular category, to identify the norms and see who does what well. The trends often become apparent as a result of this and a recent safari to Manchester gave us a great new retail trend in the form of ‘Tribification’.

For this retail safari we were particularly interested in retailers of outdoor equipment and clothing, but our methodology meant that we were also keen to visit stores from different and neighbouring categories. It was whilst visiting cycling shops that the trend crystallised.

On the back of national sporting success and a wider interest in health and fitness, cycling has been transformed over the past decade or so from a niche interest to a mainstream hobby. One of the more apparent characteristics of cycling as a sport, is the community that exists around it. Retail shops are largely run by enthusiasts eager to share knowledge and advice, and fellow cyclists are united by a desire to discuss their kit, routes and tales of two-wheeled derring-do. Add to this the distinctive clothing, language and physical marks only other cyclists notice (like fingerless glove tan lines), cyclist behave very much as a tribe.

The more cycling shops we visited the more it became clear that there is a real opportunity for them to be the central hub for this tribe, and to leverage the expertise of their staff against the tempting prices of online retailers. By allowing themselves to be more social spaces where cyclists can meet, share stories and ask opinions, the store becomes ingrained in the their mind as a focal point of their hobby. It’s much easier to convert these people into customers and advocates. Capitalising on the community inherent in your target market is Tribification.

The stand-out example of a new retail trend in practise is the Rapha Cycle Club in Manchester. Rapha are a premium producer of drool-worthy cycle clothing and accessories. Their Manchester store is actually a 2 storey Club House, with parking for bikes and an Espresso bar downstairs, larger Café upstairs and a retail area behind that. The premises are steeped in the iconography of cycling:

  • nods to legendary climbs and routes
  • champions’ jerseys
  • photos of the great moments in cycling history

Cyclists are comfortable here, and happy to spend time buying coffee and shelling out £15 for pairs of socks.

By tapping into the tribal nature of cycling and giving would-be window shoppers a forum to talk about their passion, Rapha shows that it gets them, and has successfully turned them into customers and advocates.

James Kay

Account Manager