When you visit Granbury, Texas, for the first time, you’re struck by the friendliness of passersby, beautiful historic buildings and the sheer number of cyclists cruising up and down Main Street. Leonard Nuckolls noticed too.
An avid cyclist himself, Nuckolls opened Morphine Cycles in 2011 to serve the needs of his local community. The full-service shop carries everything you need to pedal like a pro, including e-bikes, new high-end options and a selection of used bikes—some of which are rare.
The shop was rolling right along until COVID-19 put a spoke in Morphine Cycles’ wheel. Multiple national lockdowns slowed or stopped the flow of materials and finished goods, disrupting manufacturing across the board. We’d heard good things coming out of Granbury and wanted to know how Nuckolls managed to tackle supply chain interruptions to keep his bike business on track through the pandemic.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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We’ve seen how the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the bicycle industry supply chain hard. What was it like for your business in the early days of COVID-19?
It was wild because, like everyone else, we didn’t know what to expect. Thankfully, cycling is considered essential in my community. We didn’t have to shut down the store, but the first couple of weeks were scary—foot traffic in the showroom slowed down significantly and then went completely dead. We stopped ordering new inventory, and I thought, “oh boy, this is going to be bad.” But then I turned around and we were sold out online.
Online sales in many sectors skyrocketed during the height of the pandemic. What do you attribute this to in your industry?
At the time, gyms and fitness centres across the country were forced to close, pushing millions of people to look for alternative options. That’s when interest in outdoor sports like cycling peeked, and our online sales exploded. We quickly jumped back into ordering new inventory—until manufacturers eventually ran dry.
With this lack of new inventory from manufacturers, how were you able to pivot and maintain sales?
We were already in the habit of buying high-end bikes online, fixing them up and selling them off. So, we continued to ride that wave but on a more intense scale. On a regular day, I purchase 20 or 30 used bicycles and they’re sold either online in our showroom. The used bike aspect of our business has been incredibly convenient. It keeps inventory rolling in when brand new bikes are simply unattainable.
Moving forward, how do you see your industry adapting? What are your plans for the future?
I’m constantly reading up on this subject and trying to figure it out. But nobody knows at this point. As far as I can tell, I have two options: I either make plans based on where we are now, or I take a shot in the dark and guess what this might look like a year from now.
For example, I’ve just submitted my 2022 order to bike manufacturers. Typically, placing an order is not a scary thing, but I’ve received maybe one quarter, or less than half, of what I ordered for the 2021 season. If the remainder of my 2021 order comes through in December and I receive my 2022 order in its entirety in January—I’m in a tough situation.
Finally, what made you choose Lightspeed for your business pre-pandemic?
Years ago, when we added the service aspect to our business, we were looking for a solution that could keep us organized—a bicycle service department is a busy place. We spoke to other bike shops, and Lightspeed came out on top, especially for service. It’s actually incredible how well Lightspeed handles everything and with ease.
In addition, before switching to Lightspeed, we were selling our used bikes through third-party platforms like eBay. Selling directly from our own website has been great for us. With support from Lightspeed, we’ve significantly improved our margins on the used desk.
Preparing for the future one day at a time
With a bit of elbow grease and old-fashioned creativity, this bold business owner has whittled the pandemic down to but a bump in the road—one he hopes will end very soon.
Nuckolls explains, “I’d love to tell you, ‘Oh, I’ve got this great plan for how I’m going to solve this,’ but it’s honestly day-to-day.”
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