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Find new life online

It pays to attend courses. You can always pick something up. Even if it saves you just five minutes a couple of times a day that can mean an hour a week you can use elsewhere.
Shayne Preer

Top tips

  • Stay ahead of trends
  • Take advantage of business training
  • Leverage efficiencies that online can provide

The business

Ten years ago Shayne and Julie Preer made a lifestyle choice and swapped their corporate jobs in a family confectionary business for a healthier life by Lake Mulwala in Yarrawonga.

'We had owned a holiday house here since 1996 where we water skied, kayaked and rode bikes, so it made sense to move here and start our new life. We opened a little kayak shop and soon after bought a local bike shop.'

Ten years on, Action Bike & Ski is keeping them busier than they ever expected. Their product range stretches from tents, kayaks and mountain bikes to outdoor clothing, ski equipment, snow clothes and motorbike protection gear.

The Challenge

Shayne and Julie were quick to recognise that online trading would challenge traditional retail practices. They saw customers scouring the internet for good deals, particularly for clothing.

'There are more online retailers opening for business every day, so you can't simply sell stuff that everybody else does. You need to find product that others aren't selling online, then make the most of it because inevitably someone else will find out and start undercutting you.'

For a while now, Action Bike & Ski has specialised in bike trailers, the special carts designed to be towed behind bicycles. But already Shayne has discovered online competitors significantly undercutting his prices in an attempt to steal his market.

The Assistance

Julie Preer runs the online marketing side of the business and the pair takes advantage of any business training available, particularly when it's offered locally. They attended the Building Your Online Strategy workshop, part of Small Business Victoria's Small Business Workshops and Seminars program, hosted by Moira Shire Council.

'About 70 per cent of our business is now done online so we're ahead of many others, but it pays to attend workshops. You can always pick something up. Even if it saves you just five minutes a couple of times a day, that can mean an hour a week you can use elsewhere.'

The couple takes advantage of visiting tutors and facilitators, asking them to visit their shop to make observations or suggestions.

'We're always happy to hear from the experts. Even if they don’t have any direct suggestions for us it’s nice to know we’ve got things covered.'

Business today and in the future

Two years ago, Shayne and Julie moved the business from Yarrawonga’s main street into a building they bought one block away, simply because the rent was too costly. They budgeted to lose about 15-20 per cent of passing trade, but in fact sales went down barely half that.

'We’ll pay back the investment on the new shop in 10 years, and save ourselves $35,000 in rent each year.'

Julie maintains a lively Facebook site for the business, and they keep in regular communication with around 20,000 customers on their database. They have also invested about $20,000 in a new website and employed online marketing consultants to give their business an edge.

'It's money out the door at a time of low cash flow but it's something we have to do. In the online world you’re never ahead, you just have to keep up.'

The result

Shayne and Julie Preer knew online shopping was growing, so attended the Building Your Online Strategy workshop to meet their huge online customer base. Now 70 per cent of their sales come through online.