The second decade of the 21st century opened to tough times. The impact of the recession was being felt throughout North America, and retail was hit hard by the effects of unemployment and decreased discretionary spending. As a result, discounting and sales events became the norm for savvy shoppers. United Cycle had new competition with the opening of Pro Hockey Life and expansion of the Sport Chek and Canadian Tire brands in the market. Independent bike stores contended for the same customers, making event participation and grassroots support increasingly important. As other companies were pulling back on support and sponsorship, United Cycle increased efforts to invest back into the community.
Business operations were challenged to change during this decade owing to both external conditions and the new building. The common refrain was ‘we are too big to be small business and too small to be a big business’! The management was in steady pursuit of the company’s ‘sweet spot’. The decision to open Sunday’s was an example of one of these decisions. Although the family was proud to have remained closed through 8 decades of business, customers were finding it difficult to support United Cycle without the opportunity to be serviced 7 days per week. The organizational structure went through several evolutions, which includes the additions of senior (non-family) roles, bringing some outside retail experience to the table to learn from.
The Alberta economy alternated between big highs with the expansion of the Fort MacMurray region and significant lows, when gas prices plummeted. This made strategy key, trying to anticipate the customer’s needs and budgets.
With challenge comes new opportunity. United Cycle was able to grow certain areas of business by selling ‘on the road’ at events, with products like figure skates. United Cycle also opened a ‘kiosk’ at the GO Community Centre, primarily for basketball and volleyball. After much effort and investment, the company was also now selling online.
While sports such as hockey were experiencing a decrease in registration, several recreational activities were growing. United Cycle experienced breakouts with products like scooters, fat bikes, and now electric bikes. They also continued to evolve the selection by growing ‘athleisure’ clothing and adding triathlon bikes, swim, and ski, to name a few. Success hinged on the ability to anticipate and respond to popular items. A few hits from the period include S’well water bottles, SAXX underwear, and sports nutrition. Staff numbers were rapidly expanding to staff the new building, peaking at 280.
Much excitement was in store for the home town crowd (after years of frustration with local professional sports teams) with the development of the Ice District and Roger’s Place; a Grey Cup win for the Eskimos, winning the draft lottery for Connor McDavid, and an exciting Oilers playoff run in 2017. Fans fervor (selling out Molson Canadian Hockey House and Roger’s Place even during away games) caught national attention and re-sparked the conversation about celebrating Edmonton as a ‘City of Champions’.
The company ownership continued to evolve as United Cycle reached its 90th year. Wilf Brooks and Iola Bots have retired. Jeff and Leah Stuparyk stepped away from the business and Iola’s daughter Lisa Ross became an owner. Several 5th generation members of the family were working part-time as they pursue their studies. Brother and sister Jason Bots and Lisa Ross, together with a solid group of long term staff members, lead the company as it heads toward the century mark!