The mobility revolution could not be symbolised more accurately: In an old car repair workshop and former Saab dealership, a state-of-the-art shop for e-bikes has opened in Neumünster. Over an area of almost 800 square metres, Küstenrad displays the latest e-bikes, offers perfect workshop service and greats customers with excellent coffee. "We always liked the spacious environment of a car dealership instead of the typical bicycle shops," remarks Felix Habke, Head of Marketing at Küstenrad, describing the concept. "Otherwise you’re fitting as many bicycles as possible in a tight space. Instead, we wanted lots of space for our showroom and we have an enormous car park right outside where customers can take our bicycles for a proper spin."
The goal of Küstenrad was actually to acquire real estate in town centres. But when they were unable to find a suitable space, the Küstenrad and NORDGATE teams sat down again together and expanded their focus based on regional target groups and location analysis. The regional perspective of the NORDGATE team was an advantage here, since this partnership ultimately led them to their new showrooms.
Apart from the main store in Kiel, the new branch office in Neumünster is the largest shop that the founders Maximilian Schay and Jonas Stolzke have opened to sell their bikes. The old car dealership on Gutenbergstraße was completely gutted and reconstructed. For this purpose, the cycling pros worked with a shopfitter to develop a modular concept that can be adapted individually to each location.
In just five years, the start-up developed into a professional e-bike provider. But it all started with Ghana in West Africa. That’s where the Küstenrad story begins, with a picture of a simple bamboo bicycle. This inspired Jonas Stolzke and Maximilian Schay, friends studying business administration together, to launch a social project to combat youth unemployment there with the production of bicycles using renewable raw materials. Together with investor and business angel Hans Helmut Schramm from Brunsbüttel, their dream came true. In 2013, the young entrepreneurs founded my Boo GmbH. "We all knew how to ride bicycles, but now we also had to understand the bicycle business," remarks Marketing Manager Felix Habke about the company’s early days. "We rode all around Germany and tried to sell our bicycles to dealers. But no one was looking for a bamboo bike called my Boo. That was a sobering but educational period."
As luck would have it, in 2015 a property became available near business angel Schramm. And since there was no bicycle shop or bicycle workshop in Brunsbüttel, the second business idea came into being – setting up their own shop for the bamboo bicycles. And that got the wheels turning. Habke: "It was a clever move, because we were suddenly sitting on the other side of the table and the bicycle providers were coming to us. We got to see how the bicycle market works, we learned how retail operates and made our first money." They quickly found a name as well: Küstenrad Koogstraße, after the first location. Future branch offices were later named after the town where they were located, so the first location was rechristened Küstenrad Brunsbüttel.
In Kiel, things happened the other way round. There, Maximilian and Jonas took over a small bike shop whose owners had retired after 40 years. There was enough space there to assemble the bicycles and perform maintenance while sales remained in Brunsbüttel. In addition to the founders and two friends, the first trained bicycle mechanics were hired. "From then on, the team has kept growing," says Habke. "We now have 80 employees." Growth developed rapidly starting from 2015. Just one year later it was clear that Kiel also needed a Küstenrad sales branch. A former chemist’s shop was rented and became the new headquarters. Just two years later, this space also became too small and the next relocation was necessary. The strategy changed too.
"Over the years, we had seen hundreds of bicycle shops all over Europe, reviewed our concept and in 2019 resolutely decided that we’re only going to sell e-bikes from now on," says Habke. This is the market of the future, where Küstenrad focused from a very early stage in contrast to many established shops. At the same time, a Küstenrad branch shop opened in Sarzbüttel and another location between Kiel and Hamburg will provide additional revenues. Habke: "Since many bicycle brands have territorial protection and our concept relies in part on the e-bike manufacturer Riese & Müller, we decided on Neumünster. And there we discovered the old car dealership, which we quickly decided could become a real gem." The icing on the cake was that another special Küstenrad shop for cargo bikes and children’s bikes was opening at the same time in Kiel.
But the secret to their success is not just general growth within the e-bike market, the key above all is the special Küstenrad consultation concept. "We rely on a digital concept," explains Habke. "Customers arrange a personal appointment on our website. Then the customer consultant takes their measurements digitally using our SMARTFIT system. Based on this data, the custom bicycle is selected and configured perfectly." All this is part of the Küstenrad satisfaction guarantee. Not to mention the option of returning the bicycle or exchanging it for a different model within 30 days free of charge. "We are confident that we sell the perfect bike to our customers," says Habke. "We want our customers to feel particularly satisfied, since they invest a lot of money in their new bicycle. Almost no one buys an e-bike for less than 3,000 euros; with many people even paying 5,000 to 8,000 euros."
There are many other options for riding e-bikes in future, for example as company bicycles. In this context, employers generally establish a framework agreement with a leasing company that makes further arrangements with the employees. Küstenrad actively supports company bicycle leasing and advertises its e-bike portfolio with informational events and test rides at companies. "We also offer cooperations and donate goodies when we sign a contract, for example the essential bike helmet," says Habke. Companies can naturally also use Küstenrad e-bikes in their vehicle fleet as a form of operational mobility management. Apart from brand-name bikes from Riese & Müller, bamboo e-bikes from the in-house brand my Boo are still in the portfolio. A bamboo cargo e-bike is even planned for the near future. After all, one thing is important for the Küstenrad team – the conviction that they are doing the right thing. "You might be able to make money more easily with other products," says Felix Habke. "But we are proud of our bamboo bicycle, which had never been available in Europe in this form. With this project, we have not only created jobs in Africa and at our company, we were also able to construct and co-finance a school in Ghana."