How Indie Bicycle Shops Won a Landmark Battle Against Amazon

Turns out there are viable alternatives to "the everything store"

The world of indie bike shops recently scored a big win.
Michal Matlon/Unsplash

Most of the time, when you hear about small businesses taking on Amazon, the results of the conflict end up in favor of a certain retail (and technology, and logistics) giant. But every once in a while there are reminders that the company Jeff Bezos built isn’t necessarily omnipotent. The opposition to Amazon’s planned “HQ2” in New York City is one example of this; another can be seen via the launch and success to date of Bookshop. Yet another comes in a very different form — specifically, one that involves independent bicycle shops around the country. And ironically, the business at the center of it was founded by an Amazon alumnus.

At The Verge, Decca Muldowney reported on the difficult situation faced by Pacific Northwest Components, a company specializing in parts for mountain bikes. PNC’s co-founder Aaron Kerson had previously worked for Amazon, giving him a firsthand look at how the company operates and how it works with vendors.

Earlier this summer, PNC announced that it was pausing its work with Amazon, opting instead to focus on dealing directly with independently owned stores. As The Verge’s article pointed out, this offered advantages and disadvantages for PNC. Twenty to 30 percent of their sales were via Amazon, but losing that would also give PNC more control over other aspects of their business.

As the article points out, the pandemic has made questions of returns and customer service issues even more complicated for companies that work with Amazon. Kerson told The Verge that Amazon’s platform didn’t allow the degree of specificity ideal for companies like PNC, and that return fraud was also an ongoing issue.

All of which made Amazon’s loss the gain of independent bike shops — with the added bonus of raising PNC’s profile in the industry. It’s a welcome reminder that Amazon’s dominance isn’t as inevitable as it might seem.

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