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Giant USA launching online sales platform

Now you can pull the trigger on the same bike Adam Craig rides -- and do it from the comfort of your home.

Now you can buy the same bike Adam Craig rides — and do it from the comfort of your home.

The option to buy your next bike online is growing rapidly. There are already a number of smaller brands well entrenched in the cyber marketplace (think Fezzari, Canfield and so on), and one of Europe’s biggest consumer-direct players, Germany’s Canyon, is set to launch U.S. operations next spring. Now add Giant to that equation — sort of.

The U.S. arm of the world’s largest bike maker announced this week that after a limited testing period, it’s launching a nationwide online sales platform starting October 17. Buyers will be able to order the bike of their choice through Giant’s on-line sales site, and then pick it up a the Giant retailer of their choice where the bike will be built up and waiting for them.

According to a report from Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, Giant sent an email to its dealers explaining that “consumers, who are long accustomed to retail purchasing online, like the ability to do the very same thing with bicycles and bike gear, and we want that purchasing to be sourced from you.”

If the retail shop chosen by the consumer has the bike model ordered in stock, they can opt to deliver that bike instead of having a new one shipped, explained the BRAIN article. In this case the bike shop would get the standard margin on that purchase. However, if the ordered bike is not in stock, the margin will be reduced by 20 percent.

Meanwhile, all Giant or sister brand Liv gear (shoes, helmets, apparel, etc) that is purchased on-line will be shipped directly to the consumer, and the closest Giant retailer within 100 miles who stocks those products will get full margin credit.

Bike shops that carry Giant are being encouraged to enroll in a “Where to Buy” program, which is a free service that shows consumers which nearby Giant retailers have the bike they are looking for in stock. Giant also believes that its new system will “safeguard the viability of progressive, forward-looking bike shops and their customers,” reported BRAIN.

The immediate question is how all this will effect bottom line prices for consumers. One of (if not the) major attraction to buying online is lower prices. Whether it’s direct-to-consumer bike sellers or major on-line etailers such as Chain Reaction Cycles, shoppers are increasingly flocking to these outlets for both convenience and to save money. And while the Giant set-up means you wont have to build up that new bike yourself, it’s not clear if it will result in lower prices. And that may go a long way in determining the overall success of the program — and whether or not it has to further evolve to succeed.

What do you think? Is buying online for convenience alone enough? Or do you expect lower prices even if that meant building up the bike yourself?

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