Hopkinson Cycles

From challenging high street conditions to a thriving £1M+ online business

Hopkinson Cycles is a third-generation bicycle shop that was founded in 1970. With high street conditions proving increasingly challenging in recent years, the family business was at risk of closure, until a decision to ‘test the waters’ and start selling on eBay led to an amazing turnaround.

Named Family Award winners at the eBay for Business Awards 2018, The Hopkinsons’ launched their eBay shop, Hopkinson Cycles, in 2008, selling top quality cycling brands at affordable prices.

Here, Nick Hopkinson, the latest family member to join the business, shares their story.

How did you end up launching your own eBay shop?

Hopkinson cycles was started up by my grandfather Howard Hopkinson, in the early 70s. His sons, Allan and Paul, came on board and the business thrived as a bicycle repair centre. They had a large showroom stocking hundreds of bicycles and would also attend several market days at towns across the region.

But changes in people’s shopping habits saw our local town of Horbury in Wakefield see a huge decline in passing trade. It looked as though the business was destined to join the hundreds of others that had already had to call it a day and shut up shop.

It was at this point that my father, Paul Hopkinson, decided to 'test the waters' and try selling a few bicycle parts on eBay, to see if he might bring in a bit of extra money.
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When did you sell your first item on eBay?

He started off by listing around 10 products with some very low resolution pictures and a few basic words for the descriptions. After eagerly waiting for the first items to sell, a few days later he had success! And with that the online business was officially underway.

Items continued to sell well and so he added more and more, with the 10 listings quickly becoming 100, and the 100 then expanding to 500 products, and the total now exceeding more than 1000!

How did you grow the business?

eBay was such a success that it caused the whole structure of the family business to change. The days of being stood at 5am on a cold market stall were officially over. Instead, it was all hands on deck, selling and taking packages up to the local post office (a few bin liners full every day!).

Around the summer of 2012, my uncle asked me if I wanted to join the family business and I jumped at the opportunity.
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Due to the increase in online sales, we closed the bicycle showroom and front of our shop, to create a larger warehouse. We no longer had any time for repairing bicycles, as every working minute was spent increasing our eBay listings, making them better and wrapping up packages.

We couldn’t keep running to the local post office with bin liners full of parcels, as we were getting between 200-500 sales each day, so we arranged for Royal Mail and our couriers to collect the parcels from our business premises.

We now have an annual turnover of around £1.2 million and more than 1000 listings on our eBay shop.
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I think one of the reasons we’ve been so successful is that being a third-generation family business, we have a huge amount of industry knowledge. We’re able to spot which products are likely to sell well and have great intuition for what’s going to be ‘the next big thing’. And it’s not all about new parts and innovations, it’s often vintage and retro items that are our best sellers.

The survival of the business, and its ongoing success, has all been down to eBay, and the time and effort we dedicated to improving our listings and adapting our services, to ensure we always stay ahead of the competition. We’re now working on an updated business model that will enable us to take the business to expand further and take us to the next level.  

Why did you enter the eBay for Business Awards?

I had an email about the awards and thought we had an interesting story to share. We were a well established business for such a long time before things went slowly downhill. Everyone within the industry was under pressure and it’s only because we took a leap of faith that our future now looks very different. eBay massively turned the business around for us, and by entering the awards and sharing our story, we hope we can inspire others in a similar situation.

Top tips


You need to know the industry and your products inside out

If you don’t know your products 100%, you’re setting yourself up to fail. We are constantly getting asked questions and I’m able to answer them, meaning I can respond quickly and with the right information. This instills confidence in potential buyers as they can see we know what we’re talking about. If there is ever a question I don’t know the answer to, I will personally go and find out the answer, as I want to know! This is one of the reasons we have so many repeat customers who trust in us and our products.


Be prepared to scale up

So many startups begin life in a spare room or a garage and get so caught up in the day-to-day running of the business that they don’t think about the next stage. If you’ve hit on a great business idea, then you need to be prepared for how you’re going to grow. It’s a good idea to be thinking at least a year ahead.


Respect your customers

Treat your customers right and with respect and 99% will treat you the same. Being polite, respectful and having manner costs nothing and will ensure you provide customers with a positive experience. They are then more likely to return to you and spend more. 


Never be afraid to pick up the phone

Someone may come across as irate or argumentative in an email, when in fact they’re not. You need to just take that aspect out it. I often give people a courtesy call in these instances and nine times out of 10 they’re happy and there’s some other reason behind the message coming across like it did. Remember you don’t know who you’re dealing with, so always be polite and courteous, no matter what.

Want to be an eBay for Business award winner just like the Hopkinsons? You could win an all-expenses-paid trip to the USA, as well as up to £5,000 in prize money, plus much more. You’ll find loads more information about the awards and how to enter, here.

Social post: Meet The Hopkinsons – From challenging high street conditions to a thriving £1m online business #ebayawardsuk via @eBayUK_News

Did you know
Hopkinson cycles was started up by Nick's grandfather Howard Hopkinson, in the early 70s

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