Now, I was hesitant on doing this article because I don’t want to make it sound like I want everyone to forget about their LBS’s and just shop online or by catalogs. I just want to show that Excel Sports has earned my respect for the way they do business, and for that, hats off to them.
I was googling for many things earlier in the week, and decided this would be a good time to find some cyclocross things on sale, right after the season has ended. Oddly enough for the pair of brakes I wanted (Tektro CR720′s), Excel Sports was the cheapest place to get a set for front and rear. I was not paid or sponsored by them to say this, so I won’t link you to them… well, maybe if someone asked nicely.
From the time I ordered to arrival, it took three days for the package to get here from Boulder CO; I find this more than adequate, but nothing special either. What was special, was that the box the products were shipped in was not GINORMOUS with tons of air package bubbles and junk for a little product; like stories you hear on Consumerist all of the time.
Also, you can see with the products and invoice, they also sent an 83 page catalog containing some of their top store inventory. This tidbit was shockingly different than many other catalog order bike magazines. It may even earn itself a spot in the lavatory reading department shelf.
While none of these practices are new, or even really radical anymore, it is very rare that so many of these attributes are all carried out by one bike company. I’ve been internet/mail ordering bike items for a while now, and I have on several occasions have something shipped that was not supposed to be, or even have something left out or mislabeled. Excel Sports not only hits many check-marks, but does this while still offering cheap prices, and fast shipping. Their shipping options on the web-order have a choice that says something like: “Choose the lowest price shipping for me.” Anyone who orders from Nashbar.com would crap their pants if they saw an option like that. for three day shipping, it only cost $7.25 for USPS Priority Mail. While this saves me a bit over the typical minimum shipping charge of $10 or so, it is the thought that counts; which you can hold against me as positive bias for this seller.
Back to the catalog…
Excel Sports does sell more items than what is listed on their sales catalog, but it does very well as showing many popular options for just about anyone in their printed edition. Cyclists in nature are very picky, intuitive, and facts/data/numbers oriented people who want to know information like this about products before they buy them. In several cases, this catalog does a better job of listing data and describing products than the manufacturer’s site.
Data is given for every item listed, no matter what it is. The visual design elements are not skimp, and the pictures used are very clear and large.
These people must be cyclists themselves, because even the photos are shot to show us what we want to see, and large enough for us to distinguish subtle details between “this and that“
They also have section with details that are typically overlooked by already knowledgeable cyclists, yet is still there for the new guys starting out and not knowing certain abbreviations or terms. For example C-C / O-O for handlebar dimensions are given visual diagrams to explain the terms:
Also when I said that this catalog shows a lot of products they carry, I wasn’t kidding:
For their apparel section, they have a photograph of people I could imagine as real cyclists (maybe they are?) in each set of clothes listed:
Excel Sports also keeps their component section listed pretty heavily:
Last and not least, their action-shot photography is pretty standard, but not run of the mill. The cyclists in these pictures are not robots, and the scenery and colors add to the flare of the products. Blame me for taking a year of art classes in college for noticing things like this…
I haven’t heard anything from the design team or upper management from Excel Sports about the details of their business, but I would love to hear more about them. If I do receive any info on them, I will be sure to spread the word.
I’m not suggesting you purchase anything from Excel Sports, but take a look at their website, see if they have anything that is priced well, and if so, ask for a catalog when you have your items shipped. It is a jam-packed catalog and you’ll have it around for a while taking peeks at items you may have been wondering about for a while.
I was just forwarded the entry from your blog. I am responsible for the catalog here at Excel Sports and I have to tell you that it definitely feels good to hear that people are enjoying what we are producing!
Our catalog staff is very small, only 2 people. Between our graphic designer and me we plan, design, layout, photograph and proof nearly every part of the catalog. We are fortunate to have a bit of help with the proofing from our buyers and sales staff as well. Overall I would say that the company is pretty small and pretty efficient.
The goal that we have been working on with the catalog is to provide easily comparable information so people can have everything at their fingertips to make informed decisions. Weights, colors, photo angles etc are all selected in order to try to help customers pick out what is right for them. We even make a big attempt to measure and weigh everything in house so that the info is as accurate as possible. (you never know when a company may embellish a weight to make it sound even more appealing!)
I am glad you noticed our models as well. We generally only work with cyclists, in fact most of our models are cat 1-2, some are primarily MTBers and some are avid cyclists. It is a bit tough sometimes to find cyclists that have no conflict with their sponsors, but if you look in there you can find some pretty big names at times! Chris Baldwin can be seen in the Assos section and we have had Colby Pierce in there also. My personal view is that we should be giving our modeling budget back to the racing community, so we always push to find models locally or in the area that we are going to shoot. (this year many shots were in Tucson AZ)
Anyhow, I just wanted to let you know that designing a Cycling catalog isn’t typically high on the compliments so it was very nice and refreshing to read your post!
Josh McGuckin | Excel Sports Boulder
I know Josh just sent you an email, but I wanted to send my own thanking you for the wonderful blog entry! I do the graphic design at Excel so your blog was great encouragement for a Monday morning.
I grew up in WV (Scott Depot) and have spent some time in Buckhannon and pedaled a bit around there and would love to come back to do more cycling.
Anyhow thanks again, and please let either of us know if there is anything in particular you would like to see in the catalog or any other feedback.
Amanda Lenz | Designer | Excel Sports Boulder