Bik Biz, the UK’s bike industry trade publication, has an article out today announcing that July 2009 IBD sales are up 5.8 percent. A “record” sales figure, according the Association of Cycle Traders. Sounds reasonable, given that we’ve been hearing so much lately about how strong the European bike market is this year amid manufacturers’ growing inventory woes as a result of lower bike sales. Bike Biz’s editor, Carlton Reid, even went so far a few months back as to invite the US to send over excess bikes over the pond to meet their demand – and help us Yanks out a bit with our apparent warehouses full of unsold bikes.
But this same article mentions that this growth in sales comes amid a drop in bicycle imports, similar to what we’ve seen in the US. Bicycle Retailer’s August 1 issue reported statistics that describe a drop in US bicycle imports through April 2009 of over 1.3 million units – a 25% percent drop over last year. Bike Biz recently reported the UK import figure as a 35% decrease over the previous year.
So where is the growth in sales coming from? I think it’s easy to see that the growth must be coming from parts, accessories and service sales. With the struggling world economy, people are holding off on buying new bikes, but that same economy is encouraging more bicycle riding as a solution to reduced household budgets. It goes back to last year’s revelations about people pulling out the old 10-speed from the garage and fixing it up to use as a commuter.
While some manufacturers may be struggling in the current economic climate, this is a beautiful thing for cycling and it highlights the strength and value of the independent bicycle dealer to society. There’s a constant discussion (and concern) in the cycling community about the role and future of the brick and mortar bike shop in the internet and big-box retail age: do they add enough value to overcome some of the attractions of the other sales channels? But the very nature of the traditional bike shop is now its strength: the ability to service, repair, revive and sustain bicycles for what ever use its owner intends. I think this real added value is what puts the full service bicycle retailer in a better position than most retailers in other markets to weather these economic storms – and help society in the process.
And like I said, that’s a beautiful thing.