Bicycle makers and retailers in Australia and New Zealand have reported a “crazy” and “off the chart” surge in sales during the lockdown period as people looked for ways to stay fit and commute safely.
“Due to recreational activities like gyms, pools and outdoor play areas being closed down (in March and April), people have decided that getting a bike is the best way to get some exercise during these challenging times,” said Christopher Bruges-Cannon, retail area manager for Reid Cycles, which has five stores and an e-commerce site in Australia.
“Many office workers who are now working from home have realised they also need an escape during the day and have bought a bike to get some fresh air.”
Even though social distancing restrictions have largely eased in Australia and New Zealand, bike sales remain well above average.
Jennifer McIver, executive director of New Zealand-based kids’ bike brand Wishbone Design Studio, said orders have been “crazy” and “off the chart” since the New Zealand government allowed shops to reopen and fulfil online orders.
“April, May and June are all exceeding forecasts by 50 per cent, which brings us back where we need to be,” McIver told Inside Retail.
Bruges-Cannon said demand is higher than it has been in any summer from the past five years.
“Our bicycles sales have more than doubled,” he said. “We have also experienced a jump in demand for our workshop services. Many people are pulling out old dusty bikes from storage, which need fixed up.”
Reid Cycles kept its stores open with social distancing rules in place and greater levels of hygiene inside the shops. But many customers opted to shop online and have their bikes delivered to avoid leaving home, according to Bruges-Cannon.
Bigger than Black Friday
Jen Geale, general manager of pureplay mountain bike retailer MTB Direct, said sales have more than doubled compared to the previous corresponding period and a “regular week” at the moment is even bigger than Black Friday last year.
Wishbone Design Studio, which has won numerous awards for its kids’ bikes and recently launched a bike made from recycled plastic bottles, was well prepared for this trend.
“We had been building a new e-commerce platform for both wholesale and retail over the past 18 months, so we were perfectly positioned to take advantage of the quiet time when the lockdown began to complete that process, and now we’re benefiting as a result,” McIver said.
“In our view COVID-19 is an accelerant, speeding up three- or four-fold the trends that were already underway in terms of increased adoption of online shopping,” she said.
“Our wholesale business has shown that retailers with an online presence are doing well, including those who have bricks and mortar stores too.”
One downside of the increased demand is the impact on the supply chain.
MTB Direct’s Geal said wholesales prices have gone up, mostly because of the movements in the US dollar and increased international airfreight costs. Prices at Reid Cycles have mainly stayed the same.
“We want to keep our ethos of supplying Australians with great value bikes,” Bruges-Cannon said.
Bike stores worldwide have reported a shortage of supply of bicycles in April and MTB Direct was no exception.
“Supply had been a real challenge the past few months,” Geale said. “We’re probably getting in about half as much stock as we would like.”
She said it’s probably a combination of the huge demand for cycling parts that bike stores across the country are experiencing, coupled with the fact a lot of the parts come in from overseas and there have been supply chain impacts there.
But Reid Cycles, which was founded by James Reid, still have stocks on hand.
“We have close relationships with a couple of factories and have been able to increase supply and our stock holding,” Bruges-Cannon said. “We now have plenty of bikes at our warehouse, with more coming through over Winter.”
Delivery is also not a problem, he said.
“When in stock, metro areas take one to two days for the bikes to be delivered,” he said.
“Regional areas up to seven business days. We have also introduced a preorder function for our most popular bikes.”
A long-term trend
In the wake of the pandemic, Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData, said consumers are going to continue to become more conscious about health and wellness and will continue to look into sports and active products.
This means the bike market may be more crowded coming out of this crisis than it was going in, he said.
According to Geale, MTB Direct is already benefiting from this change in behaviour.
“Our niche is mountain biking, and we’re seeing lots of people getting out there as the forest makes a beautiful change of scenery to being inside at home,” Geale said.
“We’re also seeing people ‘rediscover’ mountain biking again, possibly thanks to having a bit more time on their hands, or wanting to find activities they can do with their family,” she added.
And while Reid Cycles is known for its ladies vintage classic bikes, Bruges-Cannon said the retailer’s commuter and mountain bike ranges have also received a lot of attention lately.
In Sydney, public transport usage fell 75 per cent in March, according to data from Transport for New South Wales.
The Bicycle Network, the country’s peak representative body for cyclists, thinks this trend will continue and has called on the government to transform some roads into cycleways to ease traffic on bike paths.
Wisbhone’s McIver has spotted one other new trend worth noting.
“We are definitely noting a new wave of kindness in business and that feels good,” she said.
“Generally there seems to be a stronger sense of support for one another and an appreciation that we can each have a positive impact to help others get through the tough times, if we just pull together.”