Bike shortages not necessarily down to demand

35 per cent decline in UK bicycle imports

A whopping 378,768 fewer bicycles were imported into the UK in the first five months of 2009 when compared to the same period last year.

The drop, which equates to a 34.5 per cent decrease, is blamed on the fastest currency value dip since 1931. On the back of the pound hitting a $2.05 high prior to the recession, its value dipped to just $1.35 in January forcing suppliers to hit the brakes on the volume of bikes ordered.

Hot Wheels joint director and Bicycle Association member Russell Merry commented on the figures, which are exclusively handed to BA contributors: “In my opinion, all distributors would have been forced to order cautiously when the value of the pound dived. It’s a shame that the majority of importers can’t just turn the tap back on now to address the patchy stock levels that many retailers are complaining of. Lead times have, however, now improved, meaning stock is becoming more accessible quicker than previously. Business is good all the same.”

Startling declines from both Taiwan and Thailand were recorded, with 32 per cent and 70 per cent dives, respectively. Notoriously the source of low-end builds, the severe drop in bicycles exported from Thailand signals a far lower demand for bikes on a budget. Among other notable drops, the Netherlands exported 47 per cent less bikes to the UK in the first five months of 2009, shipping only 24,834 units down from 46,815 over the same period in 2008.

In contrast to this, Sri Lanka’s exports (Jan to May) to the UK increased by nearly 40 per cent, from 61,581 units to 85,212 units. Many European manufacturers also recorded increases in exports to the UK. However, these countries figures are still dwarfed by Far East supply.

Interestingly, Giant, the world’s largest bicycle manufacturer, is “not one of those to reduce imports from Taiwan,” according to UK MD and Bicycle Association member Ian Beasant.

East-London retailer Chris Compton told Radio 4 listeners during July that he sympathised with suppliers who were forced into cautious ordering late in 2008. He said: “Supplier buying decisions were modest around ovember last year as the economy looked bleak and the currency exchange had hit a low. Many suppliers are now bringing forward the 2010 model year to address shortages.”

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