Brit IBD org the Association of Cycle Traders has had a good start to the year, adding 35 members since January. For some number of years the ACT has been losing members but a membership drive, a more proactive board, and the hiring of a sales and marketing manager is now paying dividends. Over in Germany - Europe's biggest bicycle market - a trade mag has carried an article countering the fear the German IBD is about to become extinct...

ACT increases membership; IBD numbers in Germany decline, but not terminally

ACT now has 700+ IBD members in the UK & Ireland.

ACT’s sales and marketing manager Mark Brown said:

“We’re pleased that all the hard work is paying off and I hope that we can continue to see an increase in our membership throughout 2004.

"We are constantly looking at ways to make the organisation a more valuable resource for our members and IBDs as a whole. We have a number of exciting and innovative projects underway this year which will bring further benefits to our members – and the sector – and will also signal to those shops not yet taking advantage of membership that it is well worth the annual subscription.”

Over in Germany, trade magazine SAZbike has published an article entitled: ‘IBDs: A species threatened by extinction?’

"One of the major questions in the German bicycle trade currently is the future of the small and mid sized retailers," said SAZbike editor, Markus Fritsch.

"Some people in the industry make alarming statements in the sense that the number of retailers is declining rapidly. Some even dramatically call it a mass extinction of bicycle retailers."

However, Fritsch doesn’t believe the situation is terminal just yet:

"Yes, the number of bicycle retailers is declining considerably, but it hasn’t yet happened in such a big number that it is changing the structure of the bicycle business. Nevertheless retailers have to watch the developments closely not to be outdated by them.

"There are probably between 3500 and 5500 IBDs in Germany, depending on who you ask. So, even losing a few hundred wouldn’t make a big difference on how the business ticks.

"According to most people we talked to, there are three major reasons for the declining retailer numbers.

"First reason is a general change in the consumer behaviour. They want choice and low prices, not only when buying bicycles, and are accepting to travel longer distances to find this. That means that many retailers move to the city limits to open big low cost stores (over 1000 sqm) with a wide assortment of products. The other strategy is to downsize the shop to be either a close by supplier for smaller procurements like spare parts, repairs etc. or to specialize in certain a product group, such as high end.

"What’s left over are the mid sized retailers which are neither fish nor fowl. They can’t compete with the prices of the bigger stores as well as with the competence of the specialists. Many mid sized retailers are currently in the process of repositioning their business. But many also close their shop, often due to the high age of the owner and not finding a successor.

"Second reason is the current situation with German banks not giving credits away easily. Retailers that don’t have financial reserves from former good years are dependent to the mercy of their banks. But most German banks restrict their credit policies very strongly. And retailers in general haven’t got a good image among banks.

"Third reason is simply that there are no new businesses being set up in the bicycle trade. Shops already closed in past years, but there has always been a steady stream of new shops opening. That almost stopped completely since last summer. Someone who want’s to start his own business has plenty of new areas to do so. Also the risks of running a bicycle store are pretty high compared to other businesses." 

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