Did the Tour de France's stay in the UK impact on retail? We gather the facts

ANALYSIS: Did UK’s Grand Depart really boost bike sales?

The age old question of whether sporting success and high profile sporting events leads to increased participation – and sales – is perhaps more pertinent than ever in 2014, the year that saw the Giro d’Italia in Ireland and Northern Ireland, the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and – of course – the Tour de France in England for its first three stages.

British success in Le Tour has been thinner on the ground than had been hoped when plans were first forged for the Grand Depart in Yorkshire, Cambridge and London, not least due to Bradley Wiggins’ non-selection, but also with Mark Cavendish and Chris Froome crashing out.

Nevertheless, the sense of excitement for anyone visiting the stages was palpable, as BikeBiz can confirm. Reams of media coverage, front pages and the prospect of world famous road riders racing often yards away from bike shops must have translated to increased footfall in shops and online visits, surely?

Cambridge packs a lot of cycle heritage into a relatively small city and Ben Hayward Cycles is one of a few bicycle businesses to have been operating there for over a century. Located along the Tour route on Trumpington Street, BikeBiz visited the shop within hours of the peloton riding through.

“Bikes as transport has a great history here, but sport cycling doesn’t have as much heritage in Cambridge,” the shop told BikeBiz. “But it is growing and more people are seeing that it is possible to get around by bike as a transport alternative. On the whole, the city has got behind the Grand Depart, with several people really driving it. You see the city on the TV and having the tour has been great for tourism. That’s the real benefit.

“We find there’s always a ‘Tour effect’ on business and you would expect it to be bigger this year. We have been busy, but the competition is getting greater – there are more people selling bikes.

“Clubs are doing great things at the moment and are gearing up to taking on new riders. We’ve got some great local triathlon clubs in particular, and the schools are too. Lots of schools have tri clubs and some good coaches.

“I’ve been working here for 28 years and I’ve seen a lot of peaks and troughs over the years, but it seems that it’s getting harder to plan. It’s up and down all over the place and harder to predict. Having the right stock is tough – there’s either too much or too little.”

Also located in Cambridge is one S & G Cycles, a workshop specialising in second hand sales, hire bikes and repairs. So had Le Tour generated any sales or hires, up to and including the day it swept through?

“There have certainly been more people in who are here for the Tour, especially over the weekend,” the staff told BikeBiz.

“Repairs are actually down today [on the day of the tour] as many colleges have given staff the day off!

“Some people have followed the Tour and have come down from Yorkshire. We were busier over the weekend before the Tour came to Cambridge for that reason.

“The Tour de France is obviously really popular, but we find it is forgotten pretty quickly. It all helps though.

“Generally we are busy all year. We’ve had no drop off in bikes repairs, though that has made up for lack of hires. Last year’s summer was great and weather is the thing – sunshine brings the customers in.”

What about online retail? Like those with bricks and mortar stores, it’s hard to determine whether sales have derived from the added focus on cycling from the Tour de France, Commonwealth Games and Giro, or in fact just from the good summer weather, but one firm – MetaPack – has nevertheless recorded significant rises in sales in 2014.

While not the most familiar name in the bike trade, MetaPack software is used by some hugely significant players including Wiggle, Rutland Cycling, Evans Cycles, Halfords and Sports Direct.

Comparing sales for June 10th to July 13th this year and in 2013, MetaPack’s data revealed a national average increase of 28 per cent in volumes of cycling products shipped from online retailers to UK consumers. Specifically, bicycle helmet sales were up 27 per cent following the Grand Depart.

MetaPack has local data too – in the Yorkshire cities and towns, the percentage increases are slightly above average, including in York (50 per cent), Harrogate (33 per cent) and Huddersfield (32 per cent).

Ultimately, quantifying the impact of these sporting events is near impossible, but – from the online side particularly – there are strong signs that sales got a shot in the arm from the likes of the UK Grand Depart. Either way, we’ll keep on speculating.

Share your thoughts at BikeBiz@intentmedia.co.uk or in the comments below.

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