Triathlon and 29er sectors expand in Oz, but its been a tougher year for bike retailers, says show organiser

Ausbike grows, sets new date for 2012 and hails Cadel Evans for boosting the market

It answered the call for an expo for Australia and three years on is looking like a permanent fixture on the international bike event scene. Ausbike’s Brad Alcock speaks to BikeBiz…

The worldwide economy may not be in the healthiest state, but the cycle trade has been among the sectors that have largely managed to avoid the worst of the downturn, in the main at least.

The Australian bike market is no exception. The nation is such a fan of the bicycle that Australians have been well known for purchasing more bicycles than cars, snapping up 1,154,077 cycles in 2009 – for the tenth year in a row (see box-out on page 53). Against that backdrop, three years ago, the Ausbike bicycle expo was established.

Taking place in Melbourne, Ausbike Australia was the first national cycling trade expo in the territory and, according to the show organisers, was born out of necessity. It reaches across the sectors, covering road, track, time trial, mountain bikes, cross country, BMX, trials, kids, toddlers and unicycles.

“Ausbike has grown every year since 2009,” Ausbike’s Brad Alcock explains to BikeBiz. “We had around 60 per cent more exhibitors in 2011 than in 2009.”

“The quality of exhibitor displays has increased significantly along with the number of exhibitors.

“For those companies exhibiting, Ausbike has become the must-do event in Australia. Overall feedback from exhibitors is extremely positive.”

The show itself has developed too, extending the number of days it covers – now including two public days and one trade-only day – which proved a key attraction in snapping up more exhibitors. “With the change to two public days this year a number of new exhibitors were keen to attend,” Alcock says.

That growing exhibitor list this year included the likes of Giant Bikes, Scody Clothing, Avanti and Scott Bikes, Tinelli Clothing, General Optical,Ventou Clothing, Ron D Swan Accessories and Bike Buller, among others.

“Along with new exhibitors we also had a number of new brands showing at Ausbike,” says Alcock. “They included Ghost Bikes, TM Bikes, Kross Bikes, Creux Clothing, Fliker Scooters and Bike Trees.

“Each year sees a change in exhibitors as some companies drop out and others take the space.”

As is a staple with shows of this type, Ausbike has a raft of attractions besides new bikes and accessories, including BMX competitions, chances to try out the latest bikes and opportunities to look at new trends in cycling fashion. This year the show also includes a collection of vintage bikes, painstakingly put together and displayed by the top collectors in the region.

Ausbike also provided chance for consumers and trade to chat face-to-face, of course.

This year the show saw 150 exhibitors, with over 2,000 visitors from the industry and a further 8,000 consumers attending. Show highlights included the debut of Garmin’s Vector – pipping Eurobike to the new product by a few weeks.

Ausbike takes sustainability seriously too and has introduced the Bike Trees concept to the show. To help offset the Greenhouse emissions produced by the show – through freight, flights and driving there – the Bike Trees project is designed to help influence people to ride to Ausbike 2011 instead of driving. Ausbike purchased 1,000 trees to offset the event.

Trends down under
Uniquely, bike shows with multiple brands and exhibitors provide a chance for trade and consumers alike to get some perspective on the trends and fashions sweeping the market. We’ve heard about 29ers and electric bikes at Eurobike (turn to pages 15 and 23 for more on that), but are those sectors the Australian market is seeing an upsurge in? And how about the triathlon scene? BikeBiz asks Alcock.

“For 29ers, almost every bike company at the show had a 29er to display. Some companies, like Kona and Giant, had quite a number of variations. The 29er market is certainly growing in Australia.”

Perhaps reflecting the current state of the UK market, the electric bike sector has been modest growth in Australia.
“The e-bike market is not quite so fast growing here. There were a number of e-bike exhibitors at the show but legislative issues are hampering sales. In Australia e-bikes can’t be more than 200w and are to be fitted with a governor to limit speed to a maximum of 25km per hour.”

“Triathlon on the other hand is growing at a very rapid rate with more events than ever before and new events planned. The participation rate at all events is high, with most events selling out within a day or two. With a new Ironman event planned for Melbourne in March, Triathlon continues to grow.”

Generally, the Australian cycle scene had a boost with Cadel Evans’ exploits at the Tour de France, becoming the first Australian to win the UCI Pro Tour. While that has been great PR for the territory, there has undeniably been some slowdown in the cycle market, as Alcock admits: “Up until the last 12 months or so the bike market has been moving ahead in leaps and bounds with sales very strong.”

But even the recession-proof cycle sector has not been unscathed, he adds: “The last year has been tough on retail in general with the bike market not exempt. Many retail stores are significantly down on last year. With the boom in online sales all retailers are feeling the pinch.”

The year ahead
Now the organisers of Ausbike have got their eyes on next year’s show, which will see a number of fairly drastic changes – not least a change in date.

Alcock says: “For 2012, Ausbike will be moving to October to coincide with Bike Week in Melbourne and will be held the weekend prior to Around the Bay in a Day, the largest mass participation ride in Melbourne.

"Currently we see Ausbike staying as a combined trade and public show as it was this year. It is the largest gathering of the bicycle industry in Australia and the largest consumer bicycle show in Australia. Our plan is to continue to grow each year.”

Australian bike market – the stats

With an estimated population of 21 million, Australia has a healthy number of bicycle imports. They have largely remained stable through the tough climate, according to stats supplied to BikeBiz from the Cycling Promotion Fund and Bicycle Industries Australia.

In the twelve months from July 2010 to June 2011, overall bicycle imports into Australia totalled an impressive 1,218,086. In the previous twelve months imports were only marginally higher at 1,244,398.

Notably, the difference has been more marked at the start of 2011. Often outperforming the end of 2009, the last six months of 2010 saw imports generally higher than in the last six months of 2009. That provides a contrast for the start of 2011 versus the first six months of 2010, with 2011 underperforming more markedly – though, as mentioned above, when the full 12 months is taken into account that drop is far less significant.

The figures break down further between adult and child bikes. Adult bikes imports made up approximately 66 per cent of the total number coming into Australia.

The organisation notes that the children’s bicycle figure represents 70 per cent of actual imports as the presumption has been made that around 30 per cent of children’s bicycles are, strictly speaking, toys. Perhaps most significant of all is the fact that bicycles have outsold cars every year for the past decade by over 2,000,000. Over 11 and a half million bikes were sold over that time, reaching a record high in 2007.

Like the UK and much of the world, cycle advocates and politicians are gravely concerned about the impact of obesity on the population, helping support the cause for cycling. Australia has seen the publication of a National Cycling Strategy for 2011 to 2016 by the government, aiming to double the rate of cycling by 2016.

And it’s not just fears of an ‘obesity epidemic’ driving decision makers to think more carefully about cycling. According to stats around $9 billion per year was lost in productivity through transport congestion. That figure is set to rise to $20 billion per year by 2020.

According to stats from Ausbike, the vast majority (90 per cent) of attending retailers were there to see new brands and products, 67 per cent attended Ausbike to network, while just under half (48 per cent) to see the full product ranges (2010 figures). Ausbike takes place at the Royal Melbourne Showgrounds, Melbourne, Australia.

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