Bicycle Association warns of “alarming drop” in bicycle imports

The Bicycle Association has circulated members with the Q3 financials for the UK bike market, and they’re not pretty. Operations director Steve Garidis called the latest drop in imports "alarming". 

As reported on BikeBiz last month the bike industry in the UK – and almost everywhere else in the world – is currently suffering. According to HMRC statistics the UK is heading for a 17-year low in imports meaning one million fewer bike sales in 2017 compared to 2016. The latest market report from the Bicycle Association confirms this trajectory.

However, Garidis stresses that a "number of BA members have indicated that the trend is not corroborated by a matching decline in sales within their own businesses. This implies that a proportion of the decline in imports must be down to previous oversupply."

He adds: "This cannot however fully explain away the trend. Declining imports have been identified across the EU and the volume of decline is such that oversupply ought to have been corrected within a short period."

In his summary for members Garidis said: "Q3 2017 figures show imports are slightly up on Q3 in 2016 both by volume and value, but year to date volume figures are well down on previous years. 2017 is still projected to be 25%+ down on pre-2016 levels, perhaps around the 2.6m unit mark; ~1m units less than the average annual figure between 2010–15."

The UK cycle industry is extremely reliant on imports. Bike shops are currently closing at a rate not seen since the 1960s

Sales of e-bikes are offsetting some of the losses in, say, the road market (which is down by more than 12 percent in the US, reported the Trek CEO recently), but many are relatively low-value e-bikes, said Garidis.

"E-bikes are still buoying import value – 11% of the 2017 YTD total. However, by volume they represent only 3% of all imports. In 2015 and 2016 this was 5% and the difference – i.e. 2% of all imports – may well have been the ‘unknown’ proportion incorrectly coded in the import figures prior to the coding change on 1st January 2017.

"One thing that is striking about the more reliable 2017 e-bike import figures is that they show that the majority (over 44%) of e-bike imports are coming from China at an average unit value of £309. This suggests the UK market is skewed towards the low end with not far off half of all imported ebikes very likely being sold at retail prices in the range of perhaps £500 – £800."

Because import figures may not tally with what’s being actually sold via bike shops Garidis wants to gather coal-face retail stats:

"Imports can only ever provide half the picture," he said. "The BA is offering to commission retail audit data on behalf of members. A retail audit email working group is being formed to take this forward."

The BA is also urging more companies to join as members. Members get a range of benefits including in-depth market financials and other "detail and insight," said Garidis.

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