HARKING ON: BikeBiz's editor reads the year's headlines so you don't have to

COMMENT: The bike trade’s 2015 highlights & lowlights

So this is Christmas, and what have you done?” That’s the question John Lennon and Yoko Ono posed over 40 years ago. My own decades late reply is, this year I bought a tortoise. Arguably, that’s not very relevant or even vaguely interesting to you, reader, so what about the world of bikes?

What has the bike trade ‘done’ (in 2015?). Quite a bit, as it happens. In no particular order…

Cycling is more popular than football
…kind of: Sport England found that cycling participation is far more prevalent than football participation, with over 100,000 more people riding bikes at least once a week than they were in October 2012. Which is surely great news for the UK cycle industry, right? Time to stock up on bikes and P&A then?

…However, 2015 wasn’t the UK bike industry’s strongest year
It turns out that Halfords had a disappointing summer and in an industry possibly allergic to sharing sales statistics unless it absolutely has to, Halfords is as good an indicator of performance as anything. Our own retailer survey backed the ‘rubbish summer’ diagnosis, while industry giants like Shimano and Accell have noted that weather affected demand. On the other hand, CSG says it had a storming one.

That didn’t stop new companies and brands entering the UK cycle market
Whatever the reality of the UK cycle market (hello again, lack of sales statistics!) there was no shortage of interest in the British bike trade, with plenty of new brands, crowd funded products, brands that hadn’t been historically in the UK and just about everyone else taking the plunge into the UK bike trade. Does that mean, then, that there was modest growth in the market overall, but the increase in the number of brands and companies meant that few felt the benefit? Almost definitely.

And it didn’t put off investors buying bicycle businesses
Acquisitions is something we’ve banged on about a lot, but it’s with good reason. 2015 saw: Rutland Cycling takeover Station Cycles Cambridge, Hero of India took a majority stake in Avocet, Kryptonite owner Allegion bought lock brand AXA, Ribble was snapped up, POC was sold, so was Assos, Camelbak too. Then there was Evans Cycles, Cycle Surgery, Santa Cruz, Bergamont, 3t, Recon (bought by Intel)…we could go on, but we’ve got homes to go to.

Talking of (crowd) funding… 
It wasn’t just new products turning to crowd funding to get off the drawing board – established brands and even bike shops like Brixton Cycles have been heading to the likes of Kickstarter in a quest for funding investment.

Cycling remained a political, er, football in 2015
Pre-general election, the two main political parties actually fought over who would spend the least on cycling, while the Chancellor resurrected cyclist-baiting road tax and the Under Secretary of State for Transport said cyclists posed more danger than motorists. Oh and Nigella’s Dad said cycleways were more damaging to London than anything since the blitz. Good Lords, indeed.

But there was good stuff. As my colleague notes in his January Spokesman column, A-roads are getting ‘roadspace reallocation’, paid for outside of the meagre £300m cycle budget. And despite fears, cycle to work remains safe, for now.

BREAKING NEWS: Women make up at least half the population
The cycle trade has been taking overdue bigger steps to reach out to women in 2015, something we tipped our hat to when we shouted about the influential women in the cycle trade and world in our BikeBiz Women of the Year project (which we’ll be repeating in 2016). This year, Trek’s boss predicted that women’s bikes would make up half of the brand’s turnover inside five years and women’s clothing was said to be driving sports apparel growth. Hopefully we’ll be hearing more stories like those in 2016 and less like the ones that inspired this column.

2015 continued to produce bike retailing excellence…
…As honoured in our annual Top IBD feature. (Check out our ‘Bike Shop Tools‘ for articles on how to boost your bike business).

And significant success stories
Like the rise and rise of Brompton, which is aiming to double production of bicycles made in the UK (gasp) in a factory move next month.

In 2015, sometimes even glum news had a silver lining…
Despite the closure of its print titles, Factory Media’s Ride and Dig live on, online (and Dirt’s Steve Jones won a Cycling Media Award). And there’s even a new BMX mag on the block.

And we’ll always have saddle swinging scrotum-inspired lights
I’m sorry, what?

Care to share your own highlights and lowlights from the bike trade year? Let us know in the comment box below or email us at bikebiz@nbmedia.com

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