It’s the end of the first decade of the 21st Century (that’s if you started counting with 2000, but that’s a whole other issue). And what better time to look back and see how the cycle trade has changed since those days of worrying about the millennium bug?

EDITORIAL: The ‘net and the noughties

Having spoken to the trade, including BikeBiz’s executive editor Carlton Reid, the consensus is that some of the biggest changes over the last decade include the rise of the super-IBD – like Evans Cycles and Edinburgh Bicycle – and also increased co-operation throughout the trade, as with the likes of Bike Hub. The decade has also seen the industry benefit from having an ambassador with the ears of the Government in the shape of Philip Darnton.

But one thing stands out above all as having the changed the industry most significantly – the rise of the internet.

Whether you ignore it or live on it, the ‘net has provided cycle retailers, distributors and manufacturers new and direct ways of communicating with – and selling to – customers.

After sifting through the vast BikeBiz archives (which now span over ten years, fact fans), one quote shone out as summing up just how far things have changed. Back in 2000, Halford’s then marketing director Lindsey Walker told BikeBiz: “The plan is to launch a small online store at the beginning of June [2000] in conjunction with a third party. However, this will not include bikes.”

Yep, the UK’s biggest retailer of bikes didn’t have a website ten years ago. How quaint. In the unlikely event that you’re doubtful about online’s impact on the cycle trade then you need only look as far as our Retail Survey. Clearly, online presents huge challenges whatever the sector. The survey respondents see online as a threat – far more significant than that posed by anything else. But encouragingly, many of the survey respondents are planning to take on the internet challenge by ramping up their online efforts.

And while the ‘net has been with us for some time now, it still presents controversial challenges to the bike trade – mainly revolving around pricing and servicing. Heck, even Rupert Murdoch seems to be struggling with his online empire at the moment.

So has the rise of online been the biggest thing to affect the cycle trade over the past decade? Surely, yes. The real question is: has the trade made the most of it and has it dealt with its challenges? On that one, the jury is still out.

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