Triathlon bikes, unicycles, commuter style bikes – these are all said to be niches on the move. But what do you, the retailer, think is selling like hot cakes? Mark Sutton sources some industry opinion…

INDUSTRY OPINIONS: What’s in the box?

“I’ve witnessed strongest growth in the leisure and commuter sectors. With a local Sustrans route, locals are looking for various hybrid and all-terrain bicycles to get out and about.
Repairs are busy as usual, but clothing sales have really receded. There have been cases where I have had calls from various suppliers looking to put product aimed at local clubs in my shop, yet they’re willing to supply the club direct, thus rendering it not advisable for me to stock up.
I bought this business six years ago and we used to have very strong sales in Campagnolo, etc, but in recent years this has declined. Also, the bottom has dropped out of the lightweight market for us, and many others.
In terms of units, we’re shifting more than ever, but revenues remain stagnant due to falling retail prices. Retail price should be rising. It’s common for the fall in trade price to match the fall in retail, meaning we gain no real ground year on year.”
Chris Faulkner,
Tony Butterworth Cycles, Sheffield

“We’re seeing a general increase in interest in bikes at £1,000 and over. These can be anything from the popular Orange brand, to titanium rides. We’ve noticed an increase in unique builds, too.
Cheaper universal bikes and kids’ bikes sales have declined, I think the larger chains have this sector covered now. There’s been a slight shift in the customer profile. People are showing interest in a lot of our all-English brands, such as hope components.
Those price increases have been observed now, but that’s okay because this industry has sold too cheap for too long.
Going forward, I think that if you don’t have an active website, you’ll struggle. We only see about two or three complete bike sales a week online, but it’s essential, as it’s advertising. It only equates to ten to 15 per cent of business, but it’s also great for add-on sales.”
Chris Feltham,
Cycleworld, Portsmouth

“My business model revolves around keeping low overheads and making the net profit from each sale go as far as possible. Turnover needn’t be huge as long as you stock quality and keep an eye on the money you do make.
My target audience is mid-range cycles, selling to middle class people. I only stock Ridegback bikes, as I know that in the long-term, I’ll have very little hassle, they’re easy to sell, easy to set up and on the occasion that I do get a problem, Madison are very good at helping me out. Gross margin is one thing, but net margin is what’s important.
Performance this year has been steady, nothing really jumps out as exceptional. I own a small shop, in a small place, so I have no trouble with competition, particularly because my customer base is well educated and are cyclists who know the difference between quality product and shoddy builds.
The credit crunch will soon hit those selling high-end and eventually the larger sheds and those selling on credit will feel the pinch.
From a crystal ball point of view, I think the move toward ‘get around’ bikes will take hold soon. People who want a workhorse. These bikes are generally thrown around, left outside in the rain, so quality is essential. This is why I won’t stock anything in the cheap category and have never once displayed a discount sign. My customers rely on honest advice, thus they buy, and can only buy, quality from here.”
Steve Barnett,
Cycling On, Lancashire

“From my point of view the fastest growing segment is the 29-inch wheeled mountain bike sector, though of course, that is skewed by my product.
My general perception of the market as a whole is significantly greater interest in reliable and practical bikes for everyday riding, with people embracing internally geared hubs and rigid forks.
Stuff which just keeps working, no matter what and doesn’t require hours of maintenance and huge expense just to keep it running sells well.”
Sam Alison,
Singular Cycles

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