While browsing BikeRadar's coverage of the Sea Otter event I came across this comment: "Interesting report, though I haven’t seen anything from the Sea Otter that I can actually afford yet."

RETAIL COMMENT: Expensive kit

The consumer who left that remark has a point. Understandably, companies will want to show off the most anticipated high-end kit, but could these displays of design and technology excellence at disproportionate cost to the average budget actually be putting newcomers off cycling?

Our industry is not alone in its over-zealous approach to ‘upgrading’. The car trade is also over-doing technology. A quick Google search brings up plenty of unnecessary ‘innovation’ – heated cup holders, need I say more? So where does that leave the consumer? Often more out of pocket than they need be, assuming they buy in to the belief that these ‘improvements’ will heighten their experience.

So what is the average UK cycle consumer after, hobbyists aside? Aesthetics play a big part, as does reliability and of course, the biggest factor of all, cost. A family member came to me recently asking advice on a bike, giving only these specs: "Must have a basket able to hold a small dog and should be able to handle light off-road riding." The conclusion was intriguing. "I don’t mind paying a bit more if it will last, but I don’t want to spend a bundle." Do you have anything in stock to match these requirements?

IBDs who have surrendered their low-end business to the multiples and supermarkets probably won’t regret it; there’s often very little money to be made flogging bikes under £200. But to what extent is the mid-market gradually escaping the grip of independents?

Halfords has the Boardman range, which at the majority of price points, is incredibly well-specced. There’s GT and Kona too – two household brand names and both major mid-market players. Dare I mention the discounts on offer too?

Needless to say, losing a grip on the mid-market would be a nightmare for the independent sector and there couldn’t be a worse time to allow customers to be tempted elsewhere.

The majority of cycle stores, independent or otherwise, will not be lucky enough to be able to earn a living off high-end product alone. Therefore, isn’t it about time that shows began highlighting the product that customers actually buy? It’s all very well having eye candy, but given the general decline in affluence, what purpose does it serve other than generating content among the consumer press?

The leisure sector, with any luck, should have a strong summer. Make sure you do too with sensible stock choices.

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