Not only has this summer been hot and sunny, but it’s also been packed with home-set cycle events that promise to put the sport firmly into the public gaze once again.
We’ve already had the Giro in Northern Ireland and Ireland, the Yorkshire Grand Depart was an storming success and then there’s the no small matter of the Glasgow-set Commonwealth Games, starting this week, where the likes of Laura Trott, Eileen Roe, Bradley Wiggins, Joanna Rowsell, Ed Clancy, Lizzie Armistead, et al will be competing.
All of these sporting events are high profile enough to gain column inches outside the specialist press and therefore we could be in line to see another 2012-style ‘Wiggo effect’ providing a boost in sales, or at the very least awareness, of the cycle world amongst the ordinary folk of Great Britain, or ‘potential punters’.
From the outside looking in, and these grand sporting events no doubt contribute to it, there’s a perception that the cycle trade is going bananas and retailers out there are struggling to cope with the floods of customers bashing down your door (online and in the flesh) and forcing fists full of cash at you.
The reality is, to put it politely, slightly more nuanced. There’s a howling absence of decent sales figures, but we do know that imports are largely flat and no-one needs telling that competition is ever more fierce in the trade… The thing is, the perception – that cycling is booming at retail – has attracted the attention of ever more players to the market, so it’s not about to get any less competitive. And if those import stats remain static, we’re likely talking about carving up share rather than growing the market.
For instance, Go Outdoors is clearly taking the cycle market more seriously, launching its own brand bike range – recently expanded with road bikes. Then there is retail chain Direct Golf, which has just dipped its toe in the market with Bike-shed.com, with a view to potentially accommodating bikes sales across another 15 of its outlets. You can bet they won’t be the only ones.
It’s undoubtedly brilliant to have the Giro, Le Tour and the Commonwealth Games visit these shores, but ultimately, as my colleagues have noted previously, the hope has to be that these fine sporting events will inspire potential punters to get in the saddle, and not just your regulars to stump up for their favourite brand’s latest model. Otherwise more players are going to be fighting ever more fiercely for a share of a market, the size of which appears stubbornly static.