BikeBiz talks to a handful of visitors who comment on a 'conservative' show

Taipei show analysis: Price rises and a “lack of innovation”

While attendance numbers for Taipei Cycle Show 2011 weren’t generally affected significantly by the horrendous events in Japan, it did curb the visitor demographic. This was seen most significantly with visitors from Germany’s bike industry, with many executives from the country heeding insurance company advice against travelling to the area.

Brompton’s sales and marketing director Emerson Roberts tells BikeBiz: “The main highlight for us was simply seeing our Japanese distributor, whose staff and their families had all come through recent events unscathed; in a business context, they and our other distributors in the region were really bullish about prospects for Brompton this year.

“The earthquake presents no problems to us as a business – though it may act as a brake on some sales to that country – but I think other companies were concerned.”

Let’s talk about money
Following fluctuations in the currency market it was no surprise that price rises were a focal point of attention for attendees and exhibitors.

Gelert’s associate director Peter Rimmer says: “The show saw much talk on price increases of course, with the cost of raw materials continuing to rise.”

Brompton’s Roberts found that talk at the show was also centred around changes in ways of doing business. He tells BikeBiz: “The biggest surprise for me was the way in which some other manufacturers are changing their terms of business, presumably in response to the economic climate, forcing their distributors to either take massive orders or face price hikes of 100 per cent; they are further reserving for themselves the right to ship bikes direct to consumers if a particular model or colour is not in stock with the distributor.

“The result is that distributors are dropping certain makes and just focusing on brands like ours that take a longer-term perspective and work with distributors and dealers, rather than in competition with them.”

A conservative bike trade?
The jury was out, however, on the latest trends discernable from attending the show.

Gelert’s Peter Rimmer tells us: “There weren’t many surprises from Taipei. Nobody has re-invented the wheel – although many have tried. For us our suppliers have got some great new items.”

Brompton’s Emerson Roberts agreed with the prognosis, feeling that the event – like others in the trade – followed, rather than led, market trends: “The space allocated to e-bikes may have risen over recent years at all the [global cycle] shows, but my feeling was that this lagged, rather than led, the trends in Benelux and Germany.

“I remember first going to Eurobike two and a half years ago and being struck by the wall-to-wall dominance of DH MTB kit on display, far outweighing any other categories. This was news? Please…”

And if the show was guilty of following the latest styles from the trade, rather than trend setting, it comes as no real surprise, says Emerson: “I regard bike shows, like the industry, as essentially conservative, a point I discussed with our head designer in Taipei. We agreed that shows can become quite depressing after attending them for a few years: the bike industry has become ever more homogenised and commoditised, with supposed progress tracked by nothing more than tiny tweaks to componentry.”

That homogenisation has been to the detriment of innovation, says Emerson: “This is inevitable in an industry that has largely been reduced to marketing shells fronting almost-generic bikes made by a small handful of companies and featuring tweaked components from another tiny group of companies; all that’s left to talk about is price and margins, everyone is trying to eat everyone else’s lunch, and there’s little time or energy left to develop something original, innovative or risky.

“This opinion overlaps with a piece written by Mark Sanders [in the Taipei Cycle Show Daily magazine] where he approaches this topic from the perspective of cycling posture and trying to draw in the vast majority of people who do not cycle, which I agree with wholeheartedly.

“He and I are agreed that our industry is altogether incapable of thinking outside the roadie/MTB duality – let’s be honest, what is a hybrid if not a mountain bike frame with road tyres? The industry designs, markets and produces what it does because that is what it knows how to design, market and produce.”

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