COMMENT: Grocer's ambitions in biking is an indicator that the sector is seen to be strong – and attractive

Tesco’s growing interest in cycling is a good sign for the trade

So, bikes have been harder to shift this year. That’s not only the word on the cycle trade streets, but its also the fairly obvious message from the number of sales currently going on around the industry at the moment.

It’s a far cry from the summer of ‘09 when the trade was desperate for road bikes, but I guess that’s the quirk of an industry that has long lead times as product is largely sourced from the Far East. Ordering bike stocks must be an increasingly tricky affair. Predicting how the notoriously fickle British weather or market conditions are going to play out over the next 12 months or so is a skill not dissimilar to those displayed by a fortune telling psychic.

The good news is that despite the tough start to the year anecdotal reports indicate that sales seem to have made up for a rough winter period or even gone as far as exceeded what they normally would have expected.

Is such a positive image misplaced? Are bike businesses just putting a brave face on it? After all, in the wider world Greece has received a second ‘bail out’, Italy is on the verge of being in serious economic trouble, we’re told, and most economic commentators have run out of ways of saying that economic growth in the UK is about as likely in the short term as an England World Cup win (well, maybe not as unlikely as that).

But there are other indications that cycling is still thriving. Whether that is Tesco increasing its cycling efforts or Halfords’ boss reporting that it has seen strong demand for bicycles in the 13 weeks to July 1st.

On the face of it, some independent bike dealers might not be too pleased at the thought of Halfords and Tesco enjoying the fruits of cycle retail. But the fact that these two calculating retail heavyweights see the cycle market as an attractive proposition and are doubling their efforts (in the case of Tesco) to be a part of it are a clear sign the market is strong. What you don’t want to read is that Tesco is ditching its cycle retail experiment. And then there is the likes of Brompton who is both expanding its product offerings, rather than battening down the hatches.

It may be scant consolation if you’re stuck with too many bikes to shift on a rainy Thursday afternoon, but there are plenty of reasons for optimism in the UK bike trade.

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