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Bike sales predicted to drop in 2020 despite lock down bike sales boom

Roller coaster ride for cycle trade as squeeze on consumer spending dents sales say report before dramatic growth in coming years

We may be in the midst of a lock down powered bike sales boom but the UK bike market is still predicted to contract this year by 10 per cent to £842 million in a new report by consumer research firm Mintel. The good news for the UK bike trade is that sales are then predicted to grow dramatically and be worth £3 billion by 2023.

Consumer research for the report was carried out in February, and while Mintel,  which coined the term  MAMIL, or “Middle Aged Man In Lycra” has altered its forecasts due to the coronavirus pandemic, which will affect different sectors of the economy in different ways, that does mean that responses need to be treated with caution.

Sales forecasts, however, have been revised to take account of the ongoing crisis, and according to Mintel following the sales dip predicted this year, with market value estimated to fall to £842 million from £940 million in 2019, it will recover over the next three years as pent-up demand is released.

The prediction that the market will fall by more than 10 per cent this year is an interesting one, given what we have been hearing from retailers large and small, which have been experiencing unprecedented demand for new bikes during the past three months, plus the government encouraging people to commute by bike as lockdown eases.

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If anything is likely to put a brake on spending on bicycles, we’d expect it to be due to supply issues – we know that some retailers have sold out of popular models, with stock in some cases not expected to arrive for several months as manufacturers, many of which have had to adapt their working practices as a result of COVID-19, struggle to keep up with global demand.

The company also says that women and people aged under 45 are the most likely people to take up cycling – at 59 per cent and 55 per cent, respectively – with the numbers of people taking to bikes expected to grow as the country emerges from lockdown.

Mintel senior analyst, John Worthington, said: “The COVID-19 crisis and its economic impact have ushered in a period of unprecedented volatility in the cycling market.

“The crisis has provided a boost to demand in the immediate term, but bike sales are likely to fall later in 2020 as an anticipated deep recession bites.

“The likely repercussions of COVID-19 on cycling participation are complex. The UK lockdown is disrupting patterns of behaviour, which initially resulted in lower levels of weekday cycle commuting overall, but a boost to weekend leisure riding.

“As lockdown restrictions ease and Brits return to the workplace there is likely to be a shift from crowded public transport to crowded streets. The fact that at the beginning of the year a third of adults who didn't currently cycle said they would consider doing so in the future suggests there is huge potential to increase cycle participation rates.

“Once spending recovers from the impact of the recession, the long-term market potential is strong.

“Cycling is uniquely placed to benefit from growing health, wellness, and environmental trends – all of which may be boosted by the COVID-19 crisis - and a broader urban mobility revolution which includes e-bikes and e-scooters,” he added.

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Mintel also says that an estimated 100,000 e-bikes were sold in the UK last year, up by more than 40 per cent on the 73,000 sold in 2018. They are now owned by 7 per cent of cyclists, while 17 per cent plan to buy one in the next 12 months.

“The e-bike market has been growing rapidly over the past two years and consumer interest is high,” Worthington said.

“While accounting for a fraction of bike sales, the scale of potential growth for e-bikes is huge. In European countries with much higher rates of cycling participation than the UK, e-bikes are becoming as popular as standard bikes.

“However, while interest today is strong, e-bike sales could take longer to recover from the impact of the looming recession than standard bikes, as they’re significantly more expensive,” he added.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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