UK bicycle import data shows continued slump, e-Bikes flatlining too

UK Bicycle import data is mirroring a general low mood in the UK bicycle market with Q3 figures showing that in the space of just nine years volumes landed are likely to more than halve.

Released to members of the Bicycle Association this week, the summary import data puts the market at a historical low, with just over one million units shipped in the year-to-date, a value that’s less than the figures achieved in some quarters alone as recently as (Q3) 2015.

The blame is laid in various places, with previous oversupply a likely factor, Brexit complicating forecasting another and general market contraction also likely to be chipping away at demand.

One of the more eye-watering snippets from the UK bicycle import data is a notable flatlining of electric bike trade. While industry bosses are forecasting another five to eight years solid growth in general, the UK has failed to get the memo.

In part this could be down to a decline in shipments stemming from China attached to anti-dumping rules, though the value to the market does still represent 16%, down a percent on the last quarter. As reported previously, Eurostat data showed imports of electric bikes into Europe declined 91% in the first six months of 2019 when compared to the year prior. In to the UK specifically shipments in have shave two thirds in the year to date.

Independent research stemming from the BA suggests that the disparity in performance between the UK and mainland Europe, aside from obvious infrastructure differences, may well be best attributed to the differences in subsidy available to consumers buying their first LEVs.

A rising value of imports could be viewed as a positive, but could also mean rising costs and a squeeze on margins.

When viewed alongside the BA’s Market Data Service, which invites bike shops large and small to submit sales data, it is evident that while the market appears to be in contraction, it may not be as sharp as the import data illustrates and that a bounce may soon come.

The BA’s summary statement says: “According to MDS figures for the total market to the end of September – taken from tills across 30% to 40% of the market – 2019 has seen a contraction, but total sales volume is actually down just 4% YTD. This is across bikes, parts, accessories, clothing and services. Taking bikes on their own (a more direct comparison with import figures which of course only include bicycles) MDS data shows bike volume sales are actually up 1% YTD on 2018. The MDS also tells us that the value of total market sales is down only 1% YTD and is up 4% for bikes on their own.”

There is an implication that the industry is at present working through shifting last year’s inventory before committing too heavily to forward orders, with many businesses telling CI.N that ongoing Brexit uncertainty is forcing an err on the side of caution when ordering.

Bike shops are likewise invited to contribute to CI.N’s own research specifically of the Independent bike shop channel, with participants eligible for a goody bag from our sponsors and a first look at data including:

  • What stock shops around you will carry more/less of
  • What services are proving the most profitable sidelines
  • Which brands are the market’s best sellers
  • Average sales prices by segment
  • Perceived opportunities and challenges ahead
  • And plenty more!

To participate you’ll need no more than ten minutes and you may begin here.