UK Q1 bike import volumes bounce back to highest level in eight years

The UK bike market continues to buck an earlier gloomy forecast of 1 million less bikes, building on the final tally for 2017; Q1 imports by volume rose to their highest like-for-like level in eight years.

Back in August of 2017, CI.N reported on a somewhat worrying trend of import decline that had led to a forecast of “one million less bikes” imported over 2014 levels. Thankfully, that forecast was bucked by a late surge in Q4, something that has continued into the start of 2018.

While Q1 volume is up to a level 74% higher like-for-like against 2017 data, value is surprisingly down 10%. This is largely attributed to a unusual spike in lower value imports, primarily stemming from Italy and Spain.

In this round up of imports, values stemming from Italy averaged at just £70 per unit, a figure typically more in line with shipments from Thailand.

Unusual patterns, warn the Bicycle Association, persist despite HMRC coding improving to better classify electric bike imports.

“The import and export stats are a reasonable proxy for the overall market, but every quarter we come up against anomalies or trends which are difficult to explain or at which we can only guess. All the more reason to welcome the continuing development of our industry retail audit which aims to provide members and the industry with multi-channel UK sales-out data for the first time,” enthused the BA’s Steve Garidis in a mail to members.

The spike in Italian imports, measuring at 568% up in the past 12 months compared to the prior 12, accounts for the majority of the lowered values, with Bangladesh, Spain and Holland’s shipments also contributing. A further explanation could be attributed to the pounds increase against the dollar during the period.

Electric Bikes

Improved coding, in theory, should now mean more accurate electric bike import data following a period where it was believed things like electric hoverboards may have been skewing figures.

Remaining in the ascendancy, electric bike imports are up 56% in volume against the same quarter in 2017.

An early indication of the bike industry’s response to the anti-dumping investigation against Chinese electric bikes, March data saw a 25% dip in shipments. Over the past 12 months roughly half of all electric bikes coming into the UK stemmed from China, though that figure is now expected to decline as firms reshuffle their sourcing.

An investigation against non-electric bikes has now too been triggered, again by the European Bicycle Manufacturer’s Association.

Those wishing to cooperate with the Bicycle Association’s own data research, as compiled alongside Sports Marketing Surveys, can make contact by email here.

For those wishing to obtain a deeper understanding of the UK bike retail landscape, CyclingIndustry.News own 2018 market study is now available to purchase for just £375 here.