Bike sales "buoyant" despite recession

Shortages a sign of success or not?

"Europe is running out of bikes. There aren't enough to meet demand," says a staff member at the London cycle shop, On Your Bike.

The Association of Cycle Traders (ACT) found in a recent poll that 95% of specialist bike retailers in the UK were experiencing shortages. Half of the local bike shops responding to the survey said turnover, including accessories and workshop servicing, had soared by over 20% in June and 83% reported an increase compared to last year.

ACT estimate the specialist cycle retail annual sales growth for 2008 was 6.8% and describe the situation as "buoyant".

Cycling in the UK is a big market worth around £350 million according to Halfords, who themselves have sold more than a million bikes a year for the last two years. They say the market was "materially flat" during the early years of the decade but a range of development and government initiatives have helped.

Cyclescheme is one of the providers of tax-free bikes for the government's Cycle to Work initiative. Their operations director, Jeremy Persad, said, "Manufacturers are running out because they have been caught out by the expansion of the Cycle to Work initiative."

According to the ACT, Cycle to Work scheme sales more than doubled during 2008.

But there may be other less easily measurable reasons for increases in bicycle sales. Spells of good weather, rises in petrol prices and great Olympic successes may all help, just as falls in fuel prices and bad economic times may contribute to decreases.

ACT also say that although sales are good at the moment, cautious ordering last year when the economy was looking bad has played a role, and bike suppliers are now playing catch-up to meet demand.That combined with the lift in sales has led to the shortages.

Suppliers are taking action, however. Ian Beasant of Giant UK said, "To help plug the gap we are releasing a number of key lifestyle and road models in July and have moved our full range launch forward to week beginning 23rd August to meet requirements."

One of the few remaining UK manufacturers, Pashley, has set on extra staff to help meet increased demand.

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