BARCELONA, Spain – With a long history in bicycle production, Spain is an important market within the European bike sector. However, it is also one of the weakest markets when it comes to information about the business and the defense of its rights.
Spain: Bicycle Production, Imports & Sales (x 1,000 units)
Source: Production, Sales: estimates; Imports: Eurostat
Spain is one of the few markets in Europe where it is impossible to get reliable figures of the bike business in the country. This is not new. Spanish cycling companies have never found a way to get together and operate as a unit to further their common interests. In former years the ‘Sector Espanol Empresarial de la Bicicleta’ (SEEB) was the association gathering some of the key players in the business. They had some success (such as with helmet laws), but the project came to an end. Now, a new association has been formed, with the desire to harness the power of an important business in Spain.
The bigger, the better
AMBE, the ‘Asociación de Marcas y Bicicletas de España’ (or Spanish Brands and Bikes Association) is a new group created to work for the interests of the bike business. There are approximately 12 companies that have already joined this association. Among them, some of the most important players in the Spanish market, such as Trek, Macario Llorente, BH, Orbea, Monty and others. However, the idea is to gather as many industry people as possible, so that it gets stronger and can represent the majority of the business.
The president of the new association is Gonzalo García de Salazar, Managing Director of Trek Spain. “We would like to have everybody in the AMBE,” said García. “It is open to everybody and the reason why there are only 12 companies at this moment is just because we had the first meeting before summer and we (will) follow this up in October. In the meantime, we have received the interest of many companies that hopefully will be part of the association in the short term.”
The main objective of AMBE is to create a clear and strong association that helps the bike industry to be recognized by various levels of government, and explains how the business is evolving to empower the good points of the bike in the Spanish societies. As Gonzalo García explains, “There was no clear speaker from the bike industry when trying to deal with the different parties that coexist around our business, like trade shows or the government. The government did not even know who to address when interested in discussing anything related to bikes.”
When asked about specific goals beyond representing the industry, García said one of the most important ones is, “To create a census and get reliable figures of the business. There is no census of professionals working in the bike business. There are no clear and reliable figures for the bikes that are being produced, exported and sold in Spain. We do not even know our contribution to the GDP of the country. This only happens in 3 or 4 countries in Europe and Spain is one of them”.
There is another association, though, that is already present in Spain. It is called: ‘la Plataforma Empresarial de la Bicicleta’. Questioned whether there could be rivalry between the two associations, AMBE’s president feels both projects have roles to play. “(They are) absolutely compatible with each other,” said Salazar. “AMBE is more industry oriented. Both of them are working on different directions and it would be great to join energies in the future.”
Is AMBE the new SEEB?
The previous association that worked in the same field was the SEEB. It included the most important companies in the industry, but García sees some important differences between both projects, “AMBE is a more democratic association. It has a more modern view of the industry.” The president of AMBE also points out a couple of problems that the previous association had, “First, they had no intention of growing. Secondly, it was not well developed. There was no balance in the voting procedure. It was dominated by the two larger companies in Spain, BH and Orbea, because of their bigger turnover.”
However, AMBE is an exciting project for all companies, including the two major players on the Spanish market (which were actually the first to join the new project). “There is nobody more important than anybody else. We are trying to get a transparent entity that is as strong as possible and that represents the majority of the bike business. Everybody is welcome to join,” points out García de Salazar.
García knows that amateur projects can only result in failure. The will is to create a project with professional infrastructure. The first step will be to find a person that will be working for AMBE professionally. “We are starting to arrange interviews to find the right person. It will be an executive secretary that will take care of the follow up for the different actions we will undertake,” says García.
In looking at 2009 bike sales in Spain it seems as if the financial and economic crisis was a good reason for many people to buy bikes. Probably in an attempt to save costs through reducing use of their cars, the Spanish are turning to bicycles. Although, this isn’t supported by the estimated sales figure for 2009 (see the table on this page).
However, this is an only an estimate as nobody at this moment can tell how many bicycles are sold in Spain. Also the new AMBE association cannot at this moment present a somewhat more reliable figure on the 2009 sales figure for Spain. The same goes for production. The 220,000 units named in the table on this page is also an estimate. The 2009 production figure is lower than the 2008 total, which was also down from 2007. This trend is not only caused by the financial and economic crisis, but also by the fact that Spanish bike makers have switched to assembly in Portugal, where labour costs are much lower compared to Spain.
The only good indicator available on the bike business in Spain is presented by the import figures. They are considered reliable as this are Eurostat figures. This European Union’s data bureau collects its data from custom declarations. Viewing the Eurostat import figures for Spain they show that total imports (from other EU countries as well as from countries outside the EU) totalled over 1.7 million units in 2007, dropping 13.1% in 2008. In that year ‘only’ 1.5 million bicycles were imported into Spain. One year later and despite all the financial crisis problems, including unemployment and a severe drop in spending power, imports were up again, by close to 10%, to 1.65 million units.
An interesting note on the 2009 bike import figure for Spain however, is that close to 80% of those imports comes from other European countries, in particular, from Portugal. In the last few years bike production in Portugal has grown rapidly. As labour costs are low the country hosts a big facility which serves Decathlon, the biggest bike seller in Europe. Hundreds of thousands bikes are exported from this facility via Spain to other EU countries that house the Decathlon department stores. In conclusion one can say that the biggest part of the 1,653,588 bicycles imported into Spain in 2009 were ‘transito’ bikes, that didn’t stay in the country.
That’s probably not the case however for the nearly 360,000 bikes that came into Spain last year from countries outside the European Union. As most of them come from Asia (read Taiwan and Thailand) one can assume these are for domestic sales.
When taking all this into account the conclusion comes to mind that the estimated figure of 750,000 bicycles sold in Spain for 2009 is much too low. However, how many bikes were sold in reality, nobody knows at this moment. So, there’s a big task lying ahead for AMBE – find out the real statistics for the Spanish bike market!
Giant: Sales Up 40% on Iberian Peninsula
In the first six months of 2010, Giant has booked a big sales increase of 40% on the Iberian Peninsula. José Casla, Giant Europe’s sales manager for southern European markets, attributes the growth to the successful sales of the full suspension mountain bikes.
“We have launched a fierce attack on the middle and lower ranges of the market between 300 and 600 euro”, said José Casla in ‘Correo Del Mercado Deportivo’, the country’s trade journal for sporting goods retailers. “So far, both segments were very difficult for us as we faced numerous local competitors.”
Giant’s management has confirmed to Correo Del Mercado Deportivo that the crisis is of course affecting the cycling market but believes “the industry is used to fight(ing) in troubled times. One way to fight the crisis is investing in technology”, adds José Casla. “It’s a clear sign that Giant invested 32 million last year in R&D, although we will have to wait until 2014 to see the results of this investment.”
Casla admits that Giant’s growth figures are also the result of the changing attitude of the Spanish authorities towards cycling. “The Spanish government has become aware of the possibilities of cycling to solve mobility and environmental problems although we are still far behind countries like the Netherlands.”
SRAM Cycling Fund Sponsors Spanish Cycling Associations
At Eurobike 2010, Stan Day, President SRAM Corp. handed over a 50,000 euro cheque to Haritz Ferrando of Bicicleta Club de Catalunya for the promotion of cycling in Spain. “We are proud to donate to an exciting project in Spain,” explains Randy Neufeld, SRAM Cycling Fund Director. “The money will support the cycling infrastructure development in the top 30 cities in Spain, like Barcelona, Zaragoza and Sevilla.”
“This is very exciting news for us,” says Haritz Ferrando from Bicicleta Club de Catalunya (BACC). “With our ‘Proyecto 1,000,000’ our target is to get one million new daily cyclists in Spain over the next 5 years.” Fifty percent of the project’s funding is coming from the SRAM Cycling Fund. The rest comes from the Spanish cycle industry and cycling associations. A total of 100,000 euro will be invested in ConBici’s lobbying in Spain over the next 5 years.
“This will be a decisive step forward in increasing influence on national policy and building a stronger bicycle culture”, says Stan Day, President SRAM Corp. At the same time, BACC will carry out a communication and membership drive, in an initiative which will subsequently be exported to ConBici. SRAM Cycling Fund is investing 10 million US dollar over the next 5 years globally to support advocacy organizations that have effective strategies for influencing cycling infrastructure, safety and access.