GOTHENBURG, Sweden – The Swedish bike market is typified as rock solid, with annual sales numbers only changing marginally. Last year didn’t change that while the same goes for bike sales this year. Around 500,000 units were sold. Despite these rock solid sales, something is changing in Sweden. There’s a clear trend showing increased bike usage for commuting. And the market is also slowly but surely changing towards more sporty models.
The latest in mountain bikes is also an emerging trend in Sweden. As in other European countries, the 29er is making its entrance in a big way. Just like Norway, Sweden’s key brands are reporting a drastic increase in pre-orders of 29er mountain bike models. Many of the best IBD’s are even ordering more 29er models than 26 inch wheeled versions for the coming season. Merida Sverige is offering a complete range from €850 up to the more expensive BIG Nine models developed for the demanding customer as well as Multivan Merida Team.
The Swedish bike market first got acquainted with electric bicycles in 2010. There have been commercials on TV, as well as ads for e-bikes from companies outside the bike industry. This has resulted in a big increase in percentages in e-bikes sold. However, this big increase is relative, as the number of e-bikes sold in Sweden is still low. They are estimated by the European industry association for bike producers at about 15,000 units in 2010.
Bike usage is increasing in Sweden. The association for dealers, distributors and importers Svensk Cykling; notes that the new trend is to use a bike all year around in the country with its long and cold winters. Most consumers are using the bike for commuting, transport to job or school. But next to that there’s also a growing interest in cycling as a hobby.
Sweden’s big midsummer road race – Vätternrundan - was this year again fully booked like last year. And when the new MTB-race – CykelVasan - opened up for registering for next year’s round, it was sold out in just 48 hours; despite the fact that the organizers arranged for 50% more participants in 2012; up to 9000 compared to 6000 in 2011. Merida-Northwave Cyclo-cross cup is also increasing, in both the numbers of races and competitors and the biggest event, in downtown Stockholm, was a great success.
But the new trends are emerging at the expense of the traditional Swedish bike with coaster brake and basket. The number of cyclists using the bike for commuting has increased by 80% in Stockholm compared to 10 years ago. A recent survey by an insurance company shows that one out of every five cyclists is using the bike for commuting during summer time, while 13% are using the bike all year round. However, the Swedish politicians don’t seem to notice this trend, as the country’s cycling infrastructure is not following the trend.
Over 70% of all Swedish municipalities do not have a strategy or action plan to handle increased numbers of cyclists. Last year, there was a more positive feeling that urban planners were taking cycling seriously. However, this has not yet resulted in more cycling paths and roads in cities.
All these new trends attract new players. Particularly in the distribution channel. With that the Swedish market is heading in the same direction as the bike market in Norway, which is dominated by retail chains. One year ago XXL opened up its first shop, in Stockholm, with a massive campaign. Currently XXL is operating five shops dealing in sporting goods as well as bikes and bike products. XXL’s goal is to expand to 50 shops within 10 years.
The latest new player – Usports - opened up their first shop at the end of October, in Malmö in the South of Sweden. And in 2012 the biggest sporting goods retailer in the world is to enter the Swedish market. Decathlon is to open up its first shop beginning next year, and is aiming for 10 shops within the next three years. The question is not only who will win this battle, but also how IBDs will cope with it.