Industry Mourns ETRA’s Passing
AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands – The disbanding of the European Two-Wheel Retailers Association (ETRA) announced early January has left a key segment of the bicycle distribution chain bereft of a voice in Brussels, according to industry professionals, who are attempting to chart a way forward in the wake a decision taken by members to end ETRA’s near-20-year run.
A lack of funds sufficient for continued operation was cited in release by ETRA issued on 6 January after its members of national retail associations from around Europe, voted at an extraordinary general meeting to fold the organization.
Formed in 1995 and spearheaded by secretary general Annick Roetynck, ETRA had lobbied successfully for retailers on a range of issues; most recently those governing the regulation of the electric-bicycle segment that has buoyed sales in an otherwise down European market.
Reasons behind the vote
“ETRA is a democratic organization and this was a decision that was taken democratically,” says Roetynck, who is bound by a board-level agreement to withhold comment on the reasons behind the vote. “We have to respect that.”
To be sure, Roetnyck and ETRA earned respect for the concerns of retailers, who have suffered both due to economic turmoil in European and global markets. And from the competitive threats posed both by mass-market retailers and from sales of bicycles, parts and accessories over the internet.
As such, ETRA had focused on creating standards for service delivery to meet those competitive threats. It also was at work in passing the knowledge of sales and service standards for e-bikes from more developed markets in the north and west of Europe to those in the south and east.
While sales of conventional cycles have declined, the European industry has been buoyed by the sale of e-bikes, which posted double-digit percentage increases over the last three years. Nevertheless, the fact that retailers were suffering and that national associations are not established in all European markets led participants to reconsider the effort in light of the slump. National retail associations contacted by Bike Europe said they were digesting the news and contemplating next-steps.
EC dealing with pan-European entities
“When money is tight, these are the sorts of things that are the first to go,” said a representative of one manufacturer, which had opted out of ETRA membership in 2014. While industry professionals lamented the organization’s demise, not least of all because the European Commission, which sets policy for the European Union’s 28 member-states, prefers dealing with pan-European entities.
Some said it came about in part because of changes – including greater internationalization — in the global bicycle market. As such, they said, it is incumbent on manufacturers to increase support to independent dealers.
“It’s a pity,” said René Takens, CEO of Accell Group, the listed Dutch bike company and former ETRA member, and who also serves as head of the Comité de Liason des Fabricants Européens de Bicyclette (COLIBI) industry union for bike makers. “I think and hope that there will be a kind of continuation, but that is up to the national (retailers) associations.”