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<b>Belgium 2005:</b> Bike Sales Growing Slowly but Surely

Sales & Trends

MAARSSEN, the Netherlands – In 2003, for the very first time ever, imports of bicycles into Belgium exceeded 1 million. Now, only 2 years later, imports are getting within reach of 2 million. However, the bigger the influx of bicycles, the less these statistics tell about the Belgian market. Other indicators show however that the […]

<b>Belgium 2005:</b> Bike Sales Growing Slowly but Surely

MAARSSEN, the Netherlands – In 2003, for the very first time ever, imports of bicycles into Belgium exceeded 1 million. Now, only 2 years later, imports are getting within reach of 2 million. However, the bigger the influx of bicycles, the less these statistics tell about the Belgian market. Other indicators show however that the market is growing slowly but surely.

The export figures prove to what extent Belgium functions as a transit country. Last year, almost 1.3 million units were exported. That is 52.8% more than in 2004. The bulk of these bicycles went to France. In 2005 export to Belgium’s neighbour to the south climbed with almost 70% to 880,000.

Belgium Bicycle Imports (in units)

Country 
Volume
 
 
Average value
 
 
 
2004
2005
Difference
2004
2005
Difference
Taiwan
229,261
446,890
+94.9%
158.30
119.61
-24.4%
China
183,105
347,005 
+89.5%
30.33
35.72
+17.8%
Vietnam
71,944
148,925
+107.0%
69.05
54.13
-21.6%
Italy
94,519
144,006
+52.4%
80.16
80.16
+0.9%
Holland
103,746
127,831
+23.2%
270.25
305.39
+13.0%
Philippines
49,466
120,891
+144.4%
31.13
32.31
+3.8%
France
95,642
120,158
+25.6%
103.61
96.38
-7.0%
Poland
110,279
69,693
-36.8%
77.74
70.05
-9.9%
Sri Lanka
1,200
54,393
37.61
37.61
+39.5%
Indonesia
30,654
46,152
+50.6%
91.30
91.30
+7.9%
Total
1,072,513
1,775,303
+65.5%
92.93
93.69
+0.8%

Source: Febiac

Belgium Bicycles Export Top Five

Country
Number
Variation
Average value per bicycle in €
Variation
 
2004
2005
 
2004
2005
 
France
520,129
879,944
+69.2%
100.39
80.85
-19.5%
Spain
76,887
127,803
+66.2%
126.72
115.35
-9.0%
Germany
82,001
83,186
+1.4%
265.44
292.44
+10.17%
Italy
37,935
71,915
+89.6%
199.22
169.91
-14.7%
Holland
65,756
59,559
-9.4%
148.73
169.00
+13.6%
Total export
848,906
1,296,818
+52.8%
141.09
121.35
-14%

Source: Febiac

Distribution centres

Decathlon is currently building its brand-new European logistics centre in Willebroek near Antwerp. From there, products will be dispatched to the branches in all neighbouring countries. That will more than probably force the Belgian bicycle imports and exports further up in the next few years. The new Decathlon buildings, covering a total surface of 35,292 m² should be completed by September this year. The distribution centre will result in the creation of 120 to 150 new jobs.

Next to Decathlon, Giant and Scott also have distribution centres in Belgium. As a by the by, Scott has recently announced the closure of the branch in Londerzeel near Brussels. The 32 employees will be made redundant. Scott is moving to Aubange in Luxembourg. The American brand intends to convert an existing production hall into its European distribution centre. The Luxembourg site is over 10 hectares, which offers quite some potential for expansion.

Taiwan revisited

One of the most remarkable developments in the 2005 import statistics is the near doubling of sales of Taiwanese bicycles. With that the average value plunged downwards with almost one fourth, from over € 158 to just under € 120. This could be caused by part of the Chinese and/or Vietnamese production being shipped through Taiwan in order to skirt the anti-dumping duties. And, perhaps some of the Taiwanese manufacturers in Vietnam have shifted back part of the production to their native country.

On top of this trend, imports from China and Vietnam have very seriously increased despite the extra European taxes to counteract dumping. Chinese imports progressed with almost 90% for a total of 347,000, Vietnamese imports with 107% for a total of almost 150,000 bicycles. The average value of Chinese bikes “increased” from some € 30 to almost € 36. The anti-dumping duties on Vietnamese bicycles did not result in a rise of the value, quite on the contrary. The average price shrunk with almost 22% to € 54.13.

In 2003, Poland had quite suddenly become Belgium’s biggest bicycle supplier. Since May 2004, the import has been decreasing at a great pace. Until its accession to the EU, Poland served as an intermediary for Chinese bicycles. Those practices are now fading out. Last year, Poland was the only country in the import top ten with a negative result: -36.8% for a total of just under 70,000. Average value also diminished with almost 10% to € 70.05.

Market and prices

There was one newcomer to the top ten last year. Sri Lanka, that only exported 1,200 bicycles to Belgium in 2004, moved to 9th position last year thanks to 54,000 units with an average value of € 37.61. Since 1 February 2004, Sri Lanka benefits from special incentive arrangements for developing countries that create a better social climate. As a result, the preferential duty rate for bicycles has been further decreased from 10.5 to 6.5%. Sri Lanka’s entry into the top ten was to the detriment of Germany that was pushed to 11th position with imports stagnating around 33,000.

The only import results that probably say something about the Belgian market are the ones from Holland. The volume grew by 23.2% to almost 128,000. The average value which has already been the highest for years, climbed further with 13% to € 308.39. Holland exports high quality bicycles to Belgium that are mainly sold through IBDs. Therefore, from the statistics it could be concluded that IBD sales have grown in 2005, whereas the average prices of their sales were probably somewhere between € 500 and € 600.

According to the Belgian ministry of economic affairs, the average price of an adult bike in 2005 was € 377.74 compared with € 370.20 in 2004. For children’s bikes the price was € 241.99, against € 240.29 the year before. These averages are below our estimation for the value of IBD sales because they also include bicycles sold outside specialist retail outlets, which are generally low priced products.

As for the number of bicycles sold, the Belgian industry association Federvelo estimates that in 2004 that amounted to some 384,000. The number of IBDs that year was 1,278. Moreover, there were 80 companies active in assembly, import and wholesale. Their turnover reached € 0.65 billion. Federvelo does not have any more recent figures disposable.

All in all, there are several indications that both bicycle sales and cycle usage in Belgium are growing slowly but surely since several years now. Take bicycle ownership. According to the Belgian Statistics Institute, in 1991, 53% of all Belgian families owned a bike. In 2001 that percentage had increased to 64. The growth mainly occurred in Brussels and the Walloon region. Despite this catching up, bicycle possession in the two regions has still not attained the same level as in Flanders. There, in 2001, over 78% of the families owned a bike.

8% of all Belgian journeys are made by bike, recreational cycling trips excluded. A bicycle journey is on average 3.4 km long and takes 13 minutes, which comes down to an average speed of 15.7 km/h. As a by the by, 69% of all Belgian journeys are done by car. Of these, 46% concern trips less than 5 km and 2% even less than 500 metres! So, there is still quite some potential for replacing short car trips by cycling. Still, 21% of the Flemish people use a bike every day as opposed to only 3% in the Walloon region and 1% in Brussels.

Famous Belgians

Although there are no statistics available to substantiate it, the Flemish Tourist Authority does confirm that the demand for cycling tourism is growing considerably. As a result, the supply is also being expanded. One of the most recent innovations is the introduction of so-called intersection networks.

The provinces of Limburg and Antwerp were the first to apply the concept. Today, all the other Flemish provinces have followed their example. It consists of a “fine mesh” network of cycle routes signposted on the basis of their intersections. Each junction has a number. The cyclist can develop his own personal route by simply connecting intersection numbers.

Another initiative to cater for the needs of the growing group of cycling tourists is the introduction of the label ‘cycling-friendly’ accommodation. To date, it has been attributed to some 230 hotels, camp sites, B&B’s etcetera. To obtain the label, the accommodation has to meet more than 10 cycling quality conditions. For instance, they have to be no more than 5 km away from an official cycling route, an intersection network or a long distance route. They should have closed off parking facilities and tools to service and repair bikes. They must also have a wide offer of cycling information, etc.

Not many people seem to be aware of the fact that there is quite some gusto for cycling in Belgium. That is currently being fanned by a fresh star in professional cycling: Tom Boonen. In the meantime, Brussels has presented its candidature for the organisation of Velo-City 2009, supported by none other than another famous Belgian: Manneke Pis.

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