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<b>Belgium 2007:</b> Growth Potential For Functional Bikes

Sales & Trends

BRUSSELS, Belgium – In 2007, Belgian bike sales have grown in numbers but probably lost some of their value as a result of shrinking purchasing power. The progress is mainly due to the success of bikes for recreation. Although the functional use of bikes in Belgium is already rather high, there is still considerable room […]

<b>Belgium 2007:</b> Growth Potential For Functional Bikes

BRUSSELS, Belgium – In 2007, Belgian bike sales have grown in numbers but probably lost some of their value as a result of shrinking purchasing power. The progress is mainly due to the success of bikes for recreation. Although the functional use of bikes in Belgium is already rather high, there is still considerable room for growth.

Bicycles: Belgian imports (in units and Euro’s)   

Country

Volume

Average Value

 

2006

2007

Variation

2006

2007

Variation

Taiwan

325,681

282,191

-13.4%

139.45

144.88

+3.9%

Sri Lanka

161,482

180,298

+11.6%

41.17

44.74

+8.7%

China

131,264

178,417

+35.9%

43.54

37.82

-13.2%

France

239,383

172,153

-28.1%

95.77

105.19

+9.8%

Holland

133,941

154,109

+15.1%

314.88

288.17

-8.5%

Philippines

100,289

107,709

+7.4%

33.06

31.83

-3.7%

Italy

98,006

99,843

+1.8%

94.37

91.07

-3.5%

Indonesia

51,381

58,672

+14.2%

112.16

111.33

-0.8%

Thailand

11,265

39,855

+253.8%

61.50

67.36

+9.5%

Germany

32,752
32,599
-0.7%
58.03
60.68
+4.6%
Total
1,412,392
1,443.258
+2.2%
111.16
109.27
-1.7%

Source: National Bank of Belgium

Up until 2005, the Belgian bicycle import has grown explosively. That year an absolute record of 1.775 million bikes was established. Then, in 2006, the tide turned. Imports decreased with 1/5th to about 1.4 million. In 2007, there was a status quo with both import numbers and value hardly changing.

Some 1.44 million units were imported, i.e. 2.2% more than in 2006. Their average value was just under € 110, which is 1.7% below the 2006 value. Exports on the other hand increased with almost 11% for a total of 960,000. The average value was almost € 145, exactly 1% lower than the year before.

The Belgian import and export statistics however say nothing about the home market. A large part of the bicycles in the statistics are just in transit, with Decathlon, Giant and Scott having distribution centres in the country.

Shift of cheap import

For years, the main supplier has been Taiwan although imports have been shrinking for 2 years in a row now. After a 27% decrease in 2006, there was a 13.4% decline last year. With that, value has considerably recovered. After a 16.6% increase in 2006, there was another 4% progress to an average of almost € 145. Taiwan seems to be losing the cheapest import for the benefit of China, Thailand, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

Notwithstanding the anti-dumping duties, Chinese imports grew with 36%, whereas the value plummeted. A 13.2% drop pulled the average down to not even € 38. The biggest leap forward was made by Thai imports. They nearly reached 40,000, which is almost 4 times more than in 2006. Thailand pushed Bangladesh out of the top 10. Sri Lanka continues to take advantage of its duty free status. Last year, it exported more than 180,000 bicycles into Belgium, which made it the second supplier.

Half a million

The only import results that say something about the Belgian market are the Dutch and German figures. Both countries export high quality bikes to Belgium, which are mainly sold through IBD’s. This distribution channel still has a majority share in sales, although competition is becoming fiercer, for instance from the 8 Decathlon stores in the country.

Last year, Dutch import increased by 15%, whereas average value lost 8.5%. German import rose by 1/5th and gained more than 8% value. The German average value of € 230 is still a long way off the Dutch result of more than € 288.

From the statistics, it could be concluded that IBD sales have grown in 2007, whereas the average prices of their sales may have slightly decreased. The total Belgian market is now probably somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000 units.

Functional cycling

In 2005, the average prices of IBD sales were estimated at between € 500 and € 600. That value may well have somewhat been eroded by shrinking spending power. According to the Belgian cyclists’ federation, sales of bikes for recreation have been booming for several years, whereas the sales of bicycles for commuting, shopping, going to school, etcetera lag behind.

Nevertheless, compared with most other EU member states, Belgium is doing not bad at all in the field of ‘functional’ bike usage. In 2001, almost 80% of all Flemish households had at least 1 bicycle. In the Walloon region, the percentage was 47.5% and in the Brussels region 32%. Cycle usage is highest in Bruges: 35% for recreation and 33% for functional purposes. Among the large cities, Antwerp has the lowest cycle usage, which is still 16% for recreation and 15% for functional trips.

For years now, commuters can benefit a € 0.15 per kilometre, free of tax, if they travel by bike. Furthermore, in Belgium objective liability applies, which means that in a collision between a motorized vehicle and a cyclist, the insurance of the motorized vehicle always has to pay. Nevertheless, apart from these two concrete measures, the recent Belgian governments have not exactly shown great interest in the bicycle as a means to green mobility. In the last government policy statement, the bicycle is omni-absent. “In order to reduce car usage by commuters, the government will confer with the social partners on the promotion of public transport.” Full stop.

Campaigns

The Belgian Cyclists’ Federation believes that functional cycle usage suffers from a bad image: not safe, slow, low status, lack of comfort … To counter these prejudices they have launched an awareness-raising campaign through the website: www.wegmetdefiets.be. The name of the site is a word game, it means both “go by bike” and “let’s get rid of the bike”.

Another campaign, “Met Belgerinkel naar de Winkel” (Ring your Bell to go to the Shop) is meant to incite people to shop by bike. A few years ago, the campaign won the Shimano Cycling Concept Award. Since, it has developed into the biggest Belgian promotion campaign for cycling, with a growing interest from abroad. In 2007, almost 200 Flemish cities participated and for the first time, they were joined by 4 Dutch cities. The format is very simple. Every participating shop puts a stamp on the campaign cards presented by shopping cyclists. When the card is full, they hand it over for participating in a raffle.

One campaign in favour of cycling, which turns out to be less successful is the bike rental scheme in Brussels. It is similar to Vélib and it was established by JCDecaux, with a little less fuss however than in Paris. Unfortunately, the system is poorly received by the public. That would be due to, among other things, the fact that the bicycles are too heavy for the Brussels’ hills.

What’s more, a number of local councils in the Brussels region are working with the competition instead of with JCDecaux, which obstructs the expansion of the rental system. The “Cyclocity” website also shows that Decaux has a little less ambition in Belgium than in France. That proves the saying: when it rains in Paris, it drips in Brussels.

Bicycles: export top five Belgium

Country
Number
Variation
Average value per bicycle in euro
Variation
 
2006
2007
 
2006
2007
 
France
551,850
587,724
+6.5%
87.23
84.73
-2.9%
Germany
74,396
73,950
-0.6%
305.39
415.97
+36.2%
Spain
61,991
70,777
14.2%
167.72
175.84
+4.8%
Holland
54,597
64,920
+18.9%
164.44
135.97
-17.3%
United Kingdom
42,382
51,448
+21.4%
214.07
270.56
+26.4%
Total Belgian export
865,545
960,204
+10.9%
145.87
144.33
-1.0%

Source: National Bank of Belgium

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