Finland: Good Signs on Bleak Market
HELSINKI, Finland – The number of bicycles sold in Finland decreased in 2016, but the mood in the market is not down. There are many promising signs predicting better years ahead.
The bicycle trade expected steady or increasing business for 2016, and for good reasons. The use of bicycles in Finland has increased for commuting and for fitness too. The number of bike paths has steadily increased and the use of bicycles has grown accordingly. More and more the bicycle is regarded as a solution for everyday commuting. The riding season is short due to the harsh winter in Finland, but the number of people cycling throughout the year has grown, especially in Southern Finland.
The bicycle sector anticipated that the small and slow growth of the Finnish economy would encourage people to use bikes instead of cars. Also there were no excess in stocks of bicycles left from last year. So the 2016 season started in an optimistic atmosphere and with fresh offerings.
The main sales season in Finland is short due to the snowy winter. Weather conditions in April and May make their mark on total sales for the entire year. Dry and warm spring drives the bikes out of the shops. In 2016 Finland had a good April, but a cold and slow May.
8% sales drop
What the whole of 2016 is bringing for bike sales in Finland can be estimated by import quantities as these imported bicycles are delivered to retailers. In the first seven months of the year about 80 % of the total annual import is taken in. Based on that January – July import quantity the Finnish trade magazine Sporttimyyjä estimates 2016 bicycle sales. The magazine calculates the total 2016 sales volume at about 283,000 bicycles. This represents a 7.8 % drop from 2015 sales. That result looks bleak, but according to Sporttimyyjä there are reasons to be satisfied with this result.
The Finnish market has polarized during many years now and this trend still continued in 2016. The sales of city bikes in the mid-price category decreased again this year. Demand has either moved to cheaper models with customers buying at mass markets, or upgraded to more technical and expensive bikes. This last category sees now some growth with the sale of better bicycles flourishing. Trekking/Hybrid bikes are used extensively for commuting and now consumers prefer more technical models. Cyclocross is non-existent as a sport in Finland, but the sale of cyclocross bikes has been good as this kind of bike is useful in long-distance commuting on various road surfaces.
There has been a good market response for the fat bike. The model has proved its value on soft and stony paths, and most important, on snowy and icy roads.
Mountain biking has again appealed to more people and when the bike has been bought for sport and fitness, the models chosen are more technical and valuable too. Sales of road bikes have been steady with riders renewing their racers with the available new technical features. The growing bicycle usage results in a positive impact on the sales of parts and accessories. There is a growing demand for more sophisticated brands and P&A products.
The changes in consumer preferences have an impact on distribution. Those retailers that had middle class city bikes as their bread and butter, are having hard times. Selling cheaper brands and models does not provide sufficient turnover and income. It results in retailers focusing on a more demanding clientele with an upgraded offering and service in their shops. But more expensive and more sporty bikes need more room, more capital and more expertise. Only a part of the Finnish retailers are able to upgrade their business to a new required level.
On e-bikes Finland has been a really underdeveloped country. Year after year the sector had high hopes on the same trend seen in other countries. However, e-bike sales remained at less than one percent of the total market. But now there are signs of a turnaround. In particular as the import of e-bikes nearly doubled in January-July 2016 period. Also e-bikes got a better and broader media coverage with the category taken more seriously. What also counts is that more sporty models are presenting a new image to the e-bike. They also broke a price barrier. Up till now In Finland the electric bicycles was considered as a bike for elderly people. But now e-MTBs are considered hot by for sporty riders. Thanks to all this the trade estimates that the sales of all types of e-bikes will at least double next season. Then in Finland the speed in e-bike sales will pick up and will reach a level comparable to that of other European countries.