<b>Switzerland 2006:</b> Hit by Cheapness-Wave

Sales & Trends

Stable market relations in Switzerland: the 2006 sales figures from dealers and sports outlets remained more or less the same, in spite of the cheapness-wave that has now also reached Switzerland and that has still been driven up by customs relief. The most expensive category has grown considerably as a consequence of the success of the electric bike

<b>Switzerland 2006:</b> Hit by Cheapness-Wave

ERN, Switzerland – Stable market relations in Switzerland: the 2006 sales figures from dealers and sports outlets remained more or less the same, in spite of the cheapness-wave that has now also reached Switzerland and that has still been driven up by customs relief. The most expensive category has grown considerably as a consequence of the success of the electric bike.

Swiss Bike Market 2006 (sales in units)

Change vs. 2005
IBD share
Retail chains
‘Nude’ Sport bikes
MTB 26”
+ 2.1 %
72.3 %
27.7 %
Cross 28”
+ 1.8 %
97.2 %
2.8 %
Road race
– 8.4 %
98.5 %
1.5 %
Junior 20-24”
+ 3.4 %
59.0 %
41.0 %
Roadworthy leisure/city bikes
City 28”
+ 9.2 %
69.5 %
30.5 %
City 26”
+ 22.3 %
51.7 %
48.3 %
Junior 20-24”
+ 2.9 %
34.4 %
65.6 %
+ 77.6 %
100 %
0 %
+ 6.6 %
67.8 %
32.2 %
Value in Sfr
(x 1,000)
+ 2.7 %
85.5 %
14.5 %
  • Total turnover of the Swiss bike trade including clothing and apparel, service and repair: Sfr. 630 million (€ 382 million).
  • People employed ca. 6,100.
  • Number of bikes in Switzerland 2006: ca. 3.9 million (unchanged).

According to the latest figures of trade association Velosuisse, the Swiss bike trade can happily look back to 2006 as a year in which more bikes were sold. 18,446 bikes to be precise or 6.8% more than in 2006, and for the first time since the nineties (when it was surpassed several times) it was again touching the 300,000 milestone. And in fact this plus does not reflect the market development, but it is only the result of a cosmetic touch on the statistics by Velosuisse President Gallus Komenda. 

As one of the oldest insiders in the Swiss trade relations, Komenda claims: “Statistics have never been as reliable as these!” The explanation: since the association changed its data collecting system to anonymous figures, it got reliable figures not only from its members but also from qualified sports outlets and big-scale distributors like Athleticum, Coop, SportXX by Migros.

At the same time, the figures of the discount markets (Carrefour, Conforama, Otto’s) remained highly unreliable, but it became clear that they had apparently always been under-estimated. And on top of those come the figures of grocery chains like Aldi and Landi (an ecological supermarket chain, who this Spring even revived the traditional Swiss Cilo brand, albeit at discount prices). Anyhow, there still is a considerable difference of several ten thousand bikes with the official customs statistics.

China overflows the cheapest sector

Coincidentally, the import figures for 2006 were a telltale: in 2005, Taiwan was still the nr 1 importer with 91,000 units, but it has been surpassed last year by China, that made a 24% leap from 86,000 to 107,000 (with an average unit price of CHF 162 (€ 98). Taiwan dropped back 16% to 75,000 units at CHF 499 (€ 304).
This shift was influenced by the fiscal treatment which the Swiss have apparently wanted for themselves: unlike the EU, who charge Chinese bikes with massive anti-dumping duties, the same bikes from the ‘development country’ China are in Switzerland even completely import tax free. An estimated 5,000 of the cheapest bikes ‘Made in China’ have been put in the market by discounters for the lowest prices within imagination.
Although Velosuisse keeps aloof of these qualitatively inferior carrots, this new trend of the disposable bicycle should at least figure as such in the statistics alongside the dealer and the sports retail channels as a ‘third power’. This would explain the overall ‘growth’ in spite of the stagnating figures as supplied by the association’s members.

Categories: matter of definitions

There is still more relativity in these figures: the subdivision in sports bikes without accessories and ‘complete’ bikes for everyday use. Half the 138,000 mountainbikes as such are in fact starter’s models under CHF 1,000 (€ 607), for the best part bicycles for school going children that are fitted by the dealer with the compulsory accessories for street use (mudguards, lighting, bell and lock). An estimated one-third of these originally ‘naked’ bikes leave the dealer shop outfitted as city bikes, which would make the city bike category the biggest segment instead of the mountainbike category.

Dealers too self-confident?

The official statistics won in importance because for the first time it specified the values per unit. And that’s where the dealers may justifiably be satisfied: in spite of a loss of 4.8% unit-wise, its loss in overall value was only 1% and now comes at 85.5%.
Gallus Komenda claims that this is a unique situation in Europe but it has its risks: “After many dealers have completely given up the starter segment, they are now lured to let the lower mid category slip as well and leave it to the qualified big retail chains that are also looking for the upmarket.” But the dealers were able to raise their average unit price with CHF 22 to a proud CHF 1,471 (€ 892).

Road racers lucrative

Road racers even have an average price that is again nearly twice as high. It makes the race customer the most important business maker, even with modest numbers sticking to the same level as before. (Even the boom of BMC, dropping slightly back in 2006 with 1,200 units to 13,000, could not let the overall figure come down as well). The position of the road racer is even more important when one realises that the ubiquitous mountainbike in the comparable price category sells with 20,000 units only about 50% more. What make the road racer particularly interesting are the good margins and the high degree of exclusivity: in this advice-driven sector the big price-aggressive distributors could hardly penetrate.

Electric bikes

The same applies to electric bikes, although a recent electric folder offered by Conforama for CHF 799 (€ 485) is an indication that the discounters are also watching this niche in the market. Mainly thanks to Biketec, who are very actively marketing their Flyer (market share in Switzerland more than 80%), 3,000 ‘Stromer’(dialect for ‘bike running on electric current’) were sold in 2006, which made it with an increase of 77% the strongest-growing segment overall. This volume brought the electric bike for the first time as a whole percentage of the total bike market in the official statistics of the association.
Another category that is seemingly showing huge growth (over 5,000 units!) is that of the special bikes (recumbents, tandems and folders), but beware this is clearly the effect of a misstatement by a big-scale distributor made about one single cheap action model…

Swiss Made’ Gallantly Alive

In spite of the increasing role for cheapest imports, it is still worth mentioning that the solid Swiss hand made quality still exists: some 40,000 bicycles are Made in Switzerland. The Aarios factory is of the most Swiss original and basic nature, even building its own frames, followed by Cresta who do their own painting. Recently, the appreciation for Swiss Made is even increasing: arguments for this ‘repatriation’ are the better possibilities for demanding customers to get a customized product.
Youngest example of a successful return is Thömus, for many years a strictly regional ‘farmhouse’ brand, that is now steadily spreading over the whole country, and assembles everything except youth and children’s bikes in the Bern hinterland. The next example of a successful brand will be BMC, known worldwide thanks to their road race efforts, that sells half of its production abroad. BMC plans to start building its high- end frame in Switzerland, beginning next year.

The most important Swiss manufacturers (production in units):

Tour de Suisse


The overall Swiss market did not change for the leading brands: Intercycle (Bixs, Wheeler), Trek-Villiger and Scott (Swiss sales only): 20,000 – 25,000 each, BMC (Swiss sales only), Komenda (Cresta, Giant), Tour de Suisse (TdS, Stevens) and Canyon: 12,000 – 16,000 each.

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