Cities to Lead the Way in UK Bicycle Sales
LONDON, UK – The vast bulk of cycles sold in the UK are imported and UK government figures from Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) show that for the last 8 years cycle imports have been quite stable, hovering between 3 and 3.5 million units per annum.
Whilst recent years’ COLIBI/COLIPED reports show the UK is second only to Germany in terms of the number of annual bike sales, when it comes to the value of bikes sold here it lags way behind its northern European counterparts, the average price paid for a bike being somewhere between 250-300 euros. HMRC data showed an encouraging recent rise in the value UK of bicycle imports however:
- 2012: GBP 332 million (458 million euro)
- 2013: GBP 375.5 million (518 million euro)
- 2014: GBP 398 million (549 million euro)
More specific UK cycle sales data is hard to get hold of, but a spokesperson for the Bicycle Association of Great Britain (BAGB) commented to Bike Europe ‘The bulk of the market is low to mid-priced mountain-bike style bicycles. MAMILs are still buying plenty of road bikes.’ MAMIL is a recent acronymn for ‘Middle Aged Man In Lycra’ and is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘a middle-aged man who is a very keen road cyclist, typically one who rides an expensive bike and wears clothing associated with professional cyclists’.
High quality sales trends
All recent COLIBI/COLIPED reports also indicate that budget-priced ‘commodity’ bikes still represent the bulk of unit sales. However, as the emergence of ‘MAMILs’ indicates, there is still plenty to play for at the quality end of the market. BAGB’s spokesman again, ‘Sales are driven by a number of interconnected factors. It’s unlikely the “Tour de France” factor was a major driver of sales in 2014-15 for anywhere outside Yorkshire……. There are many signs that the status of cycling – a prerequisite for increased cycle use, and increased sales – is rising in the UK although it still has some way to go.’
A future shaped by city cycling growth?
One of the most prominent signs must be the growth (and growth potential) in city cycling lead by a meteoric rise in London. The March 2015 announcement of GBP 114 million (157 million euro) nationwide funding under the Cycle City Ambition initiative follows the green light for a major east-west London cycling ‘superhighway’ (i.e. largely segregated from motor traffic) and the breaking of tarmac on a similar scheme in northern England. It’s clear the Bicycle Association also see ‘daily cycling’ underpinned by high quality cycling infrastructure as a real future driver of a cycling economy on a whole new scale; ‘The industry has taken heart from the inclusion of cycling in the Infrastructure Act. This has the potential to be a “tipping point” for cycling as a normal form of everyday transport.’
E-bikes on the Up
E-bike sales figures also rely on HMRC import figures and they must be taken with a large pinch of salt. According to these figures nearly 40,000 electric bikes entered the country in 2012 but reached new heights of around 65,000 in 2014. The GBP 9.2 million (12.7 million euro) value put on these imports shows a serious mismatch (valuing each electric bike at around GBP 141, or 155 euro) but again grassroots evidence shows great signs for the future. Eddie Kehoe, co-owner of the longstanding retail chain Electric Transport Shop, ‘ We have seen a 20% growth of bike sales turnover from 2013 to 2014’ . Could these be signs of an imminent UK e-bike boom?