News Article

UK Bike Sales Looks to Be Heading to Decline by a Third in 2017

Sales & Trends

LONDON, UK – According to data provided by ‘Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) the bicycle import into the UK showed a dramatic drop in the non e-bike sector during the first two quarters of 2017. It prompted UK’s trade journal BikeBiz to report that the country’s bike market looks to be heading for a 17-year low.

UK Bike Sales Looks to Be Heading to Decline by a Third in 2017
Market decline results in IBD casualties as tough selling environment hits especially bricks and mortar stores. – Photo Richard Peace

BikeBiz has reported that “According to HMRC statistics for the second quarter of this year, bike imports are down by 11%. This came after a steep decline in the first quarter also. If extrapolated over the full year this could result in 2.5 million bikes sold in 2017, or one million less than in 2016. If so, that would be a 17-year low for the UK cycle industry.” The article also reveals “It is the UK which is suffering from the greatest decline of bicycle sales in Europe.”

Brexit-induced weakness

The retail bike sector is certainly presenting a complex and changing picture after steadily hovering at around 3.5 million bikes sold annually for several years prior to 2017. Reasons cited for the decline include a Brexit-induced weakness in the pound against major foreign currencies (the vast majority of bikes sold in the UK are imports), the rising average price of bikes as part of a general ‘upselling’ trend within the UK bike industry and, according to Bikebiz, the general cyclical nature of the UK bike industry.

The market decline results in IBD casualties as the tough selling environment hits especially the bricks and mortar stores. This prompted for example the closure of six of thirty high street Cycle Surgery stores.

Taiwan’s export to UK

UK’s big drop in the import of regular bicycles is in line with the decline in export by Taiwan’s bicycle industry. Excluding e-bikes Taiwan’s total export of regular bikes dropped by 26% during the first half of 2017. That export to the UK showed a 14% decline.

 Silver linings

However, there are several silver linings to the seemingly dark clouds hovering over the UK bike industry. Firstly, comparison of the first six months figures for 2016 and 2017 on the government’s UK Trade Info website, shows that the actual value of all bike imports was in fact very similar (around GBP 177.7 million for 2016 as against GBP 178.5 million for 2017) all suggesting there are fewer retailers selling higher priced models.

E-bikes: boom area

Secondly e-bikes are widely acknowledged as a boom area (they are covered by a separate commodity code to non-powered bikes by the UK’s excise authorities though this code’s accuracy is viewed as highly suspect and thought to include items other than e-bikes). E-bike sales are increasing year on year and are estimated to account for over 10% of sales in unit terms and a lot more in terms of revenue.

Thirdly the UK small but sturdy bike manufacturing industry (powered in the main by Brompton and Pashley) seem to be going from strength to strength, the former recently launching its own brand e-bike with patented technology and the latter last year being awarded the contract for London’s official bike hire scheme.

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