Bicycle Industries Australia have recently reported that bicycle sales are falling for the second year in a row, and that numbers are the lowest post GFC. These statistics also align with numbers of bicycles imported into Australia.
However, we’re seeing more and more cyclists out there riding. And sales from both of our stores are on the rise. How is that the case?
Many of Australia’s bicycles are sold from department stores and sports and camping outlets. These bikes are often of inferior quality – made to a cheap price, with components and design to match. Unfortunately, they don’t inspire you to ride, nor reward you when you do. Often they’re delivered unassembled, or they’ve been hastily put together by someone without much experience or qualifications. And almost always, there are no staff to help you choose a type and size of bike.
What we’re noticing at Velo is that people are buying higher quality bikes – well designed bikes with durable components – that will stand up well to everyday use and last many years given a regular maintenance schedule. Also, some people are servicing and refurbishing bikes that are decades old, giving them a new lease of life. And people who are helped through the sales process by a knowledgeable staff member will end up with a bike that suits their needs and is the right size, making it more likely that they’ll enjoy it for years to come.
So our theory is that the fall in bike sales can be attributed to people buying higher quality bikes that last longer, meaning they won’t be upgrading any time soon. This, of course, is also a win for the environment, with less resources going into crappy products that will end up in landfill.
Back to Bicycle Industry Australia, the the press seemed to latch on to this stat:
children’s bicycle sales have fallen by more than 22% in the last 10 years, dropping from 492,000 in 2007-8 to 382,000 this year.
This has raised some concern, and it’s one that we share; Australia-wide, kids are becoming less active. Here in Melbourne’s inner north, we have heaps of parks and off-road bike paths for them to get rolling on. There’s also often good on-road lanes and/or quiet back streets so a ride to school is a good option for many. It’s such an easy and fun way for kids to be active in a non-structured way. However many parts of Australia lack this amenity, discouraging this kind of activity.
As for the sales figures themselves, we think they may be explained by the same phenomenon. We’ve seen sales of BYK-brand kids bikes gain momentum in recent years, not just at Velo but in general. These bikes are a significant step up in quality to a department store type kids bike, being not only more durable but – with a longer wheelbase, lower stand-over height and good braking – far easier and safer for a child to ride. A quality kid’s bike can be handed down at least a couple of times, furthering their longevity. BYK also tend to attract a good resale value when it’s time to move them on.
So perhaps we should consider these factors when looking at the latest national sales figures – things may not be as bad as they seem.