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Bicycle Sales Taking New Turns
By Paul A. Paterson
May 1, 2003

In 2001, products imported from Asia represented an estimated 95 percent of the almost 20 million bicycles sold in the United States, not so surprising in today’s global economy. What industry observers have taken notice of, however, is a subtle shift in where consumers are buying their bikes, as well as a trend away from sport biking and back to Sunday pedaling.

Service vs. Savings

Fields and Associates

Bill Fields, Owner of Fields and Associates, an Arizona-based bike industry-consulting firm, believes consumers looking for a quality but affordable bicycle are turning to mass retailers instead of the specialty shop.

"The $200 to $250 price point, where a lot of the juvenile bikes are sold, shifted from the specialty retailer to the multi-sport retailer, causing a shift in income," Fields said. "That is a disappointing outcome for the specialty retailer because that brought juvenile and adult customers in who bought helmets and gloves and other accessories, things that have a much higher profit margin."

These margins often exceed 50 percent for accessories, an important source of revenue for the specialty shop. The consumer, Fields believes, receives the same product quality, but the service end of the transaction might suffer.

"Two to three years ago, you couldn't find a $200 bike in Wal-Mart," Fields said. "Now, you go into the store with $199 in your pocket and you'll come out with a pretty good bike. It's probably heavy, it doesn't fit you right and there's nobody at the store that can set it up for you. That's the bad side."

The question of service is something Michael Klasmeier, Program Director with the American League of Bicyclists, says bike retailers should take seriously.

"You really want to educate your sales staff. Service is probably the number one thing," Klasmeier said. "You can have a steak anywhere. What takes you to a good restaurant is the service. You can go to a big box store and buy a bike and not know if it's been assembled properly or if it fits you properly. If you go to a bike retailer, you're going to get a level of service."


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