As the coronavirus pandemic is set to stretch into summer, the bicycle industry has been riding on a steady stream of sales and repair work since March.
But local bike shops say supply chain problems threaten to make the path ahead a bit bumpier.
At Adventure Bicycle Co., first-year revenue exceeded the ownership’s forecast by 20%, said co-owner Jason Johannpeter. Declining to disclose figures, he said business was 10% over expectations in April, the first full month after the city’s stay-at-home order was issued amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“But May was insane. We doubled our forecast for May,” Johannpeter said.
Many states, including Missouri, deemed bike shops essential businesses and were allowed to stay open.
“As soon as people were told to stay at home, they all wanted to be doing stuff outside,” said Bryant Johnson, assistant manager at A&B Cycle. “That’s where the big rush kind of started.”
The demand has led to a significant uptick in repair work for local shops, as people have been bringing old bicycles in for service since the start of the pandemic.
“Once we got the initial week of shutdown, we had to extend out our service times more than normal,” Johnson said, adding jobs at A&B Cycle prior to late March were finished in around 48 hours.
“It then just kept getting busier and busier.”
Completion times have stretched beyond two weeks, with around 100 repair jobs currently in progress, Johnson said. The weekly work order is typically 40-60 jobs.
Queen City Cycles employee Jeff Anderson said repair work since March at the Rountree neighborhood shop is up about 50% to roughly 30 service orders per week. Job completion turnaround has doubled to around two weeks over the past couple of months.
As the coronavirus began spreading, so too did national sales for bikes and shop services. Market research firm NPD Group Inc. said U.S. bike sales and services rose 44% to $733 million in March.
Johannpeter said his shop doubled its weekly work orders to 70 from 35 by late March – an increase that has remained through early June. The three owners, which include Colin Brixey and Jason Allen, are the shop’s lone employees. They’ve discussed adding staff.
“Is this a momentary spike in business or is it going to be a sustained thing?” Johannpeter said.
The $54 billion global bicycle market grew 6.9% last year, and it’s poised to see sales in some bike categories rise 35% in 2020, according to Lexington, Massachusetts-based WinterGreen Research Inc.
At Queen City Cycles, Anderson said sales and service business is up around 35% since the pandemic began, declining to disclose totals.
However, he said the service side is going to be an even more important component for the shop in the coming weeks as stock from suppliers, such as Bloomington, Minnesota-based Quality Bicycle Products, has slowed considerably.
Bike shops began experiencing supply chain struggles in April, as the pandemic forced many of the manufacturing plants in Asia to shut down. As a result, many shops, including A&B, are seeing bikes disappearing from stock quicker than they can be replenished.
“Bikes are big and expensive, so they’re hard to store a lot of,” Johnson said, noting A&B is out of most every bike priced under $1,500. “There’s not very much back inventory with any manufacturer in the bike industry.”
Johnson said orders have come in randomly, with some weeks passing without any new deliveries.
“We have probably 100 bikes on back-order,” he said. “Those will probably all disappear as soon as they come in.”
Johannpeter said his shop only sells bikes from California-based Specialized Components Inc., which has distribution centers in Columbus, Ohio, and Salt Lake City, Utah. While bikes have been in shorter supply, he said they’ve largely been able to keep up with orders to this point.
“It isn’t that customer traffic has slowed down or demand has slowed down. It’s the availability of product that’s the issue now,” he said, adding shipments that usually were taking two days are around 10 days now.
Parts supplies also have been running low at Adventure Bicycle, Johannpeter said. Basic items every shop should have, such as a 26-inch bike tube, are virtually out of stock from the company’s vendors, he said. That could delay repairs or require the use of different model’s parts.
June will be much more dependent on service work than sales, Johnson said, adding the shop is ordering more electric bikes and other higher-end models in the $2,000-$3,000 range.
Bike shop operators are skeptical the supply chain will get back to normal before the end of summer.
“It could take up to six months to really get back our inventory that we normally have,” Johnson said. “They might surprise us. Who knows? There’s never been anything like this.”
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