By Jonny Long
While many people have been rushing out to buy a bike during the coronavirus pandemic, after cycling for exercise became one of the few permitted freedoms of lockdown and a viable transport option for our socially distanced future, it's not just been bargain basement models flying off the shelves.
While chain stores such as Halfords may provide some of the cheapest offerings and attract first-time bike customers, Ribble says they've seen demand grow across the board, from their cheapest hybrids to cutting edge time trial bikes.
"Going into the pandemic we had planned for various scenarios from disruption through to complete shut down and an inability to trade," Ribble CEO Andy Smallwood told Cycling Weekly. "As a bicycle retailer we could have kept our stores open but took the decision to close them as soon as the lockdown hit."
Before the pandemic struck, Ribble were already experiencing strong sales, doing more than double the amount of business compared with this time last year, with coronavirus only supercharging this purple patch.
"Going into the pandemic our bikes sales were trading +100% YoY but this has accelerated to over 300% as lockdown has progressed," Smallwood continued. "This has given us a fresh set of challenges as we react to the rapid growth in demand whilst at the same time keeping our team and customers safe."
The future is also looking bright, with two-wheeled transportation looks set to play a part in reduced public transport capacity as social distancing becomes a key method of stopping the spread of the coronavirus. Therefore, if people are buying for the longer-term, Smallwood understands the increased demand for pricier models as people put in the research before purchasing.
"Everything that is good about cycling has never been so prevalent and it fits perfectly with the needs of a lot of people, from socially distanced economical transportation to mental and physical well-being," Smallwood said.
"I am not surprised that we are seeing bikes at all price points experience significant sales growth at this time. Customers put a significant amount of research into their purchase and want to make sure that they get the best possible bike to suit their specific cycling and budget needs.
"At Ribble, we have seen sales increase across the board – from our entry-level all the way through to the higher end of our ranges. The customers have selected bikes based on a combination of their buying power and their current needs. Bikes are seen today as a must-have, whether for fitness or commuting - and cyclists will buy into a brand and be proud of it. The customisation and personalisation we offer allows riders to have much more control of both specification and the look of their new bike."
With the UK Government's promised half a million £50 bike vouchers set to be released at the end of June, bike retailers should continue to be one of the few economic successes during a time of instability, with the country's GDP falling by a record 20.4% in April.
The bike vouchers will be offered to help people get their bikes repaired as the Government predicts public transport will see its capacity limited to a fifth of its usual travellers.
Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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