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Voices: The bike industry reacts to the COVID-19 outbreak

Published March 3, 2020

— Dean Yobbi, Ray Keener and Steve Frothingham contributed to this report.

Steve Morganstern, owner of Bicycle Ranch in Tucson, Arizona:

“We’re not stockpiling but we’re looking at the popular entry level bikes — some of the hardtail mountain bikes, some of the comfort cruiser bikes — that Giant said might not be available in a couple months due to supply disruptions. They said we might see some inventory delays on these more popular bikes. Keeping it on my radar. It could affect us. I don’t think we’re going to have to stockpile.

"We have a pretty good inventory now. That delay on inventory will come during our slower time vs. someone back East who’s just getting rolling. They’re going to be affected a little more because it will be prime season. 

"Really, the only thing that has directly affected us was the Jackaroo (clothing) factory in China, where we get our custom stuff from. We had some orders that were put on hold. They’re now back in operation, so hopefully we’ll see that coming back here pretty quickly.”

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James Kersten, show director of CABDA (which is holding the CABDA East trade show next week):

"Based on our conversations with both the state and local health departments, we’re going ahead with CABDA East as scheduled. Our plan is to have hand sanitizers all over the show, to clean all the touch points more frequently, and to hand out mini hand sanitizers at the door. We don’t have the same concerns that an open to the public show might. As long as people use healthy habits, we’ll all be fine.” 

John Sandberg, marketing communications manager for QBP:   

"We have restricted employee travel to Asia only. We have not restricted visitors to our facilities, with the exception of Q-Taiwan, where we are requiring all non-employees have a body temperature screening prior to entry and wear a face mask. The situation is fluid, and we would adjust policy if warranted.

"As to what we are hearing from suppliers, I expect to learn information about that tomorrow and in the coming days. We have a core team of internal stakeholders who meets weekly WRT to coronavirus, the purpose of which is to understand and assess how it might be impacting our organization, and then make adjustments as needed. We’ve reached out to all of our approximately 500 suppliers to inquire about the impact, and have been compiling that information. As of today, we don’t know if there will be any delays. I expect to know more in the coming days.

"We communicated with our retailers last week. Our message was straightforward: We currently have a strong inventory of products from our 500 supplier brands as well as our proprietary brands; we’re working to learn everything we can about how coronavirus might impact our organization, including product inventory from all of our suppliers; we will make adjustments to production and launch timing of our own brands on an as-needed basis; when possible we will increase our already strong inventory position on products; we’re monitoring and managing the situation on a daily basis; and we’ll communicate with you (retailers) regularly and frequently."

Bob Margevicius, executive vice president of Specialized:

"We have travel advisories out for all of our employees. Unless the trip is urgent, we are encouraging our people to not to travel, conduct meetings digitally and if they are feeling sick to remain home. 

"I do hear that things in Asia are improving a tremendous amount. Factories are back to work, near capacity and commerce is beginning to open up. The hot spots now are USA, Japan, Korea, Italy and some other pockets of Europe.

"With things improving, I don’t expect we will see a big impact. There is product within the channel that will flow through, and give component makers, assemblers, brands and retailers a chance to clean up current stock. It has been a good year so far. The weather has been good throughout most of the world, and the business is actually pretty good." 

Brandee Lepak, president of the National Bicycle Dealers Association:

"We do have retailers who are very concerned ... running into a shortage in peak season could be really damaging.

"Having lived through a very difficult recession in Arizona in 2008, I am always worried about recessions. Preparing for a downturn is something that is always at the back of my mind. I think Dave DeKeyser hit on some solid points in this article.   

"It has not affected my travel plans and I am actually headed to OKC for a board meeting on Monday. I will be washing my hands more often and trying to not touch my face as frequently."

Steve Fenton, CEO of Pro-Lite (a Taiwan-based wheel brand):

"Basically, I have spent the last two months at my house in Spain. I was due to fly back to Taiwan from Amsterdam on Friday and bailed out and flew back to Spain as the virus really started to kick off in Europe, and I feared being locked in Taiwan as they are super strict there. 

"For me, I think most Europeans are not taking it seriously and look at the BS on the internet and think that flu in Europe kills more people each year than this virus. They are not prepared for it and think it’s just a Chinese thing. I went through SARS, H1N1 and now this has started. Five years ago, I fell victim to a strain of virus that was horrendous and took me months to get over, and trust me, I am not going to expose myself to this one as I really don’t believe the numbers coming out of China and Korea and least of all Japan. 

"These countries are all very good at telling the truth but not the whole truth. This will spread in Europe as well as USA, and when it does, it will cause huge economic problems. Germany is already on the brink of recession and let’s see how this affects them. All my travel is being stopped, and I simply set up meetings on Skype now and told customers stay at home and learn to work from home or office only. I was amazed that Taipei show organizers had to be pushed into canceling the show when it was obvious they didn’t want to stop the show and tried to convince people it was safe to travel. Yet another example of how money comes first."

Shimano North America:

"Due to COVID-19, Shimano in North America has ceased all business air travel and event attendance at this time for the near future. This includes attendance at many industry events. We are acting in an abundance of caution for the health and safety of our employees, their families, and our customers. We will continue to monitor and make adjustments as things continue to develop."

Preston Martin, president of distributor BTI:

"BTI has a few suppliers using Chinese manufacturing, mainly in protection and helmet categories. I am hearing that staff at some factories have not returned after Chinese New Year. This labor shortage is slowing production, meaning delays in delivery and partial shipments in some cases. I am also hearing that some of the upstream Chinese suppliers of raw materials for these factories are facing a similar situation. We do anticipate some shortages this spring, but only from a handful of brands.

"BTI has provided staff guidance on virus prevention practices, adding sanitizer stations at both distribution centers to promote routine hand washing.

"With trade shows and distributor meetings being postponed in Asia, Europe, and the U.S., BTI has been forced to adjust travel plans. Ultimately, we leave it up to our staff to decide for themselves which travel is appropriate. BTI will have a crew attending the Sedona MTB Festival this weekend, none of which are deterred by the virus."

Dillon Clapp, worldwide marketing manager for Lezyne:

"Production and our new product line are all moving forward.

"Taipei show being postponed was definitely unfortunate. It's an important preview for what's to come with our key distributors, but if anything, we are even more focused on R&D and keeping production going — and working closer with our top markets individually to keep everything streamlined. The threat has still certainly added some extra stress, with the uncertainty surrounding the economy on a global scale. But, fortunately, Lezyne is built to withstand scenarios like this." 

Andrew Hammond, global brand manager of Pearl Izumi:

"We're evaluating participation in events. ... On the product side, we've had some delays, but so far they are not hugely significant."

Steve Donahue of Recycled Cycles in Seattle:

Store staff are extra diligent about hand washing and "keeping a safe distance from those we don't know. ... This morning, our management team developed a plan to communicate with staff in the event this whole thing escalates and we have to modify our store hours.

"The extra closure of the Chinese factories after the normal New Year closure certainly will create a lull in the flow of goods to our vendors. Also, I hope that all those who live in the poorer economies do not take a huge hit in wages as a result of factory closures."

Spokesman, Rad Power Bikes (based in Seattle, Washington, a region where eight people have died from the virus):

"Because we maintain a diverse network of manufacturing partners in areas that are not as heavily affected by the outbreak, we’re optimistic that our inventory will not be significantly impacted. In addition, while almost all manufacturers in China have shut down in some capacity because of the outbreak, we were already prepared for factory downtime due to Chinese New Year. The long-term impact to supply is unknown, but we are maintaining constant communication with all overseas partners and Rad Power Bikes supply chain employees.

"Out of an abundance of caution, we’ve restricted non-essential travel and are reviewing essential trips on a case-by-case basis, having already canceled some. We have not implemented a full scale travel ban at this point, but we may reconsider this policy as time goes on.

"We’ve been closely monitoring the virus and we’re encouraging all employees to follow common best practices to stay healthy. At this point the virus has not significantly impacted our day-to-day operations, but per CDC guidelines, we’re recommending that any employee who feels sick should stay home and not come to work until they are symptom-free for at least 24 hours."

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Frank Yohannan, president & CEO of Sea Otter Classic, Inc.:

"We are carefully monitoring the coronavirus situation. We've been in discussions with various agencies to determine the best course of action regarding the 2020 Sea Otter Classic. Your health and welfare is our primary concern.

"We will make a final decision on our position within a couple of days. As you can imagine there are many consequences to consider and we appreciate your patience.

"Our sympathy goes out to those affected by coronavirus and we extend our gratitude to all health care workers fighting to contain its spread."

Don Walker, founder and president of North American Handmade Bicycle Show:

"To the NAHBS community,

"As I sit here watching the news, there is nothing positive about the state of the world in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Its grasp on the planet is ever strengthening as it continues to spread globally, including Europe, Asia, and now here in the USA.

"Based on current news reports and travel restrictions, and in talking to many NAHBS exhibitors, media, and partners over the past week, I've made the difficult decision to postpone NAHBS and reschedule this year's show. As a global show that attracts people from all parts of the world, and in evaluating the current variables and public health risks, I feel this is in everyone's best interest. ...

"This was an extremely hard decision to make, as I know we've all been preparing throughout the winter and early spring for this gathering of our industry. I understand all of the sacrifices and expenses that have been incurred and understand the inconvenience of this situation for everyone. But my primary priority is to protect the health and safety of our amazing community and feel postponing the show is in our best interest.

"I'm praying diligently that everyone in our industry remains safe and healthy, and I look forward to seeing everyone in August. Thank you for your patience and understanding."

Arnold Kamler, chairman and CEO of Kent International:

"Our main supplier is back to work with about 20% of their labor force, which will increase each week and hopefully back to full strength by the beginning of April.  No one could possibly have planned for this outbreak.  We feel especially fortunate that we started our factory in South Carolina in 2014 and this is helping to cushion the disruption. 

"(At the South Carolina factory) we have a 30 day supply of parts and large shipments made before CNY arriving now and have been continually producing."

Wayne Gray, vice president of KHS Bicycles:

"The coronavirus is hurting component suppliers' deliveries and we expect bicycle production delays in the near future, but since we already had so much in process, there haven't been big delays in bicycle production yet. We haven't seen any dealer stockpiling."

Tora Harris, founder and CEO of Juiced Bikes:

"We have our own factory in China and also have some CMs (contract manufacters). Every day since the lockdowns were instituted we have been monitoring the situation. We now have most of our staff back from the extended Chinese New Year holiday. Some, not all the suppliers are back to work in some capacity. Everyone just wants to get back to work as quickly as possible; this extraordinary situation has created incredible team unity throughout the entire supply chain."

Jim Stevenson, VP of sales and marketing for Bianchi USA:

"The Bianchi factory and headquarters are located in Treviglio, which is pretty much dead center of the Lombardy region, the area in Italy that is currently hardest hit. So far, production at the Bianchi factory is running as normal, but down the road, it's possible that could be impacted by component deliveries from Asia. In addition, our international distributor kick-off meeting scheduled for March has been postponed by a month. We are also cautious about complete bike deliveries that come direct from Asia to the U.S.  We are expecting an update by the end of this week, but we won't be surprised to find that deliveries coming out of China are delayed. Part of it will depend of factory workers returning from Chinese New Year. This affects our low- to mid-range bikes, say bikes under around $2,000 retail. So far, we are not seeing delays on bikes from Taiwan, so hopefully that continues.  At this point, I think we are all waiting to see what happens next.

"We are not seeing dealers load up on anything at this point.  We haven't encouraged them to, nor will we unless and until we can talk specifics.  At the same time, we aren't seeing cancellations either.  At this point in the spring, dealers orders are more on an as-needed basis. So the question is not whether they will cancel, but whether spring orders are affected or not."

Larry Pizzi, chief commercial officer of Alta Cycling Group (based in Kent, Washington, near Seattle)

"Alta (under Accell) moved 98% of our finished goods supply chain out of China in 2018-19, into Taiwan, Vietnam and Cambodia. But there are still many components that have a Chinese supply chain and so far, we are experiencing minimal delays as some vendors have (notified) us of workers' delayed return after CNY. So far these delays are a few weeks in some cases and up to one month, however, I’m uncertain that we fully understand the longer term impact.

"Regarding what’s happening at our headquarters, yesterday, Alta Cycling Group issued an COVID-19 Interim guidance document for Alta Cycling Group employees, with behavioral measures and directives for associates to follow, which include following the CDC’s guidance personal and family health monitoring and the practice of respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene. We have also restricted travel in certain circumstances and have asked employees who are well but may have a sick family member at home to notify their supervisor and to refer to the CDC’s guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure. We are also allowing out team to work from home if they have any concerns about traveling to and from the office. This is a dynamic and rapidly unfolding situation and at the core, we are asking all associated to be hyper vigilant."  

Luke Musselman, president of Goodyear Bicycle Tires:

"Interestingly enough, I’m in Taiwan right now battling a bit of jet lag. ...

"We will not be attending (the Taipei Cycle+ event) in May. At this time, the common theme is keeping a close eye on supply chain, specifically, upstream raw material suppliers. In addition, we are communicating regularly with our customers to understand how the growing number of cases are impacting their specific markets. It’s still a bit early to tell due to standard lead time across the industry, but we should have a better idea in the coming weeks."  

RELATED: COVID-19 has industry on edge | REI closes some offices for 'deep cleaning' | Sea Otter monitoring virus situation | Handmade show postponed to August | Taipei show canceled, small May event planned | VeloNews: EF Pro Cycling asks to be excused from Italian races

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