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Fred Clements: 2014 predictions involve more than weather

Published January 14, 2014
A blog by NBDA executive director Fred Clements.

Editor's note: This blog post was written by Fred Clements, executive director of the National Bicycle Dealers Association. Clements' previous blog posts can be read on

Weather will continue to play an important role in the U.S. bicycle business in 2014, but other issues are driving a continuing soft market, according to a new analysis from the Gluskin Townley Group.

The report includes seven predictions for 2014 based on research, analysis of demographic trends and, alas, weather reports:

1. Weather will play an important role in 2014. GTG points out, "Mother Nature has her own timetable and sense of humor when it comes to the weather, but global warming and climate change have made weather an important factor impacting the U.S. bicycle business."

GTG suggests that the industry adapt by taking advantage of increasingly reliable weather forecasts by visiting regularly, and making weather a key element in planning for merchandising and the mix of products carried.

"Thanks to the federal government it is a factor that can be planned for with a higher degree of reliability than in the past. It will still cause inconvenience at its best and disaster at its worst ... weather is a constant that needs to be understood for what it is and taken into account in both short and long term planning," the report notes.

2. The American bicycle business will continue to struggle with sales of new bicycle units in 2014. Demographics have a lot to do with this as Generation X begins to play a more important role in the economy, a generation at least 11 percent smaller than the previous generation that drove the bicycle business. Unless the bicycle business changes the way it does business, GTG suggests, it will attract fewer shoppers and customers.

"For both the supply side and retail channels this is a matter of reaching out and attracting more shoppers for new bicycles, and increasing conversions and close rates," GTG says. "The bicycle business needs to become more inclusive and less exclusive and invite everyone to shop for a new bicycle so there are more conversions to an actual purchase."

3. Women will become the new majority in more aspects of the American bicycle market in 2014. The American Bicyclist Study reports that women make up 55 percent of Generation X bicycling consumers. Women represent 51 percent of the U.S. population and were 53 percent of the voters in the 2012 presidential election. They also hold the purse strings and influence or make 80-85 percent of household purchases.

"It's important for the industry to recognize and act upon the fact that women are fast gaining share of American bicycle riding participation and they are seeking, creating, and carving out their versions, not the mainstream bicycle businesses version, of their bicycling lifestyle in the communities in which they live," GTG says. "With women becoming the new majority on their terms, the American bicycle business needs to move quickly to catch up and learn to play a role, or it will be left behind and may be made irrelevant."

4. Minority-majorities emerge as drivers of more local and metro-urban bicycle markets in 2014. Over the last two decades bicycling has become an activity largely of upper income, college educated, white, male Americans, GTG says. The American Bicyclist Study reveals that the profile of adult cyclists living in the top 12 metropolitan cities is significantly non-white. GTG expects this trend to grow.

"The American bicycle business needs to get its head around the new American coalition and the fact that there is no longer one big market, but a multiplicity of neighborhoods and communities with diverse populations driving shop local and buy local movements," GTG says.

5. Children and juveniles will continue to drop out of bicycling in 2014. Research shows that during the twelve month period from 2011 to 2012, 3 million Americans 17 years of age and younger dropped out of bicycle riding participation. If the current trend continues there will only be an estimated 6 to 7 million Americans 17 years of age or younger participating in bicycling 6 or more days per year in 20 years.

"This is an urgent and negative trend that the American bicycle business needs to understand and determine a corrective, or at least a positive course of action," GTG suggests.

6. Used bicycles will continue to increase the stress on new bicycle forecasting in 2014. Various research reports show that used bicycles have been rising as a significant factor in the American market since about 2007. By 2008 used bicycles were accounting for 25 to 30 percent of bicycle ownership, representing 9.1 million (or 36 percent) of bicycle ownership in 2012 and 7.6 million (26 percent) of bicycle ownership in 2013.

"With this market penetration, used bicycles have had a definite impact on the new bicycle portion of the American market and are a definite factor in the problems forecasters and planners are having in looking ahead and ordering closer to the right quantities of imported bicycles," GTG notes.

7. Two distinct bicycle businesses emerge in 2014. The report concludes that two distinct markets are emerging in 2014 and beyond, the traditional market with flat to no growth and the "new wave" businesses that have emerged under the radar for several years. They are smaller, embryonic and all about growing locally.

"The established, traditional bicycle business is clearly larger and well established, but is looking back to what was and the way it was. We predict that this larger American bicycle market will continue to struggle in 2014," GTG says.

The other side of the business is "looking to the future and new and innovative ways of creating individual bicycling lifestyle solutions, and actually growing the size of bicycle market in cities and neighborhoods ... on a local basis.

"This emerging new wave business will remain small in 2014, and largely under the radar, but will begin to challenge the traditional, mainstream bike shop channel as cities become the drivers of the new American bicycle business," GTG concludes.

The entire document can be accessed on the American Bicyclist Study website.


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