Sporting the highest bike sales in Europe and a booming e-bike scene, Germanys bicycle market is enviably strong, grabbing the attention of the world. Jonathon Harker looks at the thriving territory...
The German bike market has barely been out of the headlines for the last 12 months – largely due to the electric bike market smashing expectations, growing by over 50 per cent in the last year – but also because of consistent strong sales and manufacturing levels. Even when the news arrived of a small drop in bike unit sales last year, it was tempered by a rise in turnover and by reports that independent bike dealers had encouragingly gained a larger share of the cycle market.
The German market remains attractive to the movers and shakers of the bike world, including Accell, which picked up major German distributor Baumker & Co at the start of the year, and Dahon, which opened its European Service Centre close to Stuttgard in March. And with the continued growth of not one, but two German-set international bike events – Bike Expo in Munich and the globally renowned Eurobike at Friedrichshafen (see box-out) – there’s little sign of the territory slowing.
Famously, cycle retailers in Germany have tapped into the e-bike market with spectacular results. So powerful is the market that the aforementioned country’s most famous cycle event is ramping up its electric efforts this year.
“Pedelecs are the big news in the cycle market,” says Eurobike project manager Stefan Reisinger. “Along with e-bikes they’ll have an ever bigger presence at Eurobike 2010 than in previous years.”
While e-bike sales grew from 100k to 150k last year, in terms of size and share of the market, e-bikes don’t actually take up a huge slice of Germany’s four million annual bicycle sales. However, the numbers are more significant than in many European territories and the growth is significant, as Markus Fritsch, publisher of German cycle industry journal Velobiz, explains to BikeBiz: “Given the fact that most e-bikes are sold in the €1,300-plus range that’s a pretty vast number, and sales are expected to grow even further in the coming years.”Article continues below
But electric bikes are just one facet of a healthy market. Fritsch adds: “Another segment which has been very strong for some years is bicycle tourism. A current study says that each year some 5.6 million Germans make multiple-day bicycle journeys. And 21 per cent of all Germans have already made one in their life. Trekking bikes have a stable market share of around 34 per cent. And most bikes in this segment won’t get sold for less than €1,000.”
With a rise in cyclist numbers and the weakness of the Euro (which has been useful for manufacturers exporting to Asia and the US) the environment has proved ideal for exports.
Lock, bag and helmet firm Abus identifies the booming cycle market as a ‘megatrend’ where many sectors across the board have flourished. Abus’ Mark Stuiver says: “During the last years we experienced steady growth in almost all fields of cycling. The trend to commute by bicycle and an increasing popularity of leisure cycling is good for our business. Above that, the readiness to purchase high quality products and our good standing in the market has a positive effect as well. As a producer of locks, helmets and bags, we can cover the requirements of almost any new target groups, like electric bike users. As an example this strong trend creates the requirement for high quality locks, helmets and bags that we can satisfy here at Abus, due to a very complete product range.”
According to the firm, German consumers have high standards when it comes to cycle product: “In this fast developing environment where top-products are demanded we have to keep up with the pace of technical innovation and on the other hand follow up the trend to design more fashion-orientated products.”
Abus has also invested in the logistics side of its operation recently, serving the 4,000-plus retailers of Germany. According to figures from German cycle industry association ZIV (Zweirad-Industrie-Verband), that independent bike dealer base is solid and growing.
Velobiz’s Fritsch comments: “Small to mid-sized shops need to find niches to survive. However there are still a large number of independent retailers in business. Depending on who you ask the number is somewhere between 4,000 and 5,500 shops.”
Those retailers are no doubt also buoyed by interest in the sector from the political sphere.
Abus’ Mark Stuiver tells BikeBiz: “The ecologic side of cycling is becoming a very popular topic in German politics and brings cycling into the media. That’s also supported by the general ecologic debate you can find worldwide. We support the cycling trend in many ways and cooperations like the one with “Deutsche Verkehrswacht”, “Mit dem Rad zur Arbeit”, “Unter 3”, “Kopf an Motor aus” and many more. As many political parties have an interest to promote cycling here in Germany we have a good climate to find potential partners and allies.”
Velobiz’sFritsch also believes the German media is increasingly getting behind bikes: “Cycling gets a lot of attention in the media. Der Spiegel – one of Germany’s leading weekly magazines – recently hired a bicycle editor for instance.”
While the German bike trade has much to celebrate, it’s not all positive for the territory’s, which is perhaps not surprising with the global economy struggling out of recession. SRAM announced that it would be scaling back manufacture at its Schweinfurt location in favour of the Far East – though the firm will retain the German location, which will now look after R&D, dealer service and logistics at the location.
Fritsch looks at the German cycle trade with cautious optimism: “Consumer confidence wasn’t very much affected by the crisis in the past months. And up to now there are no signs that this will change. Unemployment is even going down here.
“But I think the situation is fragile still. In Germany we’re on a good way out of the crisis, but things can change very fast as we learned in 2009.”
Abus’ Mark Stuiver concludes: “As we see bicycling clearly as a megatrend we do not see any significant changes in the positive development. Permanent technical innovations and the opening of new niches as well as a growing differentiation make us believe in an ongoing positive trend for cycling in Germany, because new target groups and submarkets are being engaged.”
Germany’s bicycle production numbers are second only to Italy in Europe, at 2,370,000 in 2008 – giving it an 18 per cent share among European countries (in 2008).
The country is also second to Italy in production of parts and accessories, with a 12 per cent share compared to the Southern European country’s 35 per cent (in 2008). Germany’s bike sales are the envy of Europe – grabbing a 21 per cent share (Great Britain is third behind France).
Employment in the bicycle industry in Germany has dropped slightly over the past few years – from 5,050 in 2000 to 3,700 in 2008. The fall is largely down to a dip in bicycle production in the country – P&A manufacture has, conversely, risen with employment figures growing in P&A in the same period.
Figures have been sourced from COLIBI, the Association of the European Industry and Market Profile, and COLIPED, the Association of the European Two-Wheeler Parts and Accessories Industry.
In the event
Germany plays host to one of the key dates in the bicycle industry’s calendar – Eurobike.
As well as taking advantage of the fuss around electric bikes by dedicating more space to the sector, the show has got further expansion in its sights, according to project manager Stefan Reisinger.
He told BikeBiz earlier this year: “The preparations for Eurobike 2010 are going full steam ahead. We have exceptionally large numbers of bookings, for the international bicycle trade show and the demo day on Tuesday August 31st. All of the world’s leading manufacturers will be represented, and the 2010 event will again feature the full spectrum of bikes, equipment, accessories and clothing.”
GERMANY: ESSENTIAL FACTS
POPULATION: 81,800,000 (JAN 2010)
GDP: (PER CAPITA) $34,100