Words by Mark Loveridge
Electric bikes have been around for over ten years, yet adoption in the UK by traditional bike shops has not been at the level of that seen in mainland Europe. As a result, there are more and more specialist electric bike shops being established all over the UK to cater for the demand.
Electric bikes attract new customers who wouldn’t ordinarily be interested in cycling. This increased interest is due to improved attitudes towards fitness and health issues or they simply don’t want to sweat on the way to work. More often than not, customers are 50 years and over with disposable income, although some of the sportier bikes are now attracting the interest of the younger market.
You only have to look into continental Europe to see the potential for electric bikes. Germany now sells 380,000 units annually, a 15.2 per cent increase from 2011, which is around a third of all bike sales! Closer to home in France, sales have increased from 40,000 units in 2011 to 46,000 in 2012.
Germany estimates that European sales for electric bikes in 2012 was 1.1 million units, a 22 per cent increase over the estimate for 2011.
So what’s holding the UK back? It’s very much chicken and egg; dealers are reluctant to stock, so potential customers don’t know they are available to buy. It's a fact – once a customer has test-ridden an electric bicycle, they are sold of the concept. While electric bikes may not be an attractive purchase for someone now, most people tend to know someone that it maybe suitable for and can point them to the store they tried the bike in. This customer insight is vital in spreading the word on the benefits of electric bikes.
The other great advantage of electric bikes is the high cash margin. There is a growing trend toward more expensive bikes (those upwards of £1,500) which can really help the bottom line.
Electric bikes have really come of age in the last few years, there has never been a better time to get involved. If you are interested in trialling electric bicycles in your store then get in touch with a BEBA or BA member to discuss the options available to you in more detail.