Follow the links below for the many interlinked BikeBiz.com stories about the current and forthcoming Shimano shortages. The delays were flagged back in December by an open letter from Japan but the gaps in product drops are now beginning to bite.
Jay Townley has much sympathy for Shimano's position:
"I have spent a good deal of time talking to the Shimano managers in the US and Europe about [the subject of delays], and while it may be fashionable to lay blame at Shimano's feet, I don't think that is either correct or fair.
"In the US, the road 700c [market] had a very good increase in 2003, up 39 percent in units and 27 percent in retail dollars over 2002. This product category represented 7.4 percent of all new bicycle units sold in the dealer channel,
but significantly, represented 21 percent of total dealer channel retail dollars.
"Very impressive, but not the 50 to 60 percent increases that bicycle brands added to their orders for road component groups.
"I have heard this characterized by a knowledgeable source as 'predatory ordering' on the part of the bicycle brands, based on their competitive based business strategies.
"At the 2004 Bicycle Business Leadership Conference it was pointed out by a Shimano representative that they do their best to satisfy their OEM bicycle brand customers - all of whom have different schedules and different ideas about product introductions. For the most part bicycle dealers don't like the timing of these product introductions.
"This situation is now being made far worse by the complete lack of channel cooperation and the tension between OEM bicycle brand suppliers and bicycle dealers.
"The simple fact is there is little or no IBD channel efficiency, and until there is, we will keep creating situations like we are facing this season.
"Shimano is struggling to deliver the exaggerated demands of the bicycle brands for road component groups, and when they catch-up, as they inevitably will, an inventory over-hang of both the components and the complete bicycles will adversely impact the market, along with the excess manufacturing capacity that Shimano was forced to bring on line to meet the exaggerated demand created by the predatory ordering of their OEM bicycle brand customers.
"Now these are my words, but the analysts at Shimano see it about the same way, and they know what is coming, and are, effectively, powerless to anything about it.
"The solution is channel cooperation and supply chain integration, and until the OEM bicycle brands change their strategies and bicycle dealers start getting as passionate about making money as they are about bicycles and bicycling, we can expect little or no change. The problem with that, by the way, is that our current way of conducting business may not be sustainable going forward."
For the monthly market reports from the US National Bicycle Dealers' Association, compiled for the NBDA by Jay Townley, search on 'NBDA' in the search box, top left.