Earlier today, at a press conference in Friedrichshafen at the Eurobike trade show, which is officially opened tomorrow by German chancellor Angela Merkel, industry executives were in agreement that the weather played a key role in the financial health of cycle companies.
Many northern European countries had snow on the ground in Spring, a surefire way to depress trading results, said an opening address from a German sports journalist. Industry executives in agreement with this included speakers
Mathias Seidler, CEO of German-company Derby Cycle; Tony Lo, CEO of Giant of Taiwan; and Thomas Kunz of German bike retail association VDZ.
I didn’t see any UK bike executives in the room but I know from old that they’d be nodding their heads in tune with their continental European colleagues.
For as long as I’ve been in the bicycle business – and that would be, gulp, since about 1986 – I’ve had it drummed into me by industry executives that the main causal factor for increased bike sales is increased sunshine. Dry, bright weather equals more cash in bike shop tills.
A former managing director of Gazelle used to state that the weather accounted for 30 percent of sales: Gazelle is a Dutch company; the Netherlands, famously, is veined with bike paths.
Blue sky weekends can lead to British suppliers’ phones ringing off the hook on Monday. I’ve also been led to believe bike sales track very closely to ice-cream and ice lolly sales. Ice cream sales do well up to "glorious", with ice lolly sales taking over when it gets to "sweltering".
Bike sales do best when it’s "glorious" but people don’t ride – or buy – as much when it’s "sweltering."
Such reliance on the weather would be fine and dandy in, say, Southern California but to be so dependent on Northern European weather gods can’t be good for spreadsheet sanity. Weather gods are fickle. Last year was damp at best, a wash-out at worst. Sales of high-end road bikes were the bright spot in an otherwise lacklustre market (on the continent, e-bike sales were down on previous years but still showed a little bit of growth). The heatwave summer of 2013 was manna from heaven for retailers of bikes (and ice cream).
If I was a genie and could grant the British bicycle industry one wish – either wall to wall sunshine or protected bike paths everywhere – I’d put money on the answer being wall to wall sunshine, glorious rather than sweltering.
Now, this may be an illogical answer – build it and they will come, say bicycle advocates about separated cycle infrastructure – but British bike industry execs have little faith that, even if they shouted from the rooftops that Britain should ‘Go Dutch’, anything would actually be done about this by a Government that has no plans to provide for anything other than motor vehicles (the recent funding announcements for cycling amount to little and would pay for no more than a five mile stretch of motorway).
Clearly, the British bicycle industry would welcome more bicycle infrastructure provision but sales stats show that the main thing that really gets Brits out on bikes – for recreation and transport – is dependably pleasant weather.