The increasing role of supermarkets in the bicycle trade has created fierce debate across the retail community.
Lidl’s low-priced Stratos racing bike, and particularly Asda’s ‘profit-free’ British Eagle bikes announced earlier in the summer, have sparked concern about their effect on the industry. Asda’s ultra-low priced bicycle range – branded BSOs (bike shaped objects) by some in the trade – have been blasted as potentially even being harmful to the consumer.
The topic has spawned a blog from the Association of Cycle Traders’ Mark Brown – at
http://bicycleshapedobject.wordpress.com. The blog aims to cover the phenomenon in detail, including first-hand experiences of handling and assembling the often shaky ‘bicycles’.
Brown told BikeBiz: “Supermarkets are a double-edged sword for cycle retailers. On the one hand they have the marketing muscle to promote cycling to a much wider audience and possibly get more bums on saddles. That's a good thing for cycle retailers because as the market grows they hopefully win more new customers, which started via a supermarket bike.”
But the potential negative impact is two-fold: “Firstly, supermarkets are potentially undermining the cycling experience by selling cheap, badly assembled and possibly dangerous bikes, which people don't enjoy. That's my experience with the Asda bike. It's the only bicycle I have ever ridden which made me want to cycle less and it enforces the view that bikes are toys and not a long-term investment.
“Secondly, as supermarkets continue their expansion into non-food sectors there is the possibility that they might begin to target the mid to high-end market. I'm not sure how realistic this is, given the low margins and high associated costs of cycle retail, but for some, it may represent a viable opportunity.”
The debate has led some to question whether dealers should work on BSOs sold by supermarkets, or whether they should be refused from workshops. Brown said: “I think they probably should, as in most cases it is an opportunity to educate people about the hazards of cheap bikes and hopefully win new customers.
“Of course, the customer needs to be willing to pay the retailer for their specialist services. Each shop is different, so some may feel they don't want this type of customer. However, for those that do it is a good opportunity.”