British consumers have been used to a changing High Street since High Streets first came into existence, presumably after a bunch of market traders decided they’d had enough of the rain and it was time to go indoors.
Change in the world of retail is nothing new, then, but with reports of yet another British retail institution going to the wall – BHS, employer of 11,000 filed for administration today – let’s spend a moment to consider just how much the UK High Street has changed in the last eight years or so.
Since the great financial crisis of 2007/2008, we have seen the physical end of retailers with huge store portfolios including the likes of Woolworths, Zavvi, Rosebys, Comet and JJB Sports. Then there are many who are still with us – like HMV and GAME – who have had to cling on through tough times and were left with a much reduced store line up. And that’s not even taking into account the independent shops who wouldn’t have made the headlines when they were forced to close.
When you take the time to consider that list, it makes the survival of bike retailers a cast iron, bona fide, shocker. How many independent bike dealers (IBDs) there are in the UK is a tricky number to pin down, though the thinking person’s money is on around 2,500 to 3,000. That number appears to have been largely stable since the financial crisis (some claim it has even grown). Undoubtedly there have been many closures in the number, but in the main they seem to have been replaced (or bought) by other bike retailers.
This isn’t to gloss over the difficulties of operating in the UK and shop numbers alone do not add up to a healthy, stable bike retail environment. Last year’s lull in the market is pushing many to the brink and you don’t need me to tell you there’s a lot of consolidation going on in the trade right now.
High Street closures have continued far beyond what most of us expected back when the financial crisis reared its head in 2007/2008. With bike retail seemingly far more stable than those previously safe as houses retail brands like Woolworths and BHS, there’s no wonder that there is so much interest in the cycle market, despite the difficulties inherent within it.