Matt Wiebe wants to dispel two bicycle sales myths: 1) That bicycle sales increase in a recession, 2) That high gas prices lead to increased bike sales. Wiebe is a staff writer for Bicycle Retailer magazine and in the last couple months has written articles that debunk both these notions. Fred Goodman is the local rep for J&B Importers, a world leader in bicycle parts and accessory distribution. He tells me that the inverse relationship of high gas prices to bicycle sales was “Not the case at all in our territory.” According to Goodman last year’s bicycle sales season got off to slow start because of a long winter and high gas prices had a “huge” impact in driving people to buy more bikes last summer in the Inland Northwest.
So what really happened last year for Inland Northwest bikes sales? Hard numbers are difficult to come by. Nationally most major bike manufacturers don’t break down their sales numbers regionally. Local bike shops don’t report numbers either, for many practical reasons. Anecdotally I can tell you from my discussions with shop owners that sales did start slow last year, were strong in the summer—especially for more city/commuter oriented bikes—and then took a big drop at the end of the year when the snow hit.
Wiebe reports that nationally bikes sales were up 2% overall last year, but dropped 13% for the 4th quarter after gas prices rose. Did our region buck that trend? “Regional sales trends are possible,” admits Weibe, saying that the Pacific Northwest region might have had less of a second half drop.
What can be concluded here? Well, weather may play the biggest role in our region’s bike sales. Better weather equals more bike sales. Bike shops that are stocking good commuter models are taking advantage of a trend towards more cycling as transportation in the Northwest. Bike ridership may be up significantly—although that is notoriously difficult to track—which is fueling the big demand for the parts and accessories that Fred Goodman sells at J&B Distributors. Bikes are still a discretionary buy, so consumers with less money buy less of them. But our region’s strong bike advocacy may be helping the Northwest buck national sales trends. Bike advocates might do well to focus their attention on cycling’s many health benefits rather than dwell on how it can save you gas money.
Jon Snyder, Editor-in-chief