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Early Import Numbers Post Steep Decline

Published April 23, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. (BRAIN)—Bicycle imports in January and February posted the steepest decline in almost 10 years. Suppliers pulled the plug on factory orders to cope with inventory build-up at the end of 2008 and amidst worries over a deepening recession.

Statistics released by the Commerce Department show that 746,941 fewer units entered the U.S. in those two months when compared to the same period in 2008—a 31 percent drop. The last time the industry experienced such a steep decline was in 2001 as the nation struggled through a milder recession and the impact of 9/11.

All categories of imports posted steep declines expect for road bikes. Suppliers apparently were unable to cancel factory orders quickly enough and were forced to bring in 202,421 units or 14 percent more than last year.

With an average FOB price of $307.22 per unit, most of them are almost certainly higher end road bikes. And dealers are reporting that major suppliers are aggressively pushing road bikes onto retail floors, offering steep discounts so suppliers can move inventory out of their warehouses.

Here’s a few highlights from the two-month data: Total imports: 1.7 million units compared to 2.5 million units in 2008. Nineteen-inch bikes—mostly for the mass market—dropped 11.7 percent to 529,300 units. Twenty-inch wheel bikes posted the steepest percentage decline, 48.28 percent to 366,152 units compared to 707,925 units last year. And twenty-six-inch bikes of all types fell 30 percent to 533,107 units.

Predictions are that import data in March and April will show similar reductions. Industry consultant Jay Townley said it’s too early to draw any conclusions from only two months worth of data but it’s likely overall unit deliveries will be off 18 to 20 percent this year, closely tracking numbers reported in 2001.

Townley and others say it’s likely that retailers could face shortages of some model bikes, particularly as Americans further slash their plans for summer travel and look for activities close to home.

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