WASHINGTON, D.C. (BRAIN) — No matter how you look at it, suppliers who imported bikes lost business through August. Total imports were down almost 2 million bikes, a 15 percent drop in units, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Commerce Department.
Mass-market suppliers saw imports of kids’ bikes drop 19 percent, losing $53.4 million in business in these categories alone. The decrease in kids’ bike imports hit Chinese exporters particularly hard. Their business was down 16 percent.
Sorting out specialty channel business from the import numbers is difficult. Through August, imports totaled 10.5 million bikes, but the total specialty market is probably less than a third of that. Imports from Taiwan, most of which are headed to the specialty channel, were down 6 percent. Imports of 700c bikes—the hybrids and road bikes popular at bike shops—also were down 6 percent.
Lessening the sting of 2013’s drop in business is the fact that in 2012 imports were particularly high. Through August 2012, suppliers had imported 12.5 million units. By comparison, through August 2011 suppliers had imported only 9.7 million bikes. Still, imports so far this year are on track to be the third lowest by volume in a decade.
Imports from other countries—outside of China and Taiwan—continue to grow steadily, but it’s not because bike builders from Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia are exporting more bikes to the U.S. Over the past few years, every major European country has exported bikes to the U.S.
In the 26-inch category, for example, Hungary exported more bikes than Indonesia, Vietnam or Thailand. Imports from Canada were the fourth highest in the category.
European countries as diverse as Finland, Portugal, Switzerland and Belgium all sold bikes to U.S. importers.