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July bike imports up 36% as industry struggles to catch up

Published September 6, 2020
Year-to-date imports are up just 9.6% in units and down in dollars.

WASHINGTON (BRAIN) — U.S. bike imports have been steadily increasing each month since May, but the industry still has a long way to go to recover from a slow start to the year and the skyrocketing retail demand for bicycles during the U.S. COVID-19 pandemic.

Bike imports in July were up 35.6% in units, to 1.9 million bikes, and 26.6% in dollars, to $151 million, compared to the same month in 2019, new figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce show. 

But year to date through July, imports were up 9.6% in units and down 4.3% in dollars, indicating a mix of lower-priced bikes being brought in, on average. 

The U.S. imports the vast majority of its bikes, and the figures include bikes sold through all retail channels, with most of the units — especially very low priced kids bikes — going to department stores but higher-priced bikes going to the IBD, consumer direct, and sporting goods retail channels. 

The year-to-date average bike unit import value was $87 in 2020 through July, down from $100 in the comparable period in 2019. So far this year the country has imported 7.9 million bikes, compared to 7.2 million last year. The dollar value this year was $692.6 million, compared to $723.2 million last year.

At the start of the second quarter this year, imports were down due to delays at Asian factories as they responded to the pandemic there. The industry also reduced ordering as they braced for what they expected to be a negative effect on consumer demand for bikes as the virus reached U.S. shores. Unexpectedly, consumer demand for bikes exploded in late March and early April, and suppliers responded by ordering more bikes, which can take up to three months to arrive from Asia. Commerce Department figures indicate a large increase in monthly import volume starting in June. 

Industry sources expect the surge will continue for several more months or longer as the industry tries to rebuild its inventory at the retail and wholesale level. However, many suppliers are finding that short supply of critical components in Asia  — everything from saddles to low-priced derailleurs and pedals — is slowing bike production. Many retailers say they continue to lose sales due to a lack of bikes, parts and accessories. Some retailers say the shortages started as early as May. 

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