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China Cycle chases international growth

Published May 7, 2012

Editor's note:The following article is part of a package of stories on the Chinese bike market than ran in the April 15 issue of Bicycle Retailer & Industry News.

By Nicole Formosa

SHANGHAI, China—Shanghai’s China Cycle wants to be the go-to show for international brands seeking a toehold in China’s emerging enthusiast bike market. But, with competition from new fairs and its reputation as a venue for e-bikes, scooters and low-end bike accessories targeted at domestic manufacturers, organizers of the 22-year-old show aren’t expecting an instant identity change.

They’ve spent the past year polishing the program to make it more appealing to overseas exhibitors with a new pricing structure, a test ride area, design awards and a BMX competition to follow in the footsteps of successful shows such as Eurobike, Interbike and Taipei Cycle.

“We are learning from each other every year,” said Dai Xianjun, manager of the international department for the Shanghai Xiesheng Exhibition Co, which organizes the China International Bicycle & Motor Fair on behalf of the China Bicycle Association (CBA). Xianjun changed pricing this year so that cost is based on location in the hall instead of where the business is registered. In the past, many foreign brands would be represented by a domestic agent or wholesaler to save costs, and their logo would be lost in a large booth among other brands.

“We do this because we want more overseas companies to take over booth spaces themselves,” Xianjun said. Raw space runs 7,500-13,500 yuan ($1,200-$2,150) for non-CBA members.

The massive 120,000-square-meter (1.3 million-square-foot) show, held this year April 26-29, is spread throughout 10 halls at the Shanghai New International Expo Center. With 5,500 booths and 1,251 exhibitors signed up, this year’s show is the largest to date, but the international area still represents a tiny fraction of the overall size. This year, there are 98 overseas exhibitors, up from 64 in 2011, which will take up about three quarters of hall E1, including companies from Taiwan and Hong Kong. Brands from two new countries—Thailand and the U.K.—bump the list of countries represented to 18 this year. Taiwan is the largest international market, followed by the U.S., Germany, Japan and Italy.

Newcomers include Hayes Bicycle Group, Accell Group Asia and Cycling Sports Group, all companies representing U.S. or European brands on the hunt for new dealers in China. Bianchi is also a first-time exhibitor; BH returns for a second year, as does SRAM and China market leaders Giant and Merida. Colnago, Vee Rubber and Five Ten will also be there.

But China Cycle has had trouble attracting the two biggest North American names, Specialized and Trek, which might give the show more credibility among other potential foreign companies. Both brands participated in the years before they entered the Chinese market, but they no longer exhibit inside. They will take part in this year’s demo day, said Chen Xiaoping, assistant to Ms. Xiao Yun Huo, secretary general of China Cycle and vice secretary general of CBA. Xiaoping also hopes those brands will lead the way in participating in new consumer events outside Shanghai to broaden locals’ interest in cycling.

Until recently, show organizers hadn’t done much to promote the show, instead relying on business that walked in the door as China’s domestic market thrived. But, as the market for mass-produced $50 transportation bikes declines with the rise of the automobile in China, the show is looking to the future by trying to appeal to high-end brands and consumers, promoting the sport, fashion and innovation, Xiaoping said.

He would like to establish relationships with trade magazines and agents that can help promote the show on an international level, where it has not put much effort in the past.

“We realize this is a very big problem for us,” Xiaoping said.

As China Cycle looks to tap into the premium market, two new shows are also pursuing the same end of the market. Both Asia Bike and Beijing Bike Week, albeit very small so far, are planning a future in China (see accompanying story on page 25). Asia Bike is backed in part by Messe Friedrichshafen, which also owns a portion of Germany’s successful Eurobike trade show. Held in conjunction with the Asia Outdoor show in Nanjing in July, Asia Bike is still in its infancy, but it does wield power with well-known brands—Specialized, Shimano, Schwalbe, Merida, Cube, Moots and Lezyne have all exhibited at Nanjing. KTM, Lapierre and Corratec will each make their first appearance at Asia Bike this summer.

Xianjun, who is in charge of China Cycle’s international department, recognizes the importance of catering to the growing performance-oriented crowd but also believes China Cycle is more in tune with the market as it stands today.

“The developing situation is not so fast now for buying high-end bicycles. Most are for transport,” he said. “CBA is not an enterprise. It’s an association. Its mission is to bring this whole Chinese bicycle industry to develop. The exhibition is not the only focus. We can have one hall for high end, but we are not giving up those low end.”

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