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Overall Imports Plummet; 700c is Up

Published May 17, 2009

WASHINGTON D.C. (BRAIN)—Suppliers, reacting to the nation’s recession, brought in the fewest bicycles in the first quarter of the year since 1998. However, the dollar value of all units is the second highest in the same 11 years, said Jay Townley, an industry consultant.


According to Townley’s analysis of the Commerce Department’s first quarter report, the number of units is down 31 percent from the same period in 2008. The three-month import total is 2,598,793 units compared to 3,755,228 units last year. That represents a $13.4 million decline in overall value.

And the March report, when broken out of the three-month total, indicates that the drastic cutbacks made in January and February appear to be easing with March deliveries off only 3 percent from March 2008.

On the plus side, the average unit value of those March deliveries increased by 37 percent. It appears that the biggest cuts in inventory may have come from mass merchants.
The biggest single feature of first quarter imports is 27-inch and 700c wheel bicycles, Townley said. While all other categories and total imports are down significantly this category, consisting of the highest value bicycles imported, increased by 42,816 units and $21.2 million in value, Townley said.

“As already noted, this increase in import units having an average FOB value of $307 is either signaling an increase in consumer purchases, or an inventory buildup at wholesale and retail,” he said.

“From what we have been hearing, several of the top-tier bicycle brands have been offering very attractive terms to dealers who will take quantities of road 700c bicycles this spring, and this may be reflective of part of what is happening with at least some of the increase in imports,” he added.

All three kids bike import categories, sub-20 inch, 20-inch and 24-inch, were down 27, 47 and 57 percent respectively. This may reflect the impact of the CPSIA toxic chemical regulations for kids' toys that became effective on February 10. The bike industry was recently given a two-year reprieve, so kids, imports could accelerate going forward.

Taiwanese bike builders actually saw sales to the U.S. increase four percent over the quarter, while China and Canada were down 33 and 69 percent respectively.

—Marc Sani, Matt Wiebe

Topics associated with this article: Earnings/Financial Reports

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