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Warm winter equals happy retailers in U.S.

Published January 9, 2012

BOULDER, CO (BRAIN)—Warm dry weather has been a nightmare for some ski resorts and snow sports retailers so far this year, but few bike retailers are complaining.

Retailers in New England, the Midwest and parts of the Rockies have enjoyed an extended fall selling season that stretched through the holidays and into the new year.

At Bloomington Cycle & Fitness in central Illinois, mid-week group road rides have been continuing into January, said sales manager Mike Miner.

"We're still doing four rides a week; it's been beautiful," Miner said. "This is usually a quiet time of the year, but this year we are still selling, which we love."

Miner said sales of hats and gloves have been excellent. The Specialized BG Elements glove, which works with touch-screen smart phones, is a hot seller, he said.

His only concern? A little white stuff would be nice for a Pugsley snow bike demo day planned for next month.

Slow start but strong finish

The 2011 selling season got a very late start in many areas of the country, with late snows and cold weather putting dealers on edge. But the warm December helped many dealers close the books on a decent year, said National Bicycle Dealers Association president Fred Clements.

"Overall, the year was saved by the weather," Clements said Monday. "I'm hearing good stories."

While it's still too early to find full 2011 sales numbers, Clements said his sense is the year will end up flat or slightly up compared to 2010. "And that's not bad, when you look at other industries," he said.

Massachusetts was a region that was slammed by snow this time last year. Retailers there are almost giddy with the change this year, noted Steve Pucci, sales manager of the Maine-based distributor Downeast Bicycle Specialists.

"Last year we were under three feet of snow that did not melt until mid-March ... a lot of guys were closed 5-6 days (a week) last winter," Pucci said.

Unlike a lot of New England bike retailers, CycleLoft in Burlington, Massachusetts, does not sell skis or other winter sports gear.

"Last year we had a bear of a year," said Zach Kingsland, a mechanic and salesman there. "This winter's been great. Service is good, and we are moving a lot of shoe covers, tights and gloves. We have a Mavic store-wihin-a-store and we are selling a lot of Mavic winter gear."

In Colorado, group rides are continuing and some folks are spending their cash on bike gear rather than lift tickets, said Brandon Dwight, owner of Boulder Cycle Sport.

"It's been a great winter for us so far," Dwight told BRAIN last week.

Photo: A group ride heads out from Boulder in 60-degree conditions last week. Photo: Kevin Burnette, courtesy Panache Cyclewear

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