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BPSA: Wholesale bike sales continue dollars-up/units-down trend through October

Published November 21, 2018
E-bike sales up 46 percent year to date.

BOULDER, Colo. (BRAIN) — U.S. wholesalers sold 7 percent fewer bikes through the first 10 months of 2018 compared with the same period last year. But the dollar value of those bikes was up nearly 6 percent, reflecting a higher average cost per bike.

This is according to the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association's monthly sell-in report from The NPD Group.

Sales of mountain bikes, still the largest bike category, were flat in dollars through October, at $335 million. The number of units sold was down 10 percent, however, reflecting an increase in average price in that category.

As has been the case for several years, the various mountain bike subcategories have been volatile. For example, sales figures for 29er full-suspension bikes and 27.5-inch full-suspension bikes have almost flip-flopped since last October. In October 2017, wholesalers shipped $10.1 million worth of 27.5-inch full-suspension models, and $5.3 million worth of 29er full-suspension bikes. This October, wholesalers sold $9.4 million in 29ers and $5.6 million in 27.5-inch bikes.

Road subcategories also have been volatile, although things are changing so quickly it's not clear that all suppliers have agreed on the definition of some drop-bar variations. A bike model considered a "Sport Men's" bike last year might be now categorized as "Other," making the subcategory variations look more volatile than they really are.

As a whole, the road category was up 7.6 percent in dollars but down 2.1 percent in units through October. The "Performance Men's" subcategory, the largest, was soft, down 4.4 percent in dollars and 12.6 percent in units. The "Other All" subcategory, which includes variations on gravel and adventure touring bikes, was up 94 percent in dollars and 53.9 percent in units.

E-bike sales totaled $10.4 million in October and $108 million year to date through that month. The YTD number is up 46 percent over the prior year.

For comparison, in dollars that puts e-bikes at about a third of the size of the mountain bike category. But e-bikes hit that dollar number thanks to a $2,000 average wholesale cost. The average wholesale cost of a mountain bike was $620.

Looking at inventory levels, the BPSA/NPD report does not reveal whether bikes on hand are leftover 2018 models or new 2019 models. In that fast-growing "Other All" road bike subcategory, suppliers had $36 million worth of bikes on hand in October — that's 195 percent more than the value of those bikes on hand at the same time last year. It's likely that reflects optimism for the subcategory's continued growth. Meanwhile, inventory of the "Performance Men's" bikes was down 22 percent.

It's a smaller subcategory, but the bulging inventory of "Performance Women's" bikes may be a concern, because it's likely not all due to optimism. Inventory was up more than 100 percent in October, to $6.6 million, while sales for the upper-end women's bikes were down 11 percent through October in dollars and off 18.4 percent in units.

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