Post-lock down: supply problems in the bicycle market
2020 was the year of the explosion in sales of both conventional and electrically assisted bicycles. The various confinements and the opportunity that two-wheelers represent to maintain a certain social distance while promoting decarbonised mobility have pushed many users to change their transport habits. With clear results: the bicycle market in Europe jumped by 40% in 2020, +50% on the ebike category, with electric bicycles accounting for 20% of the market (Conebi).
However, in response to this rapid and widespread popularity, the year 2021 is characterised by a striking fact: shop shelves are being sold out. More and more users are finding it impossible to get a bike quickly. The reason: major stock shortages, particularly of spare parts, which can take up to 6 or even 15 months to receive a new bike.
A sector both positively and negatively affected by the covid-19 crisis
Gears, brake levers, cranksets, forks… most bicycle components are affected by stock shortages. After numerous supply problems in the automotive industry, the bicycle industry has been less affected but is not completely unaffected. The Gazelle factory in the Netherlands has announced a lower capacity production due to a lack of components. Claus Fleischer, CEO of Bosch ebike Systems, said “I can’t promise anything for the next 12 to 18 months. Everything can change very quickly.” The classic muscle bike segment would be the most affected compared to e-bikes or other categories.
The reasons are actually quite simple and are mainly explained by the strong dependence of assemblers and distributors on production plants located in Asia.
The closure of the borders, caused by the Covid-19 crisis, has considerably slowed down the shipment of components from this part of the world, which is responsible for almost 95% of the spare parts needed to assemble the bikes.
In addition, the bicycle industry is experiencing a sharp rise in the price of its components: +30% on average for standard spare parts, sometimes more for the more technical ones. In the same vein, the prices of supply containers are increasing.
Bicycle industry under pressure: a significant gap between supply and demand
Another problem is that since the end of the first confinements in the spring of 2020, demand has far outstripped supply, to the point where Asian factories can no longer cope, even at full capacity. They are therefore obliged to prioritise certain orders, often in favour of the largest in terms of volume, the latter generally coming from American distributors. In Europe, the waiting times for receiving spare parts for ECVs are therefore continually increasing.
In order to compensate for the losses caused by the accumulated delays as well as the increase in component prices, some French distributors have already decided to increase the price of their bikes. Users have only two choices: to wait or to switch to a different model from their initial choice.
At the Velco level, we are not currently experiencing any slowdown or blockage in our production of IoT to be integrated on electric bikes, we hope that the trend will quickly reverse for all affected players in the sector.
An opportunity for relocation and “Made in Europe” dynamic
Looking at the situation, there are opportunities in the European bicycle market. 4 out of 5 ebikes sold in Europe were also manufactured in Europe and UK, where the norm was to import from China. According to Conebi, the bicycle market in Europe represents over 850,000 jobs. The relocation of an entire sector is underway so that it no longer depends on Asian suppliers, as shown by the exponential development of the bicycle valley in Portugal.