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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Richardson

2021 Industry Predictions & Insights: Big changes at the top

Updated: Jan 18, 2021

New Year, new restrictions and all the learnings of 2020 to stoke the fire and fuel our ambitions for 2020. Moving on from a lifeline year where stores who were struggling saw 2012 Olympic levels of business, and businesses who were becoming powerhouses gained more of a market share, we’re left wondering, what’s in-store for the bike industry in 2021?

We’ve been chatting to figureheads of the industry to understand where they’re hedging their bets and investing their time and capital to gain the best return. They include:

Jeff Mainwood, Head of Marketing at Sigma Sports, Gillian Ruebsteck, Brand Manager EMEA for Cervelo, Rowley Clifford, UK Marketing Manager at Wahoo Fitness and Jess Morgan, UK PR & Communications Manager at Rapha.

AR: What was the biggest growth area for 2020, and do you see this growth continuing into 2021?

Jeff Mainwood, Sigma Sports: We saw explosive growth in interest in Turbo Trainers in 2020, with a total category growth of 595% year-on-year and demand far exceeding supply at times. Whilst indoor training saw a boom, we also observed a huge growth in customers looking to enter the sport through the purchase of a new bicycle. Whilst our key category of Road Bikes saw high levels of demand we've also been pleased to see more and more customers looking at Gravel and also Electric. Looking ahead to 2021 we're working with our key brands to bring exciting new ranges to the market, and expect demand to remain high for those looking to take to two wheels.

Gillian Ruebsteck, Cervelo: For us the biggest growth areas were gravel and endurance bikes and yes we believe we'll see those trends continue in 2021. No races to train for had more and more people explore the roads off the beaten path and go for longer rides on their bikes.

Rowley Clifford, Wahoo Fitness: We saw incredible demand across our full ecosystem of connecting fitness devices and app services, but a combination of progressively worsening weather and various “stay-at-home orders” throughout Northern Europe has meant our indoor smart training products have seen the highest demand. Right now there’s absolutely no evidence of this slowing down. In fact, demand has been growing since April 2020 and is still going up!

Jake Neal, Richmond Cycles: With the pandemic kicking off at the start of last year we saw a sudden increase on the demand for bikes. Specifically as method of safe transport or as a way of being able to get out and enjoy some exercise outside as gyms/spin studios were forced to close. The meant many bikes almost disappeared overnight. We also noticed as people were staying/working form home, the amount of web traffic of people looking to shop online suddenly increased, therefore becoming a much higher priority within our business. Not something we had a huge amount of experience with being a local independent retailer but have ventured into within the last year.

AR: So many businesses have seen this year as a lifeline for industry due to the huge influx of new cyclists, but do you believe this new wave of cyclists are here to stay?

Jeff Mainwood, Sigma Sports: There's no doubt that we've seen a shift in our customer demographics in '20. Experiencing a new wave of younger cyclists entering the sport, or simply more people seeing the bike as a viable method of transport is fantastic to see. In addition, we're extremely pleased to see the growth in our female customers outpacing that of males. We're extremely hopeful that '20 has inspired many people to fall in love, or back in love with cycling. Fingers crossed that major sporting events such as the Olympics can take place safely this year, inspiring yet more to explore their local area on two-wheels and perhaps become a future champion.

Gillian Ruebsteck, Cervelo: Too hard to answer for us because we don't target the "new wave of cyclists" but rather the ones who returned to cycling or the ones that decided to upgrade. We hope the new wave of cyclists is here to stay cause we'll become an attractive brand for them if they do in the next year.

Rowley Clifford, Wahoo Fitness: Who knows? We’ve seen some data to suggest that a high percentage of these new cyclists will remain in the sport, but to what extent this new market develops into potential customers for Wahoo remains to be seen!

Jess Morgan, Rapha: We hope people keep riding and even more people from all walks of life choose cycling. Thousands of people dusted off their bikes in 2020, we hope they don’t return to the back of people’s sheds. We believe that cycling has the power to transform lives; psychologically, physically and environmentally cycling has so many benefits and we hope more people discover the power of two wheels.

Jake Neal, Richmond Cycles: Naturally as cycling is an outdoor sport, there is a natural fluctuation in the amount of people using bikes as the seasons change. People are much more likely to commute to work or go for a leisure ride when the sun is shining and the days are longer. I do however believe that this pandemic has made many more people realise that bikes are not only a great way to keep fit and get some fresh air, but also are a great way to replace your commute (be it by car or train) and gain the both physical and mental heath benefits in the process. Additionally getting around by bike in London is not only often quicker as you aren’t required to sit in traffic, from an environmental perspective it does not produce emissions in the process. I believe that many of the people who have taken up cycling will continue and hopefully more people are encouraged to give cycling a try.

AR: There’s no hiding that fractured supply chains and problems at the ports have impacted deliveries towards Christmas, but how have you as a business combatted this?

Jeff Mainwood, Sigma Sports: Our purchasing department has worked tirelessly with our brands to manage supply as best they can. We're proud to have actually been able to widen our range of stock, from mainstream hybrid bikes all the way through to introducing new and exciting brands in categories such as Run. We're expecting similar supply conditions deep into '21, but hope to be able to keep our customers happy with the products they expect to find at Sigma Sports.

Gillian Ruebsteck, Cervelo: Our supply chains were most fractured and hard to rely on around May but we were then able to stabilize our relationships and worked closely with our partners which made us eventually navigate successfully through the second half of the year.

Rowley Clifford, Wahoo Fitness: Compared to many other brands we share our space with I feel we coped with the various challenges of moving goods from the Far East, to Europe and the UK better than most. Naturally, curve-balls and uncertainty around Brexit and COVID-19 impacted our efficiency, but we’re managing to ship more product right now than we ever have done in our company’s history.

Jake Neal, Richmond Cycles: With the demand for all bikes being so high, it has forced shops to work on much more of a pre-order basis. Previously, we were able to hold a select number of bikes in the shop and if we didn’t have the exact bike you wanted we could have it delivered within a few days from our suppliers warehouses. Now however we are having to order bikes months in advance just to be able to have anything in stock at all. The amount of stock we’ve physically had to hold has also dramatically increased, as if something has come into stock with the supplier, if you don’t order it there and then, that model could then be out of stock for months.

From the customers point of view it has also changed the way you purchase a bike. We have always been keen on having people be able to physically sit on the bike and test ride it to get a real feel for the bike they are potentially going to purchase. However with the lack of stock (and trying to function in a responsible way with COVID-19) we haven’t been able to offer this service. This means customers are having to place orders/holding deposits for bikes that aren’t due for weeks or even months without actually physically seeing the bike.

AR: With consumers buying anything they can get their hands on due to limited stock, does brand loyalty still exist moving into 2021?

Jeff Mainwood, Sigma Sports: We'd like to think that by continuing to deliver a high level of service throughout '20 that customers will be keen to revisit our stores, website and mobile apps this year. We're not resting on our laurels though and are excited to reimagine some of our usual marketing activity, for example, in-store events and rides in a digital format that even more people can enjoy. We've also been really proud of the feedback our teams have received on TrustPilot throughout the pandemic, maintaining our 4.8 out of 5 score.

Rowley Clifford, Wahoo Fitness: A change in consumer behaviour is inevitable when stock is limited across brands who are in high demand, but feedback from our network of premium Wahoo retailers is that customers are prepared to wait for our products (within reason!). In some ways we’re fortunate to have more or less sole-occupancy of the serious top-end of the indoor smart training market with KICKR Bike, which customers are prepared to be patient to get hold of.

Jake Neal, Richmond Cycles: It is still obvious however that our customers are prepared to undergo this wait in order to have the correct bike for them, and therefore trust the advice from local bike shops. There has been many an occasion where there was something available to take away that day, but the customer would rather wait for the right bike for them. Because of this, I do still believe there is brand loyalty (at least within our customer base) does still exist.

Is this new wave of cyclists here to stay? Well, let’s not just sit back and hope. We, as an industry, must work towards improving our efforts for the future.

If you’re wondering how to create sustainable growth through impactful, cost-effective marketing, be sure to get in touch. With over 15-years of combined experience and clients ranging from family-run independents all the way through to global brands, Unearth Marketing can guide and manage your marketing efforts to ensure your business not just survives, but thrives in these trying times.

A huge thank you to everyone for contributing to this article. We’ll be posting more in-depth looks into the industry every month or so, and marketing tips and tricks for the cycling industry every few weeks. Be sure to sign up to our email database to be the first in the know.

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