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by Stephan Bauer, Euro am Sonntag
W.If he feels like buying a new bike this spring, possibly one with an electric motor, he has to be patient. At the Bielefeld online retailer Lucky Bike, for example, with which the Bavarian retailer Radlbauer is affiliated, interested parties can only find a few e-bike models online. If there is something suitable, it takes luck to get the right frame size. The stationary trade is also almost empty, customers have to accept long order deadlines. And if you have a bike but need spare parts such as a chain or sprocket, the same game follows: The delivery times at the Japanese parts manufacturer Shimano are sometimes weeks, sometimes months.
The bicycle industry is booming. According to the Zweirad-Industrie-Verband (ZIV), sales in Germany increased by 17 percent last year. This year the Radl-Welle continues unabated. On the one hand, the pandemic is providing a tailwind, and many commuters are discovering two-wheelers as a healthy and, above all, low-contact alternative to public transport. “Cycling is more relevant than ever, which is particularly evident in the corona pandemic,” says ZIV managing director Ernst Brust.
Technical innovations do the rest. The industry recorded the highest growth rates with over 40 percent in e-bikes. The electric motor helps even inexperienced cyclists quickly over hills – and it gives the once modest business with the bike a considerable turnover torque. On average, customers spend almost 3,000 euros on a new e-bike, and the growing proportion of electricity in the approach means that average prices are steadily climbing, from once well below 1,000 to around 1,300 euros per bike. In 2020, the e-bike turbo boosted the industry volume in Germany by a good 60 percent to 6.4 billion euros, and the trend is rising.
Curb delivery bottlenecks
However, the pandemic and high demand also pose major challenges for manufacturers. Example Accell: The Dutch group is one of the largest bicycle manufacturers in Europe and combines well-known brands such as Haibike or Ghost as well as premium brands such as Lapierre, which are popular with affluent amateurs and athletes. The lockdowns in 2020 forced the Dutch, in some cases, to relocate their stocks across national borders. At the same time, the supply chains were often interrupted. “It was a troubled, complicated year,” said CEO Ton Anbeek.
Nevertheless, thanks to the e-bike boom, business grew by 17 percent, and operating profit rose by 25 percent. E-bikes account for well over half of the sales of the Dutch, they see themselves here as Europe’s number 1. But niche trends also allow Accell to grow. The Cargos, for example, are large, mostly electrified cargo bikes that many young families in cities use as a car replacement. The business is expected to double in the medium term.
Is the boom sustainable? This is a question that worries manager Anbeek. “I don’t see a bubble here. The growth trend is continuing,” says the Dutchman. Anbeek predicts an increase in sales at Accell of eight to 15 percent for 2021. Hubert Trunkenpolz, board member at the two-wheeler company Pierer Mobility, assesses the situation in a similar way. The Austrians do most of their business with smaller motorcycles, but are also very successful with their Husqvarna brand e-bikes. Trunkenpolz does not estimate this year’s market growth to be as strong as in 2020. However, business in German-speaking countries will grow by between ten and 20 percent. “In other European markets we are only just beginning,” said Trunkenpolt.
The tail wind continues, but the slope is bumpy. Because the majority of important components such as chains, sprockets, tires or electronics are produced in Asia. And the consequence of Covid-related precautionary measures and, in some cases, significantly increasing demand, in addition to high freight costs, production capacities are in many cases still fully booked. “Component manufacturers are simply not able to deliver enough,” says Accell boss Anbeek.
Shimano, for example, works at the stop. The world’s largest supplier of bike parts now also produces motors for e-bikes in addition to gears and brakes. Although capacities limit sales, prices are rising. The latest results showed how strong the drive is in the core business: In the quarter to the end of March, sales accelerated by two thirds, and operating profit even to two and a half times the previous year’s figure.
Thanks to the high demand, the bicycle manufacturers can pass on the higher purchase prices. At the end of March, for example, Rose Bikes in Bocholt, one of the largest mail order companies in Germany, increased its prices by eight to twelve percent. “We will probably not achieve the originally planned e-bike sales in the current year because of the bottlenecks. Our sales targets, however, because customers also buy at higher prices,” says Pierer board member Trunkenpolt.
Cycle with a clear conscience
In addition to the omnipresent fitness trend, the good ecological conscience that sport brings with it speaks for the fact that cyclists continue to participate. Especially since politics is increasingly promoting the positive environmental and climate effects, for example Great Britain: Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to invest two billion pounds in the expansion of the cycle and footpath network. In Germany, the auto lobby is still strong. But even cities that were previously car-fixated like Munich are rethinking and expanding their cycle path network.
Because of the great distances, the USA often lacks good bike paths. Nevertheless, cycling enthusiasts in the United States and Canada have recently been swinging into the saddle in droves. With often air-sprung and electrified mountain bikes, you can go out into nature – or in bike parks. Many ski areas are opening up new clientele due to climate change: up the mountain by lift, down on bike trails of varying degrees of difficulty. This works as well in the Rocky Mountains as in the Alps – when there is no snow.
The bicycle group has a broad portfolio of brands across all price ranges. When it comes to e-bikes, the main focus of sales, Accell sees itself as number 1 in Europe. Cargo bikes and parts sales are also growing rapidly. Demand continues, the focus of business is shifting into the second half of the year, as in 2020. Analysts expect an annual operating profit increase of an average of 20 percent up to and including 2022.
The Austrians benefit from the e-bike boom, the area is growing disproportionately. The majority of sales come from the motorcycle segment. Pierer concentrates on small machines, gaining market shares here in Europe and the USA. India, China and the USA are growth markets. The Austrians will start with e-scooters in 2022 and want to gradually replace the combustion engine with e-drives in smaller motorcycles and scooters. High earnings growth.
Japan’s bicycle parts manufacturer is number 1 worldwide. Surprising: Shimano does around 20 percent of its business with fishing equipment. The capacities for bike parts are fully booked, which will lead to a strong increase in profits in 2021. Shimano is forecasting a plus of 36 percent on a net basis. In the most recent quarterly report, the annual forecast was not increased, which was disappointing. Analysts expect operating profit to stagnate in 2022. Hold.
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