The Covid-19 pandemic has had one unexpected business success story in the UK: the local bike shop. With people in cities and towns across the country rethinking their future travel preferences to avoid public transport, bike sales and repairs are rocketing.
With the government’s £2bn package being announced to help increase cycling and walking capacity across the UK, and a new ambitious target from the London Mayor where cycling could increase 10-fold post-lockdown, the industry is experiencing a boom in sales that appears set to accelerate.
There are an estimated 20,000 bikes already sold in the UK that are awaiting delivery and building, according to the Association of Cycle Traders. “Sudden demand from essential workers and the significant adoption of cycling for exercise, travel and family leisure during the pandemic, further fuelled by good weather, is putting an extreme demand upon the industry,” it said.
The bottom line is that although this could be an amazing opportunity, the bike industry, bike manufacturers and shops could quickly find themselves in a situation where they are soon unable to keep up with demand and lose valuable sales and customers – just as has been seen in other sectors.
We at Loft Digital are using our decades of experience developing new technology within this industry, to help clients explore how this huge spike in sales will impact. We are exploring solutions that use smart tech to solve some of the future issues, to help improve the supply chain, distribution and sustainability of the bike industry.
The UK’s Bicycle Association is urging the Government to act swiftly to ensure that as many commuters as possible who normally travel by public transport or car, switch to cycling as the best, safest alternative, when they are once again able to travel to work.
In a recent press release, the Bicycle Association has presented the Government with a package of measures which could be swiftly implemented, including:
- Zero VAT “holiday” for all bikes, e-bikes, and cycle repairs.
- A short-term £250 per bike purchase grant to help people buy e-bikes. Similar schemes have been very successful internationally.
- Rapid implementation of a £50 per customer voucher scheme for repairs, like the scheme recently introduced in France. Ensuring that cycle servicing is as affordable as possible will help keep those new riders safe.
- Extending the Cycle to Work scheme, through which employees can affordably buy bikes through salary sacrifice, to the self-employed and other groups.
These initiatives, if implemented, will go a long way in helping the Government reach their target to increase cycling in the UK, but will require innovative technology to deliver efficient and effective solutions whilst mitigating risks.
Meanwhile, Cycle to Work schemes that give tax benefits to employees to buy a new bike have reported a doubling in sales – a figure that is expected to rise even further as workers realise they can get a new bike without an upfront payment.
Loft develops platforms for the UK’s largest Cycle to Work provider, CycleScheme, and we have worked together since that company started over a decade ago. As such we are very close to this topic and looking at opportunities to support and grow this market further.
How will the bike industry manage, and what tech solutions could help?
Coronavirus seems unlikely to go anywhere soon. We will continue to track the impact of the pandemic on the bike and micro-mobility industries, and how technology innovation could provide solutions to help with the whole lifecycle and sustainability of products and services within these markets.
We are, of course, open for business and here to work with clients – new and existing – to explore the new challenges each phase of the crisis brings.