Bike shops use sales to cut inventory from COVID pandemic chaos

At the height of the pandemic, the Bicycle Habitat bike store in New York City could easily sell any bike it stocked. “Lines formed across the block for whatever was available on any given day,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

But today, owner Charlie McCorkell has far fewer interested buyers, and those he does have are far tougher than before.

“He has about 2,000 bikes in stock, more than double what he would prefer; sales for 2022 are expected to be lower than 2019; and some customers are ready to walk out the door on the color of a bike,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

The article offered insight into a bike industry crisis: Bike companies that set sales records in 2020 when Americans needed an excuse to get out are now twiddling their thumbs as hundreds , even thousands, of unsold bikes are gathering dust.

“Revenues for U.S. bicycle retailers fell 7% from January to June compared to a year ago, according to market research group NPD, compared to jumps of 46% and 4% during the same periods in 2020 and 2021,” reported the Wall Street Journal.

In the early months of the pandemic, demand was so high that bike shops could barely keep up. One June 2020 CNN Article compared bicycles to toilet paper, noting that supply chain issues interfered with inventory and repair work.

When supply chain conditions finally improved, many stores placed large orders, assuming sales records would continue to be set. That’s why they have problems now.

“The decisions were made a long time ago under very different circumstances,” ElliptiGo Inc. chief executive Bryan Pate told the Journal. “And the world is not as it was then.”

Companies like Peloton that sell stationary bikes for home exercise are also struggling, the article notes, as Americans return to their pre-pandemic routines.

“When consumers came out of the shutdowns, they lost interest (in Peloton),” the Journal reported.

The one segment of the bike industry that still seems to be doing well is the market for high-end bikes used by more serious riders.

“The bikes enthusiasts are looking for — which typically cost more than $1,500 — still have wait times, as do supplies of certain parts like gears and brakes, according to multiple retailers and McKinsey partner Alexander Thiel. & Co.”, reported the Journal.