Bicycles - UK - February 2013
“The most surprising aspect to emerge from Mintel’s research into factors influencing bicycle purchase is the lack of importance attached to brand, with price, specification and styling/colour/décor being seen as more important than whether a bicycle is a brand that the potential buyer is familiar with.”
– Michael Oliver – Senior Leisure and Media Analyst
Some questions answered in this report include:
- How is recent positive exposure impacting on cycling participation and frequency?
- What do buyers look for in a bicycle?
- What types of retailer are best-positioned to capitalise on anticipated market growth?
- Where is demand for electric bicycles likely to come from in the future?
Although cycling has enjoyed a significantly higher profile during 2012 and research shows that participation has increased during the past year, this has not fed through yet in the form of significantly higher sales of new bicycles. However, with momentum behind cycling steadily growing, there seems little doubt that the UK is poised for a period of growth in sales, particularly once the country begins to emerge from economic downturn. The volatile UK weather remains a deterrent, but the range of factors which have contributed to cycling growth in the past year are only going to increase in intensity in the future. This report assesses the current status of the market in terms of sales values and volumes and how the market segments, as well as examining recent innovations in product development and providing profiles of the major companies active in the market. It also takes a close look at consumer behaviour and attitudes, ranging from frequency of cycling and type of cycling taken part in, to retailer consideration sets, factors influencing choice of bicycle and attitudes towards electric bicycles.
Defining what actually constitutes a bicycle is something on which the cycle industry has difficulty agreeing, depending on the focus of each company’s business and particularly where the children’s market is concerned. Some suppliers have a significant presence in the children’s toy cycle market and include sales of these types of machines in their figures, whereas other companies define anything with a wheel size of less than 12 inches as a toy and do not include them within their statistics.
One way of differentiating cycles and toys is to say that a bicycle must have a chain, which therefore excludes items such as toy tricycles. It is this definition Mintel has sought to adopt, although a general shortage of detailed information means grey areas will always exist. For the purposes of this report, bicycles are defined as including the following types:
- ATB or mountain bicycles are characterised by their robust, lightweight frames (which are usually smaller than sports frames), straight handlebars and smaller, sturdier wheels with fatter tyres. They usually have a wide range of gears to enable them to tackle all types of terrain and many now sport either suspension in their front forks or dual suspension at the front and rear.
- Sports/road and touring cycles are full-size, usually lightweight bicycles with drop handlebars. They incorporate multiple gearing, 26- or 27-inch wheels and narrow tyres. Conventional adult bicycles are of the traditional ‘roadster’ design with large wheels, straight or swept-back handlebars, and heavier frames and usually have comparatively sturdy tyres. Many have three-speed hub gear systems.
- Hybrid bicycles are a cross between a sports/touring and an ATB/mountain bike. They look quite similar to a mountain bike in terms of configuration of the frame but tend to have a more upright riding position and narrower tyres with less rolling resistance. Traditional or comfort bicycles are a new type of hybrid bike that has emerged in recent years, designed – as their name suggests – to feel very easy to ride, with extra-comfortable saddles and bar grips, smooth tyres and an easy riding position.
- Small-wheel bicycles are mainly intended for short-distance journeys. This category includes folding bicycles, which are popular with consumers who want to take their bicycle on trains or pack it neatly in a car. BMX bicycles are primarily intended for children, although they are now quite popular among young adults, who use them to perform tricks and stunts. They are of a sturdy design, colourful or eye-catching (eg all-chrome) and do not normally have gears.
- Children’s bicycles come in all shapes and sizes. Most have small wheels and a basic non-suspension frame, although some of the higher-end children’s ATB-style bicycles now come with this feature. Some are termed as learner bicycles and are sold with permanent or removable stabilisers.
Electric bicycles are excludedfrom the coverage of this report although, as a competitive sector, some reference is made to sales levels for the purposes of comparison and attitudes towards electric bicycles are covered in the consumer section.
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