The majority stake taken by the investment holding Group Bruxelles Lambert (GBL) in direct seller Canyon in late 2020 was the final proof that the cycling industry has outgrown its niche status. Canyon started out as the store brand of Koblenz-based bike dealer Radsport Arnold. It quickly became and has remained one of the technology leaders of the cycling sector as a whole, and is outstandingly successful in pro sports, from triathlon to Pro Tour road racing and various MTB categories, such as cross-country and downhill. At the time of the sale (during the Covid crisis), the company was valued at 800 million euros, with a self-reported growth of around 25% p.a. before that.
For many years, the traditional players in the cycling industry had refused to give credence to such brilliant success. No trying out bikes bought online, no sales assistants to give advice, riders having to make their own adjustments, and no local bike shop to provide maintenance. This last aspect in particular was what traditional outlets resorted to when faced with this new and growing competition. Many dealers still refuse to repair and service bikes from direct sellers, including those another major player Rose Bikes and others.
But as Canyon has shown, blocking and denying do not seem to be the best (defensive) strategies. Almost everyone in the cycling industry will have to prepare for serious changes, and make the right proactive choices. For the typical bike dealer with an attached workshop, the challenges have been enormous over the last few (Covid-ridden) years, and that pressure is set to only increase. Dealers are often disadvantaged by limited product choice in the store and hampered by bottlenecks in the workshop. This unholy mix is compounded by a lack of qualified staff in the service areas, from sales assistants to leasing and insurance experts and mechanics that are able to hand customers complete, roadworthy bikes and e-bikes during busy periods, instead of bodges. Well-organised workshops that can complete lists of jobs scheduled at short notice while still performing smaller unscheduled repairs on the fly remain thin on the ground.
Automotive service chains and dealership networks
Players in the automotive industry, itself in transformation, are increasingly trying to fill this gap. Large chains like ATU (despite still describing itself as ‘your reliable partner for auto parts and car service’) are pursuing long-term plans to establish a comprehensive network for e-bike services. ATU operates around 600 service centres throughout the DACH region.
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