Bicycles are selling so well that his store often runs out of stock before he can assemble them for display. Attayi said at the beginning of May he had achieved the same sales volume for 2019. He had to hire more employees to meet the needs, and has not taken a day off since February. He also raised wages and started to “lunch” always for employees who are under stress because they have to work at their full capacity.
While unemployment is at record levels and small businesses vie for survival, bicycle shops are an exception.
They are thriving whether they operate in cities where car sales dominate, such as Houston and Los Angeles, or more traditional bicycle areas like Portland, Oregon, New York and Washington DC. Keeping the right amount of vehicles to supply and completing the repairs in time has become a challenge. In some cases, they even refuse customers.
A recent survey from the National Bicycle Dealers Association of America found that 83% of shops care about their inventory levels. Bicycle manufacturers are trying to keep up with the pace of demand.
“Usually we are pretty sluggish and sell slowly, but now the phones are constantly ringing. My employees have to work ‘flooded in’ and I fully understand,” Attayi said.
New customers are looking for ways to become more active and outdoors. Bicycle shop owners say that the closure of gyms and yoga rooms during the pandemic has contributed to this. Others argue that customers are seeking an alternative to public transportation in travel. Taking social breaks on personal modes of transport, such as cars and bicycles, is the easiest. According to NPD Group, a company that tracks retail sales, in March 2020, US bike sales increased 39% over the same period last year.
“The bike is like new toilet paper. If it’s available, buy it,” Attayi said.
Garfield Cooper, owner of ZenCog bicycle company in Jacksonville, Florida, now has to hire more workers to keep up with the number of cars that need to be repaired. In the past, repairs were usually done for 24 hours, but now it takes a month. Like Attayi, Cooper said he hasn’t had a day off since February.
While his sales often fall during the summer months due to rising temperatures and humidity, Cooper says he hasn’t seen his business slow down so far.
“It’s been a long time since bike was a very important thing for Americans. It’s great now that they like cycling,” Cooper said.
He is trying to keep things like bicycle saddles and helmets out of stock. Cooper said he regularly calls other stores to find the parts needed for repairs.
Robert Keating, who owns the Triathlon Lab outside of Los Angeles, says he has never seen a bike boom like it has in 37 years working in bike shops. He changed his shop from focusing on high-class to affordable that people could walk in their neighborhoods. The vehicle, dubbed the “semi-special” beach cruiser, he said.
“Some people are saying ‘it’s nice to be back on my bike. I can’t believe I’ve left it on for too long. Others say’ I can’t believe it’s as difficult to ride. I will practice my strength again, “recalls Keating.
Bicycle shop owners are also wondering how long the current boom will last. Some say that customers are more interested in cycling because with less traffic, the roads feel safer. Their interest in bicycles may weaken as traffic flow returns to normal. However, some cities have begun to reallocate street space for bicycles, so this could lead to more cycling in the long run. About 400 miles of bike lanes have been built in the US in the past decade, according to the People for Bikes advocacy group.
Phil Koopman, owner of BikeSpace in Washington DC, compared the current bicycle boom to 1999, when many people bought computers to prepare for the Y2K incident.
“After that, those companies didn’t sell many computers for a few years because everyone had one. That’s the big question. Is this something that only happens once or is it something durable?” “?” said Koopman.