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Germans Value Cycling more than Ever

With over 13 billion Euros turnover per year and 220,000 jobs, Germany's bicycle and bicycle-related sectors are significant (and growing) players in the country's economy.

At a press conference organized by pressedienst-fahrrad in Berlin on 9 February 2010, Albert Herresthal, CEO of VSF e.V. and initiator of vivavelo congress (photo), presented the main findings of market research conducted into the economic significance of the German bicycle sector in the local economy.

His figures painted a positive picture of the German bicycle industry and bicycle-related businesses, thanks to the fact that Germans are turning to cycling (to get from A to B and as leisure and fitness activities) in ever bigger numbers.

Indicators for this, are the continuously rising quality and average prices of bicycles sold. In 2008 the average price of a regular bicycle was 386 Euros (ZIV), with all sales channels included. In specialized retail shops, however, the average price was 500 Euros and it is expected that 2009 saw a strong upward jump from that level. A survey conducted by Sinus Sociovision in Heidelberg, and published in August 2009, suggested consumers would spend 570 Euro on average for a new bicycle.

Compared to the overall retail sector, which lost 0.5 percent turnover in 2009 due to the financial and economic crisis, the bicycle and bicycle-related branches are doing quite well. According to the Federal Statistical Office, bicycle retailers in Germany grew their combined turnover by 5.2 percent in 2008. The total value of bicycles sold by German retailers amounted to about 5 billion Euros per year, the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Technology stated in a Research Report in September 2009.

Interestingly, most bicycles are sold through specialized retailers - 63 percent of all units sold, representing 75 percent of total turnover. Quality-focused, specialized bicycle retailers increased their combined turnover by 10.2 percent in 2009 (after 9 percent in 2008). This result proves that a lot of personal attention to individual customers is a prerequisite for selling bicycles. Today, specialized bicycle retailers sell more bikes compared to other sales channels than they did back in the 90’s when the mountain bike had its big boom. According to the Federal Statistical Office, there were 5,600 bicycle selling points in Germany in 2007, 4,110 of which were regarded as qualified bicycle retail shops.

The total annual turnover generated by bicycles in Germany amounted to 13.36 billion Euros, the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Technology said in September 2009. This figure included the turnover of bicycle related tourism, if the bicycle ride itself was the main reason for the touristic activities. The amount of 13.36 billion is even more than the overall budget of the Federal State of Hamburg, which amounts to 10,9 billion Euros.

Currently, electric bikes are the fastest growing bicycle segment. According to independent industry association VSF, the market volume doubled in two years to 140,000 units in 2009. This was 20,000 units more than the number ZIV originally predicted for 2009. When we compare 140,000 electric bikes to the 4 million regular bicycles sold in Germany every year, this new two-wheel segment is still an infant. Obviously, the media reports on pedelecs and e-bikes are much more attention-catching than the actual sales numbers.

The good news is that the relationship between regular bicycles and electric bicycles looks much better, when we compare the average price of electric bikes of around 1,700 Euros to that of regular bikes (about 500+ Euros). This means the potential turnover growth of e-bikes is much higher.

Although the car remains an important status symbol to Germans and still is their preferred means of transport (with 3.1 million units sold in 2008), the circulation of bicycles is much higher. According to government estimates, the inventory of bicycles reached 73 million in Germany (compared to 41.32 million cars in early 2009).

According to Herresthal, the bicycle sector in Germany employs 220,665 people full-time. The manufacturing sector counts 2,800 employees and the bicycle components industry another 1,100 jobs. ZIV calculated import and distribution activities to contribute another approximately 800 employees. According to the Federal Statistical Office, bicycle retailers together employed 22,100 workers. Bicycle infrastructure (mainly the construction of bicycle lanes) keeps 7,000 people busy––an area on which the government spends 500 million Euros annually. Bicycle tourism provides 186,000 jobs. Other business areas, such as trade shows, media, test institutions, cycle wear, accessories, advertising, etc. contributed around 865 jobs to the total number.

Herresthal summarized: The bicycle sector is on a positive trend. Numerous innovations make the product ever more attractive. Although consumer demand and turnover clearly increase in the specialized retail, the economic significance of the bicycle sector and related economic branches is often underestimated. “Over 13 billion turnover and 220,000 jobs are impressive numbers that deserve more attention in politics," he concluded.

By Susanne Brüsch
Published 27 February 2010



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