Sigma Sports co-founder and director Ian Whittingham has said there is reason for optimism in the cycling industry, with premium road bikes, gravel bikes and e-bike sales withstanding market pressures.
Last month, data from the Bicycle Association revealed that bike sales have fallen to their lowest level in two decades. However, speaking to Cycling Weekly, Whittingham stressed this is not the case for all bike types.
“The market demand for high-end road bikes from our brands is really strong,” the retail company founder said. “We simply can’t get enough high-end Specializeds, Treks and Cannondales.”
According to Whittingham, the market is split into “two halves”, with entry-level and mid-level bikes – those in the region of £500 to £1,500 – the most affected by the post-pandemic slump.
“At premium [level], it’s still really quite buoyant,” he added. “We’re struggling with not enough stock in those areas, when we talk about high-end road and gravel bikes, [Shimano] Ultegra and Dura-Ace equipped.
“It really is hand to mouth what we can get from our manufacturers, and at the moment we’re not seeing that really getting better. But the suggestion from our big brands is that we’ll start to see that improve as we go throughout the year.”
The economic downturn has proven difficult for cycling retailers, with a number of British companies collapsing this calendar year. Among them were clothing brands Milltag and Presca, as well as wholesale distributor Moore Large.
Although Sigma Sports is still witnessing sales above pre-pandemic levels, the company is not immune to the ongoing financial challenges.
“What’s caught us all out is how rapidly the boom turned into a huge slowdown,” Whittingham said, citing over-stocking, inflation and increased shipping costs as the biggest obstacles. “It’s been a very challenging period post-Covid, no doubt about it.”
Over the past few years, Sigma Sports has enjoyed notable success in the e-bike market. The company expanded this venture during the pandemic, with e-bikes now representing 30% of their total bike sales, up from just 1%.
“We’re seeing strong, continuous demand for e-bikes,” Whittingham outlined. “Hybrid commute is our biggest section, but we also do really well with electric mountain.”
In May last year, the company opened a standalone e-bike shop near its flagship store in Kingston upon Thames, London. This shop, Whittingham said, will be an “incredibly important part” of the company’s future growth.
“Road cycling has been the heart of our business for 30 years,” he added. “That’s absolutely going to remain the case. But, we’re loving being involved with a different part of the market, with a different consumer, learning all about them and introducing them to the joys of cycling.”