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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Guest post: The cycling industry's elephant in the room [Bicycle Times]


Editor's note: Today I'm excited to share the work of one of my favorite industry insiders. Jill Missal is the founder ofGearGals.com, a site dedicated to the (sadly) often marginalized population of women who love the outdoors. The site is essential reading for women, and guys, you might learn a thing or two. Hopefully this will be the first of many of her contributions to Bicycle Times.
By Jill Missal, 
The venerable Rick Vosper wrote about the elephant in the industry – the cycling industry that is. You know what it’s like having an elephant around; it’s that thing that is glaringly obvious yet has no immediate solution so everyone just ignores it. The cycling industry’s elephant is that the industry has undergone essentially zero net growth in the last twenty years.
Zero. Small ups, small downs, but essentially has stayed exactly the same. It was a 6 billion dollar industry in 1990 and it’s a 6 billion dollar industry today. That’s right, every company out there is just fighting for a share of the same dollars. No blue oceans, no new markets, no innovation, nada, nothing.
Depressing, eh? If you’re a bike retailer or bike shop owner or have any ambition to make it big in the bike industry, you bet it’s depressing. You’d have to steal market share from either another small retailer, or battle it out with the Big Guns of which there are only a few. You’d have to beat out an enormous juggernaut of a company like Specialized to get any of their market. Good luck with that.
The reasons behind this lack of growth seem mystifying to some. To me, they are fairly obvious. The bike industry never changes, never evolves, never involves new markets or offers anything different than what it’s got. Consider the outdoor industry, which has grown and expanded to provide something for just about everyone. Not the bike industry – it struggles to change the consumer, not offer the consumer what she wants. So it doesn’t grow.
What, specifically, do I mean? Here are the biggest factors in the bike industry’s stunning lack of growth in my opinion:

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