The Bicycle Bottleneck
The pandemic boosted sales-but sucked the supply chain dry.
by Micheline Maynard
From the August, 2020 issue
After enjoying a healthy first year in Ann Arbor in 2019, Motor City Bicycles on Packard was off to a good start in 2020, says owner Scott Kellogg.
Then, Covid-19 hit. Kellogg's shops in Canton, Brighton, and Ann Arbor were shut down in March, while competitors in surrounding states were classified as essential businesses and allowed to operate. In addition to taking sales from Michigan businesses, Kellogg says, "those shops started gobbling up products."
When bike stores were allowed to reopen, "we had more customers than we ever had before," Kellogg says. But by then, there weren't enough bikes for everyone who wanted one: "Everything suppliers would normally have to ship has already been shipped."
Nationwide, sales of basic adult bicycles under $200 tripled in April. Motor City's price point is higher--generally around $350-$1,000 for conventional adult versions, while specialty models can cost even more. But now, he says, even bicycles costing $750 or more are hard to find.
"There's just a huge gap in the supply chain right now," he explains. Even repair work has been affected, because there's also a "huge shortage of parts," of which about 90 percent are produced in China.
"We have people waiting for parts that won't be in the U.S. until October or November or even later," he says. "We will do what we can to make it work, but there are certain tires that nobody in the state of Michigan has."
Kellogg says demand is bound to slacken once Covid restrictions end, but in the long term he believes his shops will benefit. Next, he says, these bike buyers will need helmets and shoes and to get their bicycles tuned up.
"A negative thing in a positive way has brought a lot of people back into the business."
Motor City Bicycle, 3162 Packard. (734) 389-7900. Mon., Wed., Thurs., & Fri. 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sat & Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed Tues. motorcitybicycle.com
[Originally published in August, 2020.]
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