An excerpt from an important piece by Walter Angell in streets mn:

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Why Are Bicycle Sales Declining (for the 14th year)?

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In 2005, 67 bicycles were sold per thousand people and in 2014 this had fallen to 57 per thousand.  …. The number of bicycle shops has fallen by 18% over the past decade while combined sales floor square footage has remained stagnant.

None of this is new. It’s been the number one topic of conversation for over a decade among bicycle shop owners.

I often wonder if the major impediment to sales growth is that U.S. shops are largely and often exclusively focused on recreation rather than transportation. U.S. shops are selling something that isn’t very critical nor even very useful for many people, instead of selling a valuable necessity. …

Our current recreational focus has resulted in people having a garage full of bikes that aren’t very durable, go out of adjustment quickly, are uncomfortable to ride, and can’t easily be ridden in ordinary clothes.

So, we have millions of bikes hanging in garages, collecting dust and rarely ridden. Who wants to change in to shorts, search for wherever they put their helmet last year and struggle to get their bicycle down from the ceiling before trying to find the pump for the now flat tires and all only to then ride a bicycle that’s uncomfortable and has out of adjustment clackity-clacking gears? And this is the simple process for those who don’t load them on their car to drive to some place that they feel is safe enough to ride (I’ve always found it fascinating how many more bikes on cars I see in the U.S. than The Netherlands).

Worse, because people don’t want to ride their uncomfortable pants-leg eating bicycles, they are missing out on what may be the best source of routine activity available and they become overweight or obese. If you’re overweight, you’re even less likely to want to ride your out-of-adjustment bicycle ….

Plus, we’re also ending up with bikes that either can’t carry anything or get squirrelly when more than a loaf of bread is squished on the rack. So much for useful transportation.

Time for a new bicycle? Hardly. If you already have a rarely-used bicycle collecting dust in the garage, you’re unlikely to want to spend more money on another for fear that it, too, will do nothing but hang in the garage, collect dust and it remind you of this every day it hangs there. That’s not good for sales. …

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What if we turn this around? Give people a good reason and purpose to ride often — transportation. Build safe and comfortable places to ride — protected bikeways. Provide people with proper bicycles that are simple and durable.

1) Sell the idea of riding for transportation. Give people a reason and a purpose to ride every week or every day. Plant the seed that a bicycle is much more than a recreational toy. Someone who rides frequently, like to dinner once per week, is more likely to want to invest in an upgraded bicycle in a few years and more likely become interested in other bicycling, like racing or off-road.

2) Do everything you can to make bicycling in your neighborhood and sales area comfortable and safe for normal average people. …

3) Sell bicycles that work for average people. KISS is important — don’t make bicycling complicated. Start each sale with a good city bike. Sell them something that will always be easy and ready to ride and they are more likely to ride often rather than just a couple of times per year. A bicycle that can be ridden in any clothes, that won’t eat their jeans, and that doesn’t require a lot of maintenance.

4A) Hide your inner cyclist (and the associated accessories). Don’t appear to be part of the fraternity. Don’t use buzz words. Don’t try to impress customers with how much they don’t know about The Fraternity. …

4B) Put bicycle fraternity accessories in a corner or separate room, if you carry them at all. This includes clothing, shoes, helmets, nutrition, and parts.

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Imagine if car dealers only sold recreational cars. Cars for racing and off-roading. Cars not really suited to daily use. If part of every sale included a lecture on the need to buy and wear a helmet and safety vest and take a class on repair and maintenance? If your car came without lights or locks or fenders or anywhere to carry anything home from the store. …

A bike that’s easy and comfortable to ride is more likely to be ridden, less likely to collect dust, more likely to result in a healthy fit customer, more likely to be replaced with an upgraded model, and more likely to result in people seeing others riding and want one themselves.

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Full article here.