Online sales: past, present or future?

By Adam Newman

Two interesting announcements this week regarding online bike sales. For years online retailers have been taking a larger and larger piece of the pie in accessories, apparel and components. Now the industry is faced with deciding when, if, or how to sell complete bikes online.

Some brands like Airborne, have fully embraced the consumer-direct model. Their bikes have no dealerships, and the savings is passed on to the consumers. Others like Trek and Specialized are moving towards dominating the brick and motar retail market by occupying entire stores.

But most brands fall somewhere in between. Surly Bikes announced this week that they will no longer allow online retailers to sell complete bicycles. "We think a bicycle in its built form should come from a bike shop that knows how to assemble and adjust everything so that your ride is ready to go," they wrote. 

On the other side, Orbea announced today an online order system that will make their bikes available through major online retailers, its own website and still through their dealer network. “We needed it to grow; we needed it to stimulate our brand,” said Tony Karklins, Orbea’s managing director. “Ten years ago, the Internet was a nuisance to retail. Now it is a critical part of retail. We look forward to the challenges ahead and to the opportunity to lead our loyal dealers into the future.”

What do you think? Would you purchase a complete bicycle online? Is the dealer network model no longer relevant, or will it morph into brand-owned outlets like the Apple stores? 


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