Mobile bike repair, e-bike dealers, and private label bikes are industry trends worth watching, according to Scott Chapin, bicycle industry risk specialist with Marsh & McClennan Agency in Minneapolis.
Chapin has a unique perspective on the market as he focuses on insurance for the bicycle industry, both retail and supply side alike. Marsh & McLennan receives between five and 10 new inquiries per week from cycling-related businesses looking for insurance, many of them start-ups and potential start-ups. This gives him some useful insight on what is trending and what the future may hold for the competitive landscape for our industry.
Some of the trends from Scott’s position on the front lines of the bicycle insurance world:
1) Mobile bike shops. Chapin sees a lot more mobile bike shops starting, many run by people with great experience with independent bicycle dealers as lead mechanics. “Obviously, this can be considered a threat to the retailer as they are losing their head mechanic,” Chapin notes. “Since the overhead is super-low, it is pretty easy for these mechanics to do this. I am also seeing mobile bike fitting businesses following this model. Many of these mechanics are purchasing a small enclosed trailer and/or cube van to do the work in. If the job is too complex, they will bring the bike ‘home’ or to their garage.”
2) E-bike dealers. “We are seeing a LOT of new e-bike dealers and manufacturers (product liability inquiries) come through our system,” Chapin says. “I feel that most of these are exclusively selling e-bikes.” He also notes that traditional bike stores have not yet jumped into e-bikes in a big way, in favor of stores that cater almost exclusively to this style of bike.
3) Spin-off bike rental business. “I have two large retailers in the past month that have created separate entities and will work with their respective city administrators to set up shop next to a popular bike trail and will provide rental services,” Chapin reports. “Both of these entities followed a municipal RFP for these particular services and will share in the revenue.”
4) Spin-off bicycle tour/guide services. Retailers are looking for ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors. “Many are starting tour companies to help bring new customers thru their door and a little added revenue,” Chapin says.
5) Online retailers. “We have also been seeing many online-only retailers without a storefront,” Chapin says, a trend with direct impact on bike shops.
6) Private labeling. “I am also seeing many experienced retailers developing their own bicycle brands by outsourcing everything overseas,” Chapin says. This is not a totally new development, “but continues to happen and we are constantly working on the product liability solutions for them.” Chapin points out the risks of this for both private labeling and directly importing a product. “They do not realize that they become the manufacturer when they do this, and that this has liability implications,” he says.