Bicycle importer sees tepid demand

Bicycle importer sees tepid demand

Bicycle demand is likely to remain tepid this year as consumer purchasing power struggles to improve.

Bike Zone’s Kongpan Pramoj says weak purchasing power and poor air quality are hurting bicycle sales. Pitsinee Jitpleecheep

Kongpan Pramoj, co-founder of Bike Zone, an importer of branded bicycles, said relatively low purchasing power and air pollution concerns have led many people to baulk at buying a new bicycle.

He said Thailand lack adequate bike lanes to encourage people to keep riding, while some people have shifted to running because it's a cheaper activity.

"There are only five or six standard bike lanes in Bangkok," Mr Kongpan said.

The number of bicycling events is also low compared with other sports.

"Cycling reached its peak in the past five years, fuelled by the opening of the sky bike lane at Suvarnabhumi airport," Mr Kongpan said. "During that period, the bicycle market grew by 200-300% before falling to single-digit growth three years ago and was flat in 2018-19."

He said the market is expected to intensify this year, given sluggish domestic demand and a parade of Chinese brands entering the Thai market.

Several bicycle manufacturers and importers are offering steep discounts of up to 50%, with free insurance and a longer instalment payment period of up to 36 months.

"The popularity of cycling will resume if the government takes serious action to build good infrastructure for bike lanes in the country, particularly in Bangkok," Mr Kongpan said. "Bike lanes in each location should connect to one another like those in Western countries. The government has to strictly control the use of bike lanes. Germany and the Netherlands are good examples for bike lane management."

The government is being urged to support Thai brands to compete with imported Chinese products, he said, adding that more bike events should be held to lure cyclists.

"Chinese bicycle products control about 90% of the low-end bicycle market, where prices are 1,000-10,000 baht per unit," Mr Kongpan said.

In 2018, Thailand's bicycle market was worth 7.5 billion baht. Of the total, 4.5 billion baht was from bicycles and 3 billion baht was from accessories.

Bike Zone's sales were 80 million baht in 2018, and the importer targets 100 million baht this year.

Gorapath Siripanich, a senior project coordinator at NCC Exhibition Organizer Co, said the company will organise the 13th International Bangkok Bike during June 20-23 at Impact Muang Thong Thani.

NCC expects 550 million baht to circulate during the three-day event.

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