What business to start in 2012: Cycling
More and more people really are getting on their bikes. Here's how you can jump on this trend in 2012
Why is it so promising?
The recent coronation of Mark Cavendish as BBC Sports Personality of the Year reflects Britain's growing infatuation with cycling, sparked by increased fears surrounding the environment and obesity levels, congestion on the roads and public transport, and the government's attempts to get more people pedalling through tax breaks such as the Cycle to Work scheme.
Despite the recession, sales in the cycling sector are set to rise from £2.1bn in 2010 to £3bn in 2015, and the cult following enjoyed by Brompton's collapsible bike demonstrates that all manner of models and technologies will benefit from the boom.
What are the specific opportunities?
With more and more companies sponsoring cycle-to-work schemes for their employees, you might think about selling bikes, or setting up your own scheme management service. One company which has already done this is Please Cycle, which provides bespoke, employer-branded cycle schemes enabling staff to plan journeys, log their daily mileage and pick up air miles-style rewards.
However, you'll have to compete with a swarm of established comapanies if you wish to succeed in this area. According to Ry Morgan, founder of Please Cycle: “There were 3.7 million bikes sold in 2010, and there'll have been an increase in 2011. However the retail sales side is still dominated by the big players such as Evans and Halford, and the cycle-to-work space is also dominated by four or five market leaders.”
You might have more joy with a business offering cycle repairs, or one which caters for the public's increasing desire for fashionable cycling apparel. With more and more people cycling to work, there is a growing demand for key accessories, such as jackets and bags, which can be worn both on the bike and in the office, and are both fashionable and practical. Wiggle.com is one brand that has emerged in recent years to sew up a fair chunk of online retail activity in this area.
Brompton's Oratory jacket, launched in September last year, has registered only modest sales thus far, but this may be to do with the fact that the garment is reasonably expensive (around £250). If you decide to start a business selling fashionable cycling apparel, you'll have to keep your operating costs low and your prices realistic. It won't be easy, but you could capture a huge slice of the market by moving now.
“Despite the recession, sales in the cycling sector are set to rise from £2.1bn in 2010 to £3bn in 2015”
Who's doing it?
Rachel Bonny, The Michaux Club
“Through our new website, we sell fashionable cycle bags. Originally they were designed for female cyclists, but it's evolved into a unisex business now.
“I had the idea while I was working as a womenswear designer for high street brands such as Top Shop and Whistles, and struggling to find a bag I could take on my bike and wear to work. About two years ago I had the idea of creating my own bags, and began to sketch out my own design using leather and waterproof canvas.
“I sold my first batch in December, and got an article in The Guardian's ‘What to buy for Christmas' list, which brought dozens of email enquiries. We are currently selling on a made-to-order basis while our manufacturing centre is being set up. I'm also currently taking a course in bag-making to improve my skills.
“The key demographic for us is mid to late-thirties, middle to upper-income city workers – people who have a demanding job but are also eco and fashion-conscious. As cycling is integrating more into the daily life routine, it's less about having two outfits to wear, and now it's about integrating the two.”