At 99 Bikes in Bondi Junction, queues have been snaking out the door over the past few weeks.
The queues are thanks in part to physical distancing rules, but it’s also because the COVID-19 lockdown has everyone going gaga for cycling as they look for new ways to get active or alternatives to public transport.
Matt Turner, son of travel entrepreneur Graham ‘Skroo’ Turner and Managing Director of Pedal Group, the company behind 99 Bikes, says there has been a huge uptick in business, especially over the last four weeks.
“There’s been about a 50 per cent increase across our stores, but in our city stores it would be more so around inner Sydney, inner Melbourne, inner Brisbane,” he said.
Online retailer Bicycles Online has also seen its sales figures more than double in the past two weeks. Commuter bike sales grew 210 per cent, kids bike sales were up 60 per cent and mountain bike sales surged 170 per cent.
“Sales are exceeding what we would expect to see at Christmas,” said Bicycles Online co-founder James van Rooyen.
99 Bikes salesman Nick Johns said the last four weeks had been ‘non-stop’.
“We’ve got people dusting off old bikes, we’ve had a lot of people who have been thinking about getting a bike for a long time who say they may as well do it now,” he said.
“We’ve also had a lot of people spending time with their family which is really good to see, buying kids bikes. We’ve even had a few families come into and buy all bikes [for the whole family].”
Mr Johns said it was great that families were spending more time together and that so many people were getting active.
“They’ve got the choice if they want to get fat and be alcoholics or get fit and love their family, that’s how I see it. Sorry I’m blunt,” he said.
99 Bikes has 47 stores across the country and is jointly-owned by Flight Centre, the Turner family and employees.
The company has employed about an extra 50 staff to cope with the increased demand. Of those, about half were Flight Centre staff who had been stood down.
Mr Turner said there was strong demand across a mix of products, especially for bikes under $1,200 through to indoor trainers, which had all sold out.
“It’s been challenging from a supply perspective and a people perspective. But generally I think the guys in the store are loving the extra attention from more customers and getting more people onto bikes, which is obviously why we exist.”
All 99 Bikes stores were practising physical distancing and limiting the number of customers in the store at any one time. Most states are still allowing people to cycle with the people they live with or one other person.
Mr Turner believes the cycling surge is being driven by three reasons: transport, health and exercise and family activities.
This article by Natashia Body was first published in the Australian Financial Review on 13th April.