COVID slows bicycle supply chain

Smith Cycle manager Matt Ytsma displays a stack of hundreds of orders for people wanting to purchase a new bicycle or accessories.

By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The pandemic has created a worldwide shortage of bicycles, and at Smith Cycle, they’re feeling the pain.

The long-time Chatham business has but a handful of bikes for sale and they don’t foresee their inventory being restocked anytime soon.

Interest in outdoor activities such as cycling have soared since COVID-19 turned the economy on its head, leading to a heavy demand for sporting equipment.

At the pandemic’s outset, Smith Cycle manager Matt Ytsma said sales were off the charts.

“When COVID-19 hit in March (2020), we sold a year’s worth of bikes in one month,” Ytsma said.

“By June we didn’t have a bike to sell.”

It’s the same, he said, with parts and accessories.

“We can’t get tires, chains and shifters,” Ytsma explained. “It’s not just us, it’s everywhere.”

Bike helmets are another issue, he said, adding the store sold a year’s worth of helmets in six months so far in 2021.

According to Ytmsa, who has worked at Smith Cycle for 23 years, the supply glitch is being squarely blamed on sourcing problems in Asia, along with the high cost of shipping.

The bulk of the world’s bicycles and parts are manufactured in Asia.

It’s reported that a Sea-Can shipping container – that used to cost $2,000 – now carries a hefty $20,000 price tag. Business experts claim the hike is leading to supply chain issues around the world.

They also say labour shortages are making it difficult to unload goods at Canadian ports, with some ships having to wait offshore for weeks in order to deliver.

Ytmsa said it’s the same story for businesses across the board.

He knows the supply problems are directly related to COVID-19, because prior to the pandemic, sales at Smith Cycle were relatively stable and predictable.

The problem will eventually get sorted out, Ytsma said, and he hoped it won’t be too long in coming.

“My fear is by the time they figure it out, it’ll go bust,” he added. “The market will eventually go down.

“Normally we have 200 bikes for sale,” he said. “Right now we have four.”

An online check of stock in local big-box stores showed there are some bicycles available at those locations, in limited quantities.

In the meantime, Chatham-Kent residents will continue to hit the streets, parks and trails in record numbers, putting outdoor venues to good use.


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