Bike stores face unique situation during pandemic


Marcus Johnson

Intown Bicycles, located in Midtown on Monroe Drive, has seen consumer demand for bikes increase since the pandemic while supply has run out. Other bike stores, and the bike industry as a whole, has faced a similar situation.

Marcus Johnson

As many businesses struggle to stay afloat during the Covid-19 pandemic, one particular industry, bicycle retailers, is faced with a unique situation, instead of declining sales, an unexpected surge in demand. 

“It was very strong in the beginning of the year with bicycle sales until we ran out of bicycles,” said Mike Goodman, owner of Intown Bicycles on Monroe Drive. “And that’s been an industry-wide shortage across the nation. Bicycles that manufacturers made for the year 2020, that would normally have lasted through September, were gone by the end of May. So, bike shops have been out of bicycles for months now.”

Demand for bikes has soared since the pandemic began in March of 2020, and bike shops are trying to reap the benefits of this newfound interest.

“I think it’s just because everybody wanted to get outside,” Goodman said. “Everybody was stuck at home and looking for an activity, and it’s safe to get outside.”

Atlanta Pro Bikes, located in the Virginia-Highland neighborhood, enjoyed similar success at the beginning of 2020.

“From March to about June, we probably doubled [our sales],” said Paul Edwards, shop manager at Atlanta Pro Bikes on North Highland Avenue. “It was pretty much one of the best years we’ve had, fortunately and unfortunately, because of the pandemic.”

While demand has significantly increased, manufacturers have not been able to keep up.

“[Atlanta Pro Bikes’] business, as all the bike shops in the city were, was extremely successful until they literally ran out of inventory because the factories couldn’t produce enough bikes to satisfy the country,” said Stuart Meddin, owner of multiple commercial real estate properties in the Virginia-Highland neighborhood, including the property where Atlanta Pro Bikes is located.

The disruptions in the supply chain due to the pandemic, coupled with unforeseen excess demand, created a “perfect storm” that has led to supply shortages, according to Goodman. These supply shortages extend to important parts and accessories as well.

“I’ve been doing this for 38 years, and I have never seen the industry run out of rubber, but we were having tire and innertube shortages, and we were having to patch innertubes because we couldn’t replace them,” Goodman said. “So, it’s been a really crazy year.”

Unfortunately, for local bike shops, low inventory looks to be a problem that they will continue to deal with going into the new year.

“Basically, the consensus is the bike industry probably won’t get back to normal, as far as stock and inventory, probably until late third quarter 2021, possibly even 2022,” Edwards said. “It’s definitely going to be a weird year for sure for the bicycle industry.”

While Goodman and Edwards predict the bike industry will hold steady this year as the pandemic continues, Meddin sees the rising demand for bikes as emblematic of a bigger question concerning consumer habits and the future of retail stores.

“I think the real question is going to be how do people’s buying habits change from this,” Meddin said. “Do they go back to their old model of buying the types of clothes and spending their money on things that were pre-pandemic, or do they adjust their lifestyles?”

For now, local bike shops like Intown Bicycles and Atlanta Pro Bikes are not taking their relative success during this pandemic for granted.

“We are happy to be employed, happy to be open for business,” Goodman said. “With as many businesses that are suffering as there are, we feel real grateful to be here.”