The coronavirus pandemic has fueled a sharp increase in bicycle sales locally and beyond as families seek a new way to fight boredom and get some much-needed exercise.
“They need to get out and do something,” Bob Sirois, owner of Sirois Bicycle Shop in North Attleboro, said.
Sales of new bicycles since the pandemic hit in March have been “phenomenal,” he added.
Sirois is selling 15 bicycles a day, which is much more than usual. A few weekends ago, he said he sold 45.
By the end of April, many distributors had sold out of low-end consumer bikes. The country is now facing a severe bicycle shortage as global supply chains in China and elsewhere in Asia, disrupted by the pandemic, scramble to meet the surge in demand.
“Bicycles are the new toilet paper shortage,” Sirois said, adding that he has an ample supply.
Dan Donovan, owner of Foxboro Bike Shop in Foxboro, said he’s had customers buying bicycles “sight unseen” and picking them up curbside.
“They either already know what they want or they are going on our expertise,” Donovan said.
His shop now has only a handful of bicycles and the wait for repairs is two to three weeks. That’s because fewer employees can work in the store due to social distancing, Donovan said.
Because of the disruption in supply, new bicycles may not be available until July or August and possibly even September.
“It’s out of control,” he said.
In addition to curing the coronavirus doldrums, bicycles are providing a way to keep fit with gyms closed, and kids can use them during recess from school lessons at home.
People are buying all kinds of bikes — BMX ones for kids, mountain bikes, 10-speeds, and hybrids, retailers said.
The demand has pushed national sales up by almost a third to $1.3 billion in the first quarter of the year, according to Dirk Sorenson, executive director of the NPD Group, a company that analyzes retail data.
More than half of those sales dollars came in March as consumers sought stay-at-home fitness options, he said.
Sales of commuter and fitness bikes in the same month increased 66 percent, leisure bikes jumped 121 percent and children’s bikes went up 59 percent, according to NPD.
Rob Crossley, 70, of Wrentham, is among area residents in the market for a new bike.
Crossley said he had a street bike about 30 years ago and was looking to buy something he could ride on trails. He had surgery to replace both his knees in 2018 and wants to bike to lose weight.
“I don’t like walking as much as I used to so I thought I would get back into biking,” Crossley said.
The supply chain was not only hampered by the pandemic when factories in Asia closed in February. New tariffs on goods produced in China, ordered by President Donald Trump, reduced imports by almost 25 percent in 2019 from the previous year.
There is now a scramble to meet the demand for bicycles, which retailers say may be a permanent newfound means of enjoyment for some first-time buyers.
“It’s definitely taken off around here. There are tons of bike paths. Any kind of riding you want you can do around here,” said Tim Roache, a sales representative at Union Cycle in Attleboro.