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Schwinn was ready to celebrate its 125th anniversary with a marketing campaign featuring modern versions of such venerable models as the Sting-Ray, Varsity, Collegiate, and Paramount. However, the coronavirus pandemic occurred, which required offices of the Madison, Wisconsin-based company to close on March 13.
Suddenly, millions of Americans in lockdown started riding bikes for the first time in years or for the first time in their lives. There was a massive increase in bicycle sales, which almost equated to the scarcity of toilet paper and hand sanitizers.
According to the NPD Group, retail bike sales reached a high of 75% in March and April. Last June, sales reached 63% compared to the previous year, with $697 million. NPD analyst Dirk Sorensen said that cyclists “are now more willing to invest in the activity for the long haul.”
“We’ve gotten butts back on bikes and want to keep doing that,” mentioned Nando Zucchi, president of Pacific Cycle, a part of Montreal-based Dorel Industries, owner of Schwinn and several other brands of bicycles. Dorel’s second-quarter revenues increased 8.1% from the same period a year ago to $724 million from $670 million. The revenues 2020’s first half were flat at $1.3 billion.
Schwinn delayed releases of anniversary models such as the Sting-Ray and Varsity. The company enriched e-commerce sales with a new direct-to-consumer program, placed more promotional emphasis on families, new riders, and commuters and expanded its electric bikes and scooters line.
According to NPD, the U.S. bicycle industry showed total retail sales of $3.3 billion in 2019 and increased by 1% this year. Many small-scale builders of customized, handmade bikes, like Mosaic, Dean, Co-Motion, and Waterford/Gunnar, sell models for upwards of $20,000. The pandemic craze increased demand for city and commuter bikes. The emergence of cycling apparel and accessories is also prominent.
Schwinn’s almost 100 employees have been working remotely. While the updated classics’ launch dates are on hold, the new Sting-Ray is now in the Schwinn’s website ($370), Walmart, and other retail partners. The resurgence goes along with Schwinn’s strategy of leveraging its storied legacy.
“We’ve reviewed next year’s products with customers via Zoom… Instead of just doing a repop of a Sting-Ray because retro is cool, let’s reimagine what the Sting-Ray would look like in 2030.”Nando Zucchi