Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Economy Claims Races, Retail

I am a special advisor here in Columbus for the Tour Of Grandview road race. In the past, a local auto dealership has been the primary sponsor of the event...the largest cycling race in the state of Ohio. Put on by people who ask for NO PAY at all, an entirely volunteer staff from the Chamber Of Commerce puts on the event. Even with the lack of overhead, and the low/no cost to vendors who wish to come out for the expo, the cash to pay riders is still a struggle. This year is no exception. Despite the 7% increase in Black Friday spending (a joke, and foolish, wishfull spending on our parts) the economy still blows and the race may not have it's primary budget sponsor for 2009 to cover rider payouts. This race is in better shape already than the one of the nation's leading road racing events, the Tour Of Georgia.

Georgia had to drop their premier road race because of state-wide budget cuts, and lack of sponsorship dollars from the bike industry. It's such a catch-22. The bike industry won't sponsor their own events, but then cry that their dollars are down and don't have the money. Crazy. The NMBS series is dead for a LOT of reasons, but cashflow is certainly one of them...although it was dead long before the economic collapse, and NOT for financial reasons. Events aren't the only one's getting pinched. Retail is struggling too, and smaller shops are falling first. Like the restaurant business, it's hard to stay afloat in bikes with just one location.

Here in Columbus, a local Trek/7 Cycles dealer is already done (A Gear Higher), and many are closing nationwide. These folks often stay open using non-existant money via home-equity lines of credit. Bad idea, especially now. If you borrowed against your home when homes were OVER valued by a lot, that means you borrowed against not only your home, but also a value for your home that no longer exists. Switchback Cyclery in Orange, CA is closing it's doors after ten years. Thankfully they did NOT borrow against their home to save a dying store. They get to walk away and still have a place to sleep at night. Have we already forgotten that just a month ago, gasoline prices were at 5 dollars a gallon? Just because the cost for fuel has dropped, doesn't mean we should forget all the lofty bike commuting goals we set during the pinch. A local TREK store in Columbus actually bought a MONSTER TRUCK to push it's agenda of cycling, fuel efficiency, saving the planet and "going green." I'm not sure I understand how that fits in the store's marketing plan, but I also don't know how they get people to text when just calling someone is so much faster.

Are we looking at a ten year economic meltdown? If so, don't bicycles and their low cost of maintenance/high health benefits make more sense? As workplace benefits drop, the ride into work would greatly reduce your need for a heart transplant from your two-bucket of KFC per day habit at lunch. The oil changes and brake jobs would be replaced by chain lube ($5) and an innertube ($6), and the chain lube bottle would last longer than 3,000 miles. Rather than supporting the HUMMER and FORD EXCURSION soccer-mom-buses, let's support a sustainable mode of transport that makes everyone better human beings...ok, except that one roadie guy you just can't stand...there is no WAY you'll ever make that guy human.


At 8:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Devore Bicycles on Cleveland Ave. is also a victim of tough times. I also feel that the area around the store no longer includes the demographic for which the store was opened. The poor owner now has to go to work for another LBS just to live.

At 6:34 AM, Blogger Tookie said...

Well it looks like we can still get our bikes from wal-mart, they posted a 3% plus in sales from BLACK FRIDAY. This is what we got to look forward to... HUFFY 30#hardtail for only $149.00 with disc. brakes.


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