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Online cycling retailer ProBikeKit set to close

ProBikeKit's owner THG has announced the shutting down of its lifestyle division, citing it as "lossmaking"...

The Kendal-based online cycling retailer ProBikeKit (PBK) is set to close, after THG announced the discontinuation of OnDemand, one of its major lifestyle divisions that PBK was a part of, and putting 180 jobs at risk.

The online retailer, which produces and sells cycling accessories, components, clothing, tyres, and tubes, was found in the early 1990s, and supplies road, mountain bike and cyclo-cross cycling kit in more than 80 countries.

In 2013, THG (formerly known as The Hut Group), the e-commerce conglomerate from Manchester acquired PBK as a part of its lifestyle division alongside brands like Myprotein and Myvitamins.

However, things seem to have to come to an end as Manchester Evening News reported that THG was shutting down the division, which also resulted in 180 jobs being put at risk in Greater Manchester.

A THG spokesperson said: “Following a strategic review of our OnDemand division, as announced in THG’s trading update of 17 January 2023, we can confirm that we are proposing to discontinue operations in the OnDemand division across all sites. We are currently consulting with impacted colleagues and will take steps to minimise the number of redundancies.

“We are also consulting with certain colleagues in THG Studios where, following the closure of OnDemand, we expect associated workflow to reduce proportionately. THG is committed to supporting all affected colleagues and, where possible, we will endeavour to find colleagues alternate roles within the wider THG Group.”

> Specialized slashes jobs in latest sign of cycle industry downturn

In January this year, THG had revealed that it was reviewing “lossmaking categories and territories within the THG OnDemand division”, as well as reflected the “proactive decision to discontinue a proportion of loss-making OnDemand sales”.

It said the move would increase its focus on its core beauty and nutrition e-commerce businesses. The review, as well as an internal reorganisation, had already seen the loss of 2,000 jobs during 2022, according to the Financial Times.

Chief executive Matthew Moulding had said: “With the completion of the divisional reorganisation, and around £100m of annual efficiency savings already delivered, the group enters 2023 with strong momentum to achieve substantial margin expansion.”

It was also noted that PBK’s website has a 70 per cent warehouse clearance sale currently ongoing.

Following the huge boost the cycling industry witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of brands and retailers are now seeing a slowing demand as the growth of public interest in cycling resumes back to normal.

> "Considerable softening of the cycling market": Halfords sales slow as supply chain disruption and inflation bite

Last year, we had reported that the world’s largest bicycle manufacturer Giant was facing falling demands and rising inventory levels, while Swedish helmet safety company MIPS suffered a “drastic slowdown in the bike sector”.

These came as a notable slump after the incredible boom during the pandemic, which saw retailers like Halfords and Wiggle make massive strides in their sales.

In February, the Bicycle Association observed the sales slowdown since the Covid bike boom in its annual report, with sales of bikes in the UK dropping to the lowest level in two decades.

The research suggested that mechanical bike sales fell by 22 per cent in 2022, down to 1.8 million units and 27 per cent below pre-Covid levels, and children's bike sales fell even further, to 700,000 units and 28 per cent below 2019 numbers.

The report's author John Worthington, who is also the Bike Association's head of insights, said he expects the year ahead to be "turbulent" and “challenging".

At the beginning of this year, another British women’s cycling clothing brand VeloVixen announced that it was entering liquidation, before being acquired by Stolen Goat's parent company The Herd Group Holdings.

> Women's Tour cancelled for 2023, organisers cite lack of financial backing

In the same month, the US bike brand Specialized also announced the decision to slash jobs, joining companies including Strava and Wahoo in laying off workers. It said that it was cutting around one in 12 jobs worldwide, with what it described as a “difficult” decision reflecting the headwinds the global cycling industry is facing.

This information came hours before Halfords, the UK’s biggest retailer of bicycles, said that the domestic cycling market had contracted by 20 per cent over the past year.

Specialized also announced the closing of its inclusive women’s cycle clothing brand Machines for Freedom in January, although it did not disclose the specific reasons behind this move.

Adwitiya joined in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.

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Rik Mayals unde... | 1 year ago

The big problem in the cycle industry is that the big online retailers are trying to outdo each other on price, blasting the arse out of the prices and making it more difficult for the local bike shop to compete. Many shops cannot buy the product at trade price for less than the big onliners are selling it at. Consumers may think this is great for them, but what happens if your local bike shop closes? Who fits the groupset that you bought online for a ridiculously cheap price if you are not able to fit it yourself? 


RDaneel replied to Rik Mayals underpants | 1 year ago
1 like

It does seem to have resulted in more mobile mechanics or workshop only style operations. Whether that is a good thing or not? I've certainly used a mobile mechanic to help build up my most recent bike having bought the frame and parts all online. 

mark1a replied to RDaneel | 1 year ago

Yes, my go-to LBS is now service only, carrying just a few consumables and spares, focussing on labour. They also will happily fit parts supplied by the customer. It seems to work well, people are paid for their skills & experience without relying on paper thin margins on components. The other flaw now in the traditional LBS model is that bike shops that sell bikes are expected to spend annually six-figure sums on bikes for stock or committed allocations, only to find that the distributor is dumping the same models eight months later via Wiggle, etc. for less than the LBS bought them for. 

Owd Big 'Ead | 1 year ago

Is anyone really surprised that the cycle industry is shrinking back to its usual status quo?
Covid was a once in a lifetime opportunity to expand active travel, but the reality is that the vast majority of new cyclists are now put off by the hugely increased aggression by the vehicle driving majority and have reverted back to car-ownership at the first opportunity.

Laz | 1 year ago
1 like

don't wait to support your favorite supplier, if they fail we all fail. keep it rolling

Awavey | 1 year ago
1 like

Velovixen have reopened btw, part of Stolen Goat now

Secret_squirrel | 1 year ago

Bummer I always found them as a good cheaper alternative to Wiggle/crc.

When I was groupset shopping I found mixing and matching using them was the best way to get a full set.

gb901 replied to Secret_squirrel | 1 year ago
1 like

Yes I always found them good value. Also never had any problems and delivery was very prompt. Even got partial refund when they further reduced a set of wheels I had very recently purchased from them.

Awavey replied to Secret_squirrel | 1 year ago

I never had an issues with them, though I think they tended to spam your contact details throughout their THG brands.

But I do know people often had problems returning items or getting things resolved with them, so I always bought from them with that in mind.

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