Growing pains

The public appears to have enthusiastically embraced the slogan “The bicycle: the medicine of the future”. The clearest evidence of this new interest is an across-the-board increase in bicycle and bicycle component sales, highlighting how the pandemic has truly triggered a change in people’s modus vivendi, as they rediscover sport.

However, the spike in sales has led to a concomitant (and unexpected) increase in difficulties meeting customer demand quickly.

Enrico Gastaldello, CEO and Sales Manager of Wilier Triestina, explains: “We are obviously very happy with the surge in bicycle sales, which reflects a state of mind that we also share. But the unexpectedly strong increase caused difficulties that we’re still working to resolve today. Over the years, we had forecast a certain growth trend, and had adjusted our production and distribution structure accordingly. And while we did expect higher sales in 2020, the consequences of what happened and the sudden awareness that a change in lifestyle was the best response to the pandemic triggered a spike in demand that we were able to satisfy only in part, even paying the economic price of surprise and unpreparedness. This is because the exceptional pressure on raw materials and, consequently, on the production of bicycle components prevented us from responding rapidly to the surge in demand, which made it impossible to ensure a timely supply of our bicycles at points of sale.”

In this regard, Michele Gastaldello, CEO and production manager, offers an interesting point of view.

“You can’t compare the production cycle of a high-end bicycle with that of a standardised good. To avoid disappointing consumers’ expectations concerning our bicycles, our process must be constantly subjected to product checks and controls. This means that our times and methods are sustainable for a certain number of bicycles, taking into account an expected increase in demand based on historical trends.

Although the strong demand in 2020 (90% more orders than in 2019) is a reason for enthusiasm and satisfaction, it was a major shock to our supply and production processes. While sales jumped by 16%, we would have had to produce much more to meet all of the demand for our bicycles. But, like I said, with our level of control and specialization, it’s very difficult to exceed the production threshold that we had set at the beginning of the year.

Forecasts for 2021 suggest a further increase in demand and sales, and although we’re well aware of this and are ready to respond to it, we already know that many component manufacturers will not be able to send us what we need. They’re subject to the same tensions as we are, but theirs are much more difficult to rationalise and ease because they’re linked to limited raw materials. We expect 2021 to be just as busy as last year, but like in 2020, we know that we’ll be subject to very strict constraints because of the very high quality standards we’re required to meet. Still, we’re not lowering our goals for the number of bicycles we will sell, not least because our greatest desire is to satisfy fully everyone who wants a Wilier Triestina bicycle to become an important part of their way of living.”