Accell Group reported strong European demand for high-end sports and e-bikes that fueled its growth in the third quarter, but the trend was largely absent in the United States, where Raleigh continues to reposition itself as a premium brand and e-bikes remain a modest business.

Accell Group, which is based in the Netherlands, only releases detailed financial results at the end of the second and fourth quarters, but in a two-page third-quarter update CEO Rene Takens said European demand for the company’s high end sports bikes and e-bikes helped lift sales and profits above year-ago levels.

Accell Group's sales continued to grow in virtually all countries where it operates largely due to healthy sales of the company’s German (Ghost, Haibike, Winora) and French brands (Lapierre). The growth was due in part to a higher mix of electric bikes and higher-end sports bike sales in in Europe. The trend continued into October and Takens said the company entered the fourth quarter with a higher inventory of more expensive bicycles than a year ago to take advantage of it.

“In the Alpine countries in particular, we are seeing strong growth in the sales of performance e-mountain bikes,” Takens said. “Accell Group is trendsetter and market leader in this special category of electric bikes, which are sold under the brands HaiBike, Lapierre and Ghost. Based on these developments, we are expecting a growth in sales and profit for the full year 2015.”

Sales in both bicycles and bicycle parts and accessories was higher than in the same period of 2014.

E-bike sales also grew in the United States, where Accell North America (ANA) distributes such models from Lapierre, HaiBike and Raleigh as well IZIP and eFLOW made by its California subsidiary Currie Technologies Inc.

ANA also distributes Diamondback bicycles to both big-box and specialty retailers and oversees REI's exclusive agreement to distribute Ghost mountain bikes in the United States. 

Raleigh has been struggling to expand its distribution since 2013 when ANA pulled the brand out of mass merchant accounts in a bid to position it as a more upscale brand distributed through the independent bicycle dealers. The decision was the primary contributor to a 9-percent drop in ANA sales last year.

“The new positioning of the Raleigh bicycle brand in the United States has so far only had a modest
impact on turnover, but the initial response has been positive,” Takens said. “The market for electric bikes in the United States is growing but remains modest.”

While e-bike brands have struggled to sign up independent bicycle
dealers, Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) began offering some IFLOW models at
some of its flagship stores in recent years. REI will continue to carry  its existing selection of e-bikes as well as Ghost and Diamondback in 2016, a company spokesperson told The B.O.S.S. Report Thursday.

As reported by The B.O.S.S. Report in July, Accell reported that a decline in Raleigh sales to independent bicycle dealers dragged down sales growth at ANA in the first half of 2015. It did not provide specific North American figures in the third-quarter update.

Looking ahead, officials predicted that increased global sales of more expensive electric and sports bikes will boost both organic sales and net profits in the second half of 2015, compared with the same period last year. Based in Heerenveen, the Netherlands, Accell Group reported sales of €882 million in 2014.

–Charlie Lunan