REI’s announcement last week that it would become the exclusive dealer for a German mountain bike brand owned by Accell Group of The Netherlands strengthened the hands of both companies as they seek to increase their shares of premium bike sales in the United States.

The companies announced Sept. 23 that REI will begin carrying Ghost bicycles at all 135 of its stores as well as at starting in January, 2015. Founded in 1993 in Bavaria, Ghost will be the third European bike brand Accell has introduced to North America since 2012 and the first bicycle brand outside its own Novara brand REI has committed to carrying at all its stores.

REI rarely rolls out a new brands to all its retail locations at once, preferring instead to test them at a limited number of pilot stores first. In any case, most premium bicycle brands would be prohibited by their existing dealer agreements from allowing a national retailer of REI’s scale to carry its bikes at all their locations.

Perhaps most importantly – and ominously for independent bike dealers – the news mark’s REI’s decision to reach into the $3,000 to $5,000 price range. Until now, the retailer has been content to stay below the $3,000 price point, which gave it plenty of room to service its core customers of young families, commuters and entry-level enthusiasts. But REI said it will carry the Ghost Kato FS 7E:I, with electronically controlled suspension, as well as models of the Ghost Riot featuring the award-winning Riot Link suspension. In Europe dealers are now offering the Kato F7E:I online for $3,000. The Riot line starts at  about $5,000.

Partnering with Ghost brand bicycles allows us to offer a premium, high-performance, award winning bicycle brand with full distribution across the United States, said Mike Cannon, REI merchandising manager for cycle. We are impressed with the level of detail, smart design and engineering GHOST brand bicycles bring to the industry. The line will also help round-out our bike assortment so REI can better support all levels of cycling.

The deal also marks a big win for Accell Group, which dramatically increased its focus on North America in 2012 with its acquisitions of Raleigh Cycle Ltd of the United Kingdom and Currie Technologies, a California company that has pioneered the sale of e-bikes in the United States. Since then, Accell has introduced its Lapierre and Hai Bikes brands to the United States. REI, meanwhile, has picked up Diamondback, a brand Raleigh owned and which Accell has been repositioning as a more upscale brand. REI is also selling Currie’s IZIP ebikes at some of its flagship stores in major cities. 

REI is the perfect retail partner to introduce a new premium European brand like Ghost stateside, said Chris Speyer, CEO of Accell North America/Ghost. As a specialty retailer that employs a dedicated bike staff including highly trained mechanics, REI has the ability to accurately convey the quality and technology of the brand and match consumers with a bike that best fits their ability and riding style.