COLUMBUS, Ohio — Stuart Hunter is the founder and CEO of the Roll Bicycle Company, a Columbus-based shop. He said like other business owners, he was worried about the effects of COVID-19.
“We were quite afraid for what that meant for our trade and took the precautions to close our stores at the time,” said Hunter.
Luckily for him, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine did deem bicycle shops an essential business, and so did Ohioans.
“What none of us anticipated was how as people began to stay home and shelter at home. They were looking for opportunities to spend time as a family for health and wellness and exercise," said Hunter. "And so very quickly it became clear to us that we had a role to play in supporting the community.”
But this quickly became a challenge.
“With such demand, people forget the supply chain was interrupted before we saw the health effects in the U.S., so supply has really been a challenge in the last four to six weeks."
The increase in bike sales dates back to March. According to market research company N.P.D, nationwide bike sales, equipment and repair services almost doubled compared to the same time last year. Roll’s Chief Operating Officer Ryan Hughes said the group is just starting to catch back up.
“We’ve seen a lot of that scarcity start to relax with some of our major suppliers coming back into bikes. We’ve got a large stack of bikes in the back getting wait to be built and customers to be called,” said Hughes.
And in facing this surge of demand and the pandemic itself, Hunter said the company has come up with new ways to make sure they keep rolling.
“It was a period of great innovation for us but it forced us to adapt in ways that we hadn’t anticipated would be long term parts of our business.”