Bike prices soar in Istanbul amid demand boom
Emre Eser - ISTANBUL
Once seen as an implement for exercise or a child’s gift for good grades, bicycles are now greatly in demand as a transportation conveyance due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to vendors.
At the same time, however, the surge in demand has also touched off a steep rise in prices, they say.
“I have seen the highest sales in my personal history as a shopkeeper in the last two months,” said Doğan Kılıç, who works at Istanbul’s famous bicycle market in the Saraçhane neighborhood of Fatih district.
“In past years, our high seasons were when children got their report cards. But since the pandemic erupted, we have been going through a huge boom,” he told daily Hürriyet.
“It’s hard to describe; the road was blocked because of customers parking on the street. There was no space in our shop until last week,” he added.
And as demand rapidly rose, so did prices.
Traditionally, the Saraçhane markets set prices every January, after which all shop owners adhere to a price consensus.
However, this year they hiked prices around 10 percent after mid-March, when the first coronavirus infection cases emerged in Turkey.
“The big sports stores nearly doubled all [bicycle] prices. Customers who come here to get parts regret [their purchase] when they realize that a bike is sold for almost 1,000 Turkish Liras [$145.6] cheaper here,” said Kılıç.
“Citizens should beware of opportunists. They shouldn’t buy bikes before checking the market prices.”Bicycle prices have risen between 20 to 80 percent compared with the same period last year. The average price of a bike designed for kids ranges between 400 ($58.2) and 800 liras ($116.5). For adults, a commuting bicycle costs around 4,000 liras ($582.6). A roadster, racer or trail bike can be 10 times more expensive than that.
At sports-goods retail stores, average bicycle prices are nearly 30 percent higher than those at the traditional market located on two sides of a busy underpass.
Many of the Saraçhane stores have run out of stock because thousands of them were shipped to European countries amid rising demand there, too, in the early days of the outbreak.
“With the pandemic, people now deem the bicycle as a transportation vehicle. It is being widely used particularly in the districts with a shoreline, or with many flat areas and parks,” according to Kılıç, who added that large, newly built housing estates also support the biking trend.
Many new bike users are women who buy them to stay fit, he added.
Yusuf Sülün, who has been a shopkeeper at the market for 30 years, said some families were buying three bicycles at a time.
“The biggest factor is that they don’t want to use public transportation anymore,” he said.Caner Doğan’s family has been in the bicycle business for 25 years.
“We have never seen anything like this. We’ve made sales that are four times higher than past peak times. We can’t meet the demand from the public. There are not enough bikes in the market,” said Doğan.
Mask exports hit $573 mln
Meanwhile, Turkey’s protective clothing and mask exports reached $573.4 million in the first half of this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Istanbul Apparel Exporters’ Association (İHKİB).
“We saw a record high year-on-year growth in the figure with 986 percent in January-June,” said Mustafa Gültepe, İHKİB’s head.
Turkish companies exported $144.7 million worth of masks and $428.7 worth of protective clothes in the first six months of this year, he said.
He underlined that the share of the sector in Turkey’s total readymade garment and clothing exports reached 8.2 percent.
Gültepe stressed that readymade garment and clothing exports surged 25 percent annually in June after a three-month decline.
Despite the rise in June, exports shrank 19.8 percent to $7 billion in a six-month period, he noted.
“There is a revival in the EU, our top export market, and we have seen a surge in new export orders,” he said.
“If we do not face the second wave [of the coronavirus], we could recover rapidly after September.””