Pedal to the metal: How bikes turned the fortunes of our first family of flight

The contrast between Matt Turner’s 99 Bikes and his father’s Flight Centre business could not be starker.

Feb 19, 2021, updated Feb 19, 2021
Graham "Scroo'' Turner and his son and 99 Bikes chief executive Matt Turner

Graham "Scroo'' Turner and his son and 99 Bikes chief executive Matt Turner

Matt’s business is booming. Profit has doubled in the past year as Australians look for alternatives to public transport and try out a new recreation using the extra spare cash.

Over at Graham “Scroo’’ Turner’s Flight Centre business has never been worse as the pandemic devastates its business globally and the company has been forced to lay off thousands of staff.

“It’s not just the best and worst (of times), it’s the extremes of both,’’ Matt said.

“We talk more about bikes than travel, put it that way.’’

If there is any silver lining in the Flight Centre balance sheet, it’s that they took a 50 per cent stake in 99 Bikes more than a decade ago.

Profit at 99 Bikes has doubled along with sales in the past year and it is continuing its expansion while it has added more than 400 staff in the past year or so.

“Overall, financially it has been incredibly successful for us, mostly because of increased demand,’’ he said.

“Supply has been a challenge but it’s a much better challenge than having low demand. It’s a profitable problem to have.

“The past 12 months we have been roughly doing double the sales of the 12 months prior.’’

“Demand will come off a bit. I think it will be higher than pre-pandemic and supply will catch up, but it’s hard to know when.

“We are always chasing our tails on hot products, but supply will catch up over the next three to four years.’’

Turner kicked off the business in Milton in 2007. The unusual name comes from that store which could only fit 99 bikes.

Now, it has 51 stores across Australia and last year bought five stores in New Zealand.

While the pandemic has put a rocket under sales it has crippled the supply chain.

“There are very long lead times. Where we would normally order four to six months ahead we are now placing orders 12 to 18 months ahead,’’ he said

“It means there is a fair bit of risk. We do have to be realistic that we are going to get it wrong by over ordering or under ordering.’’

E-bikes have generated their own demand for commuting and recreation and mountain bikes have also been popular.

Not that 99 Bikes needs to generate any more demand, but the company has started a sponsorship scheme for 15 people to give up their usual commute and try an e-bike instead.


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