Best Buy is cruising into the electric mobility space with the announcement that it intends to sell e-bikes, scooters, and mopeds, both in stores and online. The retailer is collecting some of the best known names in lightweight electric vehicles, including Unagi, Bird, Segway-Ninebot, Super73, and Swft.
Customers interested in buying something right now can visit BestBuy.com to browse the company’s selection. And starting in October, 10 Best Buy stores in nine locations — Austin, Texas; Los Angeles; Miami; New York; Orlando, Florida; Puerto Rico; San Francisco; Seattle; and Tampa, Florida — will start carrying e-bikes and scooters in stock.
It’s a huge move by a major big-box store that should help steer more customers to e-bikes and scooters, especially as the pandemic has spurred a boom in sales. Best Buy clearly sees an opportunity to dominate the space, especially in a market saturated with similar-looking products with little to differentiate them aside from brand names and price. Amazon sells a variety of e-bikes and scooters, but it lacks a brick-and-mortar presence where customers can physically interact with the products.
The question is how Best Buy’s emergence as a bike and scooter retailer will affect bottlenecks in the supply chain. Bike shops across the country experienced record sales in the months that followed lockdown, with many selling out completely by the summer. Manufacturer warehouses also had large amounts of empty shelves. Year-over-year sales of bikes for the 12 months ending in April 2021 were up 57 percent, reaching $6.5 billion across both large-format and specialty retailers, according to NPD. Today, ordering an e-bike or scooter online typically translates to a 3–4 month wait for delivery, at best.
The question is how Best Buy’s emergence as a bike and scooter retailer will affect bottlenecks in the supply chain
Many bike and scooter companies, especially those that only deal in electric, sell their products directly to consumers, mostly through their own websites and often with a variety of added extras, like assembly instructions and accessories. Best Buy could allow customers to compare prices and products, especially if their product list grows longer and more diversified.
It remains to be seen whether Best Buy can establish itself as a trusted brand in the micromobility marketplace. Shipping e-bikes and scooters through the mail to customers is a fraught business, as VanMoof’s top executives recently admitted in an interview with The Verge. The Dutch brand has been plagued with delivery issues, with many customers reporting scuffs and damage on their bikes that occurred during shipping.
In addition, Best Buy is offering at-home assembly and fine-tuning for e-bikes through its Geek Squad mobile services for $99.99. Those services include adjusting brakes, seat heights, and handlebars. The arrival of e-bikes and scooters is just in time for Best Buy’s Labor Day sale, during which customers can save up to $300 on select e-transportation products, the company says.
“There’s been incredible innovation in the e-transportation space, and we know more customers are looking for ways to efficiently and sustainably commute,” said Frank Bedo, senior vice president at Best Buy, in a statement. “As we grow this selection, we look forward to helping customers find the right products to fit their needs and supporting them as they hit the road safely.”
To be sure, this is sure to put further pressure on local bike shops, which, before the pandemic, have been struggling to compete with low-cost offerings from Amazon. People who own local bike shops are often more knowledgeable about e-bikes and scooters than big-box employees. And they offer maintenance, tuning, and a variety of other services that stores like Best Buy typically do not.