Arai, Shoei Unveil Models, but How Are High-End Sales?

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Opener[1]The embargo on Arai’s new RX-Q street helmet ends today, and I’m thrilled to see the Dealernews.com article on it comes up No. 2 in a Google search. (Click here to read it.) The folks at Arai stopped by our office a couple of weeks ago to give us a presentation, and left us with information and images. They didn’t donate samples because they only had a few, including a size medium straight from Japan. I tried it on, and (surprise, surprise) it felt great. Qualitywise, this will be another winner hitting the market in late December or early January and retailing for roughly $675.

Does the price sound kinda high? Arai says it’s positioning the RX-Q between the Profile and Corsair-V. In fact, the company is marketing the model as a Corsair-V for the street. I think the helmet is a knockout, but how eager are dealers right now to stock this price point? Tucker Rocky president Steve Johnson told me this past summer that sales of high-end brands are suffering the most. He even mentioned Arai as an example.

Then again, Arai’s timing may not be as bad as it seems. I just heard on TV that the recession is technically over due to the rise in GDP. And although unemployment will remain high for a while, people who haven’t lost their jobs should feel more confident they won’t — and may start spending again.

Arai isn’t the only helmet maker with new high-end helmets. Shoei has introduced two, its sport-touring RF-1100 and its racing-intended X-Twelve. (Click here for an overview of the former.)

In case of the RF-1100, I attended a press event at a restaurant in Malibu, Calif. Shoei handed out test samples from a van. By the time I went for mine, however, all size smalls were gone. I took a medium. After my ride back home, I was asked to write a brief review for our sister publication, sportbike magazine 2Wheel Tuner. In my excitement, I wrote that the RF-1100 was the most comfortable, most ventilated helmet I’d ever worn. I regret that I failed to mention I haven’t tested many helmets.

I also should have learned by now never to use superlatives. Don’t get me wrong, for my 50-mile ride home, the RF-1100 was extremely comfortable and ventilated and (for a helmet) quiet. And it looks beautiful. But today I honestly can’t say that the RF-1100 is better than the only two other high-end helmets I’ve tested: a five-year-old Arai Signet GTR and the Bell Star. The latter is likely even more ventilated because it’s a racing helmet. Racing helmets, I’ve heard, tend to be more ventilated but noisier.

To be honest with you, I haven’t even worn the RF-1100 since my trip back from the restaurant. After trying it on at my desk again, I realized that I may actually need a size small. Then a colleague allowed me to try on his small X-Twelve, and it seemed even more likely.

My Arai Signet GTR is a medium, but I was never able to try on a small because it was just a leftover sample in the office. So I’m not 100 percent sure on it, either.

My best-fitting helmet, with no play at all, is the racing-intended Bell Star, which is an extra-small! When I was given that helmet, I was able to try on a full size run.

Even so, my favorite helmet remains the Arai because of less noise and ventilation. Again, sport-touring vs. racing. If I had a small RF-1100, it would probably become my favorite due to its being brand-new instead of five years old, and due to its being Snell M2010-approved instead of M2005-approved (a subject for another time).

But why do I give you such a detailed description of my personal experience with high-end helmets? If I were to contrive a business-related takeaway, it would be the importance of fit and sizing. A customer in a perfectly fitting $150 helmet is much better off than one in a poorly fitting Arai or Shoei. The goal, of course, isn’t to convert riders to perfectly fitting $150 helmets; it is to get as many customers properly fitted for that high-end helmet with its fat margin.

In my experience with sample helmets from Arai and Shoei, I wasn’t able to try on the next size down. The price was right (free), but I’m compromising my safety if I’m wearing a medium when I should be in a small.

This should never be the case in a motorcycle dealership. You must always stock a full size run for each model. Now, I imagine most stores aren’t capable of stocking a full size run in every color and graphic. But that just means you must train employees to emphasize your capability to special order. At least one of Arai’s distributors, Tucker Rocky, I believe will drop-ship directly to the customer for a nominal charge.

Without drop-shipping, it is true that customers might have to wait a little longer than if he or she just went home and ordered online. So you may even want to knock another 5 percent off the price as compensation.

Customers buying a new unit often need a helmet immediately. If you don’t have the preferred color or graphic in that high-end helmet, you may want to give away your margin (plus some) on a $150 helmet to get them by until the special order comes in. Maybe this is a stupid idea (Arai, for example, tells me that an Arai is usually a rider’s third or fourth helmet, not his first), but my point is to give these things thought.

Interestingly, Arai tells me that it’s thinking about creating fitting kiosks for in-store display. Each kiosk would hold a wide selection of liners and cheekpads. What a great idea for emphasizing the importance of in-store fitting.

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One Response to “Arai, Shoei Unveil Models, but How Are High-End Sales?”

  1. Thoughts on Arai Helmets high-end sales Says:

    […] on Arai Helmets high-end sales March 10th, 2010 Arai Helmets Leave a comment Go to comments DealerNewsBlog has some thoughts on the state of Arai helmets high-end sales numbers. They really like the Arai RX-Q helmet, saying “Arai says it’s positioning the RX-Q between […]

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