Slow sales? Get ’em in gear


This story originally appeared in the Dealernews Sept. 2010 issue.

Each year we do a special issue in September called Gear, which, as the name suggests, focuses on all the things a rider might put on his or her body, from head to toe.

We figure there are a million reasons why you’d want to know about the newest collections from the various brands and distributors. For instance, some of the judges looking over the 2009 Top 100 entries noted that many dealers reported a shift in the percentage of profits away from unit sales and into the apparel and accessories department.

Take Bill Cameron at Skagit Powersports. Our July profile on the Washington state dealership shows that for his income by department, PG&A sales went from 15.3 percent of total in 2007 to 22.9 percent in 2009. And, at KTM North America’s recent dealer meeting, the OEM reported that PG&A sales now account for about 25 percent of the company’s worldwide profit.

So it would appear that now more than ever, apparel and accessories sales are of growing importance. Yes, we understand that selling jackets, pants and helmets won’t supplant new unit sales, but when bikes aren’t moving and consumer financing is nil, what’s another way to boost the bottom line?

In preparing for this issue, I talked with Jennifer Robison, the Tucker Rocky national retail specialist who spends the bulk of her time inside dealerships explaining the finer points of merchandizing, display and presentation. The way she sees it, vehicle sales won’t pick up until consumer confidence returns — and this isn’t gonna happen anytime soon. This is why, she says, it’s imperative that dealers turn their focus to gear and accessories.

During our e-mail exchanges and phone conversations, Robison made an observation that really resonated with me: Dealers continue to use new units as their main dealership draw while the main competition — read: Internet retailers — are promoting the heck out of any new additions to a brand’s apparel lineup, new helmets, new boots, new jackets. Yes, this is an e-tailer’s bread and butter, but perhaps it’s something a brick-and-mortar could replicate.

Your customers might not be able to swing the purchase of that new dirtbike, ATV or cruiser you’re advertising in your e-newsletter, but they sure might be able to buy the new Icon Airframe helmet that Revzilla is pimping on its Facebook fan site. Make sense?

Robison suggests that dealers start by putting more people in accessories and parts sales, dedicate more space to P&A and offer training to increase product knowledge. Customers want new products and new technology, presented well and aptly explained. Don’t let the customer know more about the products than your employees, she explains. If your employees use the products you sell, let them tell their stories.

Also, know the categories and lifestyles of the types of customers you’re trying attract. Do you know what your touring riders, cruisers, commuters, track day fiends, off-road racers, ATV hunters, and female customers all want? Having that knowledge base in-house allows for a smarter purchasing decision when it’s time to make an order. Here are a few questions she suggests asking:

• Is it new and fresh?
• Who will use it and what will they use it for?
• How does it compare to similar or competitive products?
• How durable is the product and what kind of product support does the manufacturer offer?

When merchandizing apparel, why not grade it and present it as good, better and best? I’ve seen examples from Robison on how to display gear in this fashion and it makes a lot of sense. Put the best stuff on display, while shelving the good and better gear.

Finally, remember that customers come in all shapes, sizes, genders and ages. Make sure the inventory has a broad appeal. Pink only for the women? Black only for, well, everybody? Forget about it.

Dennis Johnson
Editor in Chief

2 Responses to “Slow sales? Get ’em in gear”

  1. Art Elting Says:

    You can lead a horse to water…….. Fortunately, MOST of our BMW riders
    are safety conscious and wear proper gear. Our scooter riders (Vespa, Piaggio), for the most part, think they can’t get hurt riding because they don’t go very fast. Very bad mistake!
    Unbelieveable the number of young (probably the problem) sport bike riders that have full face hemets and ride in shorts, sneakers and t-shirts.
    Usually have a very pretty passenger with even less on. Of course they’ll never go down!
    Cruiser riders of course need the soup bowl helmets, fingerless gloves, leather vests, etc. to look cool.
    We know many people who have had serious road rash and guaranteed if they do ride again they’ll wear proper gear. A year of skin grafts is not a walk in the park.
    John Wayne said “Life is tough, but it’s even tougher when you’re stupid”!

    Art Elting
    Country Rode Motowerks

  2. Dennis Johnson Says:


    Yeah, I’ve talked to someone who underwent a year or so of skin grafts. No fun at all. Wish everybody could see this aspect of riding.


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