Archive for October 4th, 2010

Retailing Questions Continue for Powersports

October 4, 2010

Wells Fargo Consumer Conference

There wasn’t much to excite investors at the recent two-day consumer conference held by Wells Fargo Securities, according to a report issued by the company last week. The conference was held Sept. 29-30 in New York, but there were not many powersports companies among the 64 firm that gave presentations to the analysts. Perhaps the best known powersports participants were Arctic Cat and Brunswick. Other related companies included International Speedway Corp., Penske Automotive, Tractor Supply, Marine Products, and U.S. Auto Parts Network.

Several trends ran through the presentations, according to reports compiled by attending analysts. These include: A continuing major shift to online marketing in a number of forms; personalized marketing is growing, using the Internet and social media to drive sales at online and bricks and mortar sites; increased sourcing costs which could put pressure on margins even though many companies are operating in a more efficient manner, and holiday inventories seem to be in good shape.

“Powersports retail sales visibility likely will be clouded until the beginning of seasonal sales in March,”  Senior analyst Tim Conder wrote in his conference summary report. Near-term price movements of powersports stocks most likely will be tied to general economic activities, he wrote. In his conclusion about the leisure segment, Conder says he likes certain toy companies, followed by cruise lines and powersports companies. Not a real strong recommendation.

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Gear ethics 101

October 4, 2010

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews October 2010 issue.

As part of our ongoing coverage of the importance of selling gear — for you and your customers — we asked you to submit comments on how you deal with selling riding apparel and safety equipment. We wanted to know if you bring up the possibility of crashing when discussing gear. We asked if selling customers on good riding apparel was the ethical thing to do or just good business. True, you can’t demand customers protect themselves, but it just seems to be good common sense that they do.

We didn’t get an avalanche of responses, but those that did come in were well-thought-out. Two stood out, one from Art Elting, the owner of Country Rode Motowerks, a BMW/Euro store in Rochester, N.Y. The other came from Bob Henig of Bob’s BMW in Jessup, Md. Hmm, both Beemer stores. A coincidence you think?

Elting’s response is good because of its smart-alecky (smart-alecky always wins for me) nature and offers up why certain riders wear what they wear. Scooter riders (he’s also a Vespa/Piaggio dealer) seem to think they can’t get hurt because they don’t go fast. “Very bad mistake,” he says. Sportbike riders in full-face helmets with shorts and T-shirts? Unbelievable. And cruiser riders in soup bowl helmets, fingerless gloves and leather vests. Have to look the part, right? Wrong. BMW riders? Most wear gear. Most. The way he sees it, you can lead a horse to water, but. … You know the rest.

“We know many people who have had serious road rash, and [it’s] guaranteed, if they do ride again, they’ll wear proper gear. A year of skin grafts is not a walk in the park,” he says.
Henig’s response was more his overall take on wearing gear and the atmosphere he fosters in his dealership. “I firmly believe several things — that as dealers we are responsible for setting the right example for our customers, our employees and the general motorcycle population as well as those who don’t ride but see us out riding.” As such, he requires his entire staff to suit up head-to-toe if they’re on a dealership-owned bike. Techs must wear a jacket, boots, a helmet, gloves and a high-visibility vest on test rides. Service advisers must wear helmet and gloves when riding a customer’s bike around the building. Customers who demo bikes are required to be in head-to-toe gear at all times. Henig maintains a full size range of demo gear (boots are coming soon) in men’s and women’s sizes, and he allows customers to test ride gear off the rack. To press the point, he shares stories from other customers about how the gear he sold them helped save their skin, their bones and sometimes their lives.

“My staff is required to strongly suggest that while wearing all this stuff is not legally required, it is the smart thing to do,” he says. “We don’t need to be pushy, but we do need to be sure we educate them [about gear] and [tell them] that maybe their friends are not watching out for their best interests if they still wear jeans and T-shirts while riding today’s motorcycles.”

Did I choose these two examples because they meshed with my beliefs? Absolutely. I’ll never understand why some people dress the way they do when they ride. Should they have the freedom to do so? Yes. But they’ve also got the freedom to hit themselves in the head with a hammer or eat glass. Should they be forced to suit up by law? Probably not.

I suppose my question is why wouldn’t they? I’ve seen the aftermath of bad accidents as have most people who have been around powersports long enough, and it’s pretty ugly. Riding is inherently dangerous and gear won’t save everyone, but it’s all about minimizing the risk. So to the T-shirts-and-shorts-clad duo I saw riding two-up on the 405, I just have to ask why? If they don’t think of themselves, don’t they have families and loved ones to think of? I know this is a question that I will never get answered, but it’s one I’ll always be asking.

How do you sell gear? Let us know.

Dennis Johnson
Editor in Chief
dennis.johnson@dealernews.com