Archive for the ‘Powersports’ Category

Feeding the buzz

October 27, 2011

It’s been a day since it was announced that Steve Jobs died and it’s hard to ignore the avalanche of accolades and odes to the Apple man appearing across the interwebs.

As was referenced in this space back in the June 2011 issue of Dealernews, I’m a diehard Apple acolyte, and I happen to agree with nearly everything that’s been written about Jobs and his impact on Life as We Know It. If you boiled down the many and various ways our lives intricately intertwine with technology, you’d end up with Jobs and his vision of what could be — which more than anything were dreams writ large by a man of unmatched vision.

Here was a guy with a drive to create products that excite people and worm their way into the everyday existence of their users. He took a once-floundering company and turned it into a cultural flashpoint.

So here we are, forever swirling around the bowl of the powersports market’s endless flushing. All this twirling around can leave a person dizzy and discombobulated: Dare we keep our eyes raised high to the light or cast down into the abyss? I choose to keep my sights set upward and onward. Never mind the glass half full, I’m looking at the toilet half flushed. We’re not down yet.

And we won’t be down. Motorcycles are way too fun to go away. Yes, it would be great for a moto-Jobs to come along and raise the entire industry out of the stink, but that’s not likely. And maybe not necessary.

Look around, there are two-wheel visionaries hard at work among us. Dreams are being wrought into reality everyday.

Take Roland Sands. For my money, he’s one of the most forward-looking and creative individuals working in the aftermarket. His eponymous company continues to devise, design and build products that quite simply are like nothing else out there — from their custom bikes to the new

Clarity Line of hard parts (see-through timing cover, anyone?) to its just-released lineup of high-end and stylish apparel. RSD seems to exist on a different plane.

And then there’s Tom Seymour and his team at Saddlemen, where nobody ever seems to sleep.

How else to explain the company’s release of 100 new seats for Harley-Davidson and metric applications? There’s also an expansive amount of new luggage and luggage accessories aimed at the popular touring market. A new overseas factory owned and managed directly by Saddlemen. Nobody at Saddlemen is hunkering down waiting for blue skies.

How about Brian Klock and his team at Klock Werks? Not only is the crew from South Dakota breaking records at Bonneville, it continues to design and develop new products and come up with killer retail solutions to help dealers sell said product. I had a good conversation with Klock at the recent Drag Specialties Rocky Mountain Run about his windshields, parts and dealer programs such as the “Try It Before You Buy It” demo ride offering. Seriously, contact these guys. Not only will Klock knock you down with his enthusiasm and good grace, you might even get a personal visit from one of the Klock Werks’ crew members.

Chris Carter and Motion Pro continually produce new gadgets, tools and equipment to help ease motorcycle operation and maintenance. Cobra Engineering. Icon. Spidi. Drayko. GoPro. Klim.

All have something to keep we riders enthusiastic about being enthusiasts.

And check out Victory Motorcycles, Ducati and Triumph. These OEMs, and a couple others, continue to build some of the best bikes in the history of motorcycling — that is until the next round of new models comes around.

It would be impossible to discuss forward-thinkers without mentioning Erik Buell. H-D? Who needs ‘em. Buell is well into the next chapter in his life and it involves a motorcycle that is as impressive looking in person as it is on paper. Saw and touched the 1190RS up close, and it was one of those moments where I thought, “Should I be getting this excited about a motorcycle?”

So while the industry has yet to find its singular Jobs, it has dozens — if not more — of inspiring innovators who keep us buzzing along on the strength of their creativity. Much like with Apple and its striving for something ever more cool, the world of motorcycling’s never ending search for better continues to astound. Onward and upward.

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

Let’s make the safety pitch

August 29, 2011

This space has been filled more than a few times with my take on motorcycle safety gear and apparel — why it should be worn, why it could be smart business for dealers to sell the heck out of it, and why the industry as a whole should be more aggressive in promoting its use.

Yes, training is absolutely paramount, too, but protective gear is something I feel very strongly about personally, and it’s an aspect of riding that intimately involves powersports dealers. It seems to me it’s one-third of the trifecta — unit sales, service, and PG&A — that makes up much of the business relationship between a dealer and its customer.

There are tons of reasons why a rider should wear ATGATT and why it should be promoted, and we’ve heard from dealers like Bob Henig, owner of Bob’s BMW, whose store atmosphere revolves around strongly suggesting that customers wear all the kit — not because it’s legally required, but because it’s the smart thing to do.

Yes, I can sound a little preachy, but quite simply, I’m a safety geek. Motorcycle riding is inherently risky and can result in death or severe injuries, and for me it’s all about managing that risk. Suiting up each time is second nature, so much so that I feel naked if I’m not in full kit.
And then I received in the mail a package from Phil Davy at Leatt USA (see our “Five Questions” interview with Davy on pg. 12). Inside the box was Leatt’s new STX Road neck brace, the street-rider version of the company’s successful lineup of neck braces developed and built for off-road riders.

With some interest, I’ve watched as neck braces have become a fairly common part of motocross and off-road racing and riding. (An interesting phenomenon yes, but remember the days before knee braces became the norm?) But I never made the connection to the street until Leatt announced the STX at Dealer Expo.

Upon inspecting the STX I was struck by just how much it looked like safety gear. The armor in a riding jacket is pretty well-hidden, Kevlar jeans are mostly discreet and helmets are just helmets. But this, it looked absolutely orthopedic and a bit awkward. In adjusting the STX for fitment, I was concerned it would be bulky and strange to wear.

I was wrong. After it’s dialed in and properly fitted, the STX just kind of disappears, and can barely be felt while being worn. In fact, there’s almost a comforting feel to having it snugged up against me. It quickly has become a standard part of my riding gear, even for spins around town.
Although it’s comfortable, the Leatt makes me hyper-aware that I’m wearing a protective brace to guard against neck injuries in the case of a crash. Putting on the neck brace before each ride has made me even more keenly aware of protective riding gear — mainly how little of it many riders wear. It’s summertime, so you know the drill; shorts, T-shirts, tennis shoes, no helmets. In noticing all of this it has me thinking about what the industry as a whole can do to get more people suited up.

Perhaps these are wasted thoughts, that those of a mind to protect themselves will do so, while the rest won’t. But I can’t help but think it’s a good thing for our industry if there was a concerted effort to promote protective gear.

Pushing safety gear doesn’t scare people away. Indeed, Davy says that “injured, maimed and dead motorcyclists do more to chase away new customers than any safety pitch.” We all should keep this in mind.

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

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews September 2011 issue. 

The skinny on PSN’s SocialLink app

August 22, 2011

You may have heard a little whisper from PowerSports Network recently about an app that it deems the “missing link” in making your Web initiatives a little easier to manage.

It’s called SocialLink (promo video above), and it acts as a bridge between PSN-powered websites and dealer Facebook pages. With SocialLink, says PSN national sales manager Dave Valentine, dealers can have their website inventory automatically fed into their Facebook page in real-time, without having to take any additional steps. The app also allows fans to sign up for store email blasts.

“It’s simple to use,” Valentine says. “We do almost all of the work for the dealers.”

PSN subscribers need only click on a button that says “send to Facebook” when they’re uploading their inventory. The action will lead to a window where you can edit text and schedule the Facebook post to go live immediately or set a date for the future. Dealers also can schedule up to three “Featured Units” per day to show up on their Facebook pages. Facebook fans are able to view photos, review prices and Like or Comment on individual units.

“We’d like dealers to use this tool as more of a social thing, for example asking customers, ‘What do you think of this bike?’ rather than just using it as a sales tool,” Valentine says. “If they just did sales, it would turn off their uses.” PSN also plans to add social event posting capabilities in the near future.

The SocialLink add-on tool is $49 per month. Since it’s August 1 launch, more than 100 dealers have started using the tool, including Buddy Stubbs Harley-Davidson in Phoenix, a store that incorporates both of its branches into one Facebook page.

For more information, contact PSN at 800-556-0314.

The next customer boom

April 1, 2011

At the time of this writing, oil prices were uncomfortably hovering a hair above $100 a barrel, and premium gas on the West Coast had settled in at about $4 a gallon.

The ongoing conflict in the Middle East (isn’t that redundant at this point?) assuredly means that these prices would likely go up before they’d go down, or so says the analysts.

In fact, federal energy officials say there’s a 25 percent chance those gas prices will average $4 a gallon or more throughout the summer driving season.

Smells a bit like 2008, the last time oil prices were this high. Another flashback moment? How about some of the news headlines starting to pop up across the Internet. This one could have been ripped straight from a 2008 newspaper: “As Gas Prices Rise, So Do Scooter Sales.”

If you’ll remember, scooter sales that year jumped 66 percent the first half of 2008 and eventually settled in at 41 percent higher than 2007. Many OEMs had to play catch-up to meet the demand of all the new two-wheeler commuters. It wasn’t uncommon to hear that dealers just plain sold out of certain models.

That was the year many first-time riders got a taste of two-wheels. Piaggio alone reported that its sales were up about 75 percent the first quarter of 2008. Former CEO Paolo Timoni would later report that many of these new riders had no interest in riding motorcycles, that they were fine on their Vespas and Piaggios.

Of course, with every boom there is a bust, and we all know what happened after the scooter market crashed. One could make a good guess that there’s a metric boatload of noncurrent scooters — from all OEMs, even the new Asian entries — sitting in storage waiting for gas prices to drive people back out of their cars and onto the seats of those waiting machines.

Well, it’s been a long strange two years since the oil and gas spike and attendant scooter rush, but here’s something to think about: If you were one of those dealers who catered to that huge bloom of new riders, what did you do to keep them coming back into your store? Did you convert them into regular customers or did they travel back out the door they came in, and back into their cars after gas prices dropped down to partially ridiculous levels?

So, if the analysts are correct and gas prices continue to inflict pain on most drivers at the pump, there’s a good chance many of those folks will make the switch to two wheels. And not just scooters. High gas prices could likely get people out on motorcycles as well. (It’s odd wishing for high gas prices, isn’t it?)

The question is, if sales do take a jump and more people start riding, are you prepared to service those new customers? What will you do — this time — to keep them coming back into your store? And how do you reach out to potential customers to let them know you’ve got something that can help ease their petrol pain?

It’s conventional wisdom that getting new customers through the front door is one of the most difficult tasks of running a business. Now, with gas prices giving them a little nudge, it’s your chance to welcome them into the powersports family.
Let us know if you were one of those dealers who converted those 2008 scooter riders into loyal customers. Also, drop us a line if you’re cooking up plans to win over the next group of new riders. Send your comments to editors@dealernews.com.

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

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews May 2011 issue.

We are a giving bunch

February 1, 2011

Growing up in the South Bay area of Los Angeles, I lived across and down the street from a bar that was a hangout for a well-known motorcycle club.

It was the kind of place where a midnight brawl meant that my friends and I could go out the next morning and find billiard balls in the gutter opposite the bar. Cops kept close tabs on the joint, if I remember rightly, and it was always jumping on the weekends.

We mostly avoided the place, but as it is with things dark and dangerous, there always was a strong urge to poke around and maybe peek inside during the safety of daylight. Motorcycles. Bad dudes. Fighting. What boy wouldn’t want to check it out?

Once a year, on the marquee outside there was an incongruous message alongside the dates of Top Jimmy and the Rhythm Pigs’ next appearance. It read something like “annual toy drive” or some such, and it always seemed odd (to my juvenile mind) that a rough-and-tumble place like this would have anything to do with toys.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that the toy drive this motorcycle club held every year around Christmas was reflective of something quite common to the motorcycling world as a whole. Sure, the club existed on the fringe of the general two-wheeled brotherhood, but its members were doing the same thing many other riders were doing everywhere — giving and supporting their communities.

Motorcycles and other powersports activities attract a wide range of personalities, but there is one trait that seems to be almost universal, and that is, as a whole, we are a very giving bunch. Toy drives. Charity runs. Supporting veterans groups. Fund-raising events at dealerships. There are countless small events all over the country raising money for local organizations and groups. And then there are the biggies, the mega-events known far and wide — Oliver Shokouh’s Love Ride for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The Ride for Kids events benefitting the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.

In 2009 alone, the Ride for Kids activities nationwide raised $4.4 million for the nonprofit focused on finding the cause and cure for childhood brain tumors. Some of the top fund-raisers contributing to that amount were held by powersports dealers. Nielsen Enterprises in Lake Villa, Ill., landed the top business spot with a contribution of $126,857. Bob Henig, owner of Bob’s BMW in Jessup, Md., personally raised $59,012. Not a bad haul for either one.

When motorcyclists come together to give back to their surrounding communities, stuff gets done.
Take this month’s cover dealer, J&W Cycles, a Top 100 dealer for 20 years straight located in Washington, Mo. Owners (and brothers) Bob and Jimmy Jones not only serve on several local boards, they’re also behind a popular motocross race held each year and the local Town and Country Fair. Bob is also president of the chamber of commerce and Jimmy serves on the board at MMI, and the dealership supports several local charitable organizations.

The Jones brothers’ commitment to community even earned the dealership the Top 100 Best Community Involvement Initiative award in 2007. Reading over the list of activities and groups they support leaves one wondering how they have time to run a top-notch dealership, let alone get any sleep.

Examples of giving and charitable work can be found at all levels across the spectrum — from the bad-boy motorcycle clubs of my youth to the outpouring of local support offered by the Joneses, owners of a 34-year-old dealership.

So what’s the motivation? Hard to say or even guess, but it likely falls somewhere between laying the groundwork for good karma and pure altruism.

One thing for certain, the Jones brothers’ commitment to community has earned them and their dealership an esteemed spot in their local area and a loyal customer base, which is a pretty good payoff for simply doing good deeds.

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

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews February 2011 issue.

Joe Rocket Dry Tech Nano gear long-term test: A year of of all-weather riding

January 19, 2011

by Trevor Trumbo, former Advanstar group marketing director, Powersports and Veterinary divisions

It’s difficult to find good riding gear that you can live with day in and day out all year long. But this 2010 offering from Joe Rocket may be the only set of gear you need to buy. I’ve been wearing the Dry Tech Nano jacket and pants for more than a year, and I have put both pieces to the test. Consider this background on my riding:

A motorcycle is my only mode of transportation in California. I commute to work five days a week on my motorcycle. The total round trip distance is 54 miles. I take day/overnight trips around California every weekend on the motorcycle and consistently log 300-plus miles. Each week I ride between 500 and 800 miles.

The jacket and pants have held up to harsh commuting conditions consisting of highway riding at 70-plus mph through heat, cold, and rain. I’ve had other jackets and pants that show fraying edges after a few months of riding. The Joe Rocket set looks almost new (except for the dirt and grime, see pic below) and I can confidently report that the stitching and seams remain in excellent condition. Both jacket and pants have multiple highly reflective panels that do a great job of making sure you’re seen when riding at night or in low-light conditions.

The jacket and pants provide plenty of ventilation during the summer, when many riders either wear a mesh jacket or don’t wear a jacket at all. The Dry Tech Nano jacket flows enough air to keep you cool in all conditions, except 100-plus degrees and sitting still. I wear the jacket all 12 months of the year. When the weather begins to cool down, you can zip in the removable liner and be comfortable down to about 20 degrees (that’s the coldest temperature I’ve ridden in). Colder than that and you’ll want heated gear anyway. The pants feature a removable liner that you only need in the coldest of conditions.

I was most impressed with the ability of the jacket and pants to keep me warm and dry, even in torrential downpours. I can tell you that I don’t miss pulling over on the side of the road and trying to change into rain gear at the first sign of a storm and then having to change out again. The Joe Rocket gear lets me keep on riding without worrying about the weather. The pants feature full-length waterproof zippers up the legs making them easy to get into and out of. The Nano web material used, according to Joe Rocket, was originally developed as an air filtration system. No matter, it certainly works as advertised and is 100 percent waterproof and dries very quickly.

The jacket is adjustable for a variety of rider sizes with elastic/button adjusters on the sleeves and Velcro straps around the waist. And with adjustable CE-rated armor, you can get the right fit whether you are wearing layers or just need some additional room after stuffing yourself at the buffet. The pants have Velcro adjusters at the waist to ensure a tight fit as well as removable suspender straps.

Overall, this is a great set of riding gear whether you’re motorcycle adventure takes you to work and back or across the country. The Joe Rocket Dry Tech Nano is an affordable option to semi-custom touring suits of similar quality.

 

Remembering why we ride

November 1, 2010

It was hell getting out of Queens and out of the city. Packed traffic on the Cross Island Parkway up and over the Throgs Neck Bridge. Accidents on the 95 heading to the George Washington Bridge. All lanes just limping along. Sitting in the jam on a superheated idling V-twin, no lane-splitting relief in sight.

Over the bridge and into New Jersey and it was hot. Not a lot of traffic, but a long list of highway changes in my travel plans. The effects of the red-eye flight were now clearly being felt, not a good thing given this was my first time on two wheels in this pocket of the Northeast. A handful of wrong turns and route changes, and things were finally smoothing out.

The city quickly fell away to country. Green ruled the color palette. The front wheel aimed north on the 87 — a straight shot (more or less) the rest of the way, and any tension that had built up during the first few hours into the journey evaporated into the ether. The only goal now was Lake George in upstate New York for the Drag Specialties Adirondack Run.

I’d been invited by LeMans to attend the annual dealer/distributor ride and jumped at the chance. The day-to-day slog of trade magazine work involves a lot of sitting, reading and editing. It means staring at a computer for hours at a time and transcribing taped interviews. It means juggling story budgets and weekly editorial meetings and lots of run-around tasks only tangentially related. It’s long bouts of grinding it out punctuated by short bursts of adrenaline.

In other words, magazine work is lot like many other jobs. So when given the chance, I happily snag the perks that come in the form of new bike intros and organized press rides or, in this instance, the fifth annual installment of the ride organized by Drag Specialties. Turns out I wasn’t the only one eager to step out of the office for a little two-wheel therapy.

Jim Matchette, Drag’s national sales manager, says the run was launched not only as a way to bring together its dealers, vendors and sales employees, but also as a chance to ride motorcycles in great locations. “That’s why we all got into the business in the first place,” Matchette said.

And boy, did they get it right this time. Two major loops featuring hundreds of miles of woodsy, twisty blacktop, all of it winding through upstate’s sheer natural beauty. The trees were just starting to turn, so the greens ran into reds into yellows. One trip went to Lake Placid, home of the 1980 Winter Olympics, the other up and around Lake Sacandaga to a lunch stop at the picturesque Jimbo’s Club on Brant Lake.

On one of the loops, I had the chance to ride with Jim Bannon and Buck Shelton, owner and service manager, respectively, of Mavrix Motorsports, a Honda Powerhouse dealership in Middletown, N.Y. Also in our group were their superstar Drag rep, Rick Pence, and one other LeMans employee whose name now escapes me. Good dudes all around. We took a wrong turn at one point that — like all good wrong turns — led to a miles-long lakeside road filled with banked turns and fast bits of two-lane.

Two days of riding through some of the best scenery this country has to offer. Nearly 400 miles of not thinking about a computer or a deadline or a desk or a meeting. Nothing but the steady drone of the road and wind one hears inside a helmet. Trees and turns and lakes and rain and road and acceleration. It was constant locomotion punctuated by leisure and cocktails and conversation.

After it was over, on the ride downstate into the city, the obvious smacked me upside the helmet. Matchette was absolutely right about actually taking the time to get out and ride, to get out and enjoy why most of us got into this business to begin with — riding motorcycles.

I’m not too sure about everybody else, but it’s pretty easy to get wrapped up in the workaday minutiae of our careers, even when working in this great industry, and put our passions on the backburner. So I wonder, how often do you get out and ride? How about your employees? Let us know at
editors@dealernews.com.

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews November 2010 issue.

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

Slow sales? Get ’em in gear

September 1, 2010

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
dennis.johnson@dealernews.com

New “Adventure” bike from Triumph? Oh, you tease.

July 7, 2010

UPDATE II: The official word from Triumph is here! Click on dealernews.com for the full scoop.

Editors note: <— That always sounds so pretentious, let’s try something different. UPDATE: The URL appears to now be working.

So, over at the official Triumph YouTube site, there’s this:

The small teaser includes information that the OEM is working on two different models:

Let the adventure begin! We’re working on two brand new models that we know the adventurers among you are going to love. Our website is now live so sign up for more information at http://www.triumphadventure.com

Tried checking out the www.triumphadventure.com URL, but it doesn’t appear to be loading. I did find out that the site is registered to Triumph Motorcycles, Hinckley, and was created on June 9, 2010. Otherwise, not much more info than that. Hell For Leather is reporting that the models will be shown at EICMA this year, as well as some other tidbits about the bikes. Let the teasing and leaking begin.