Dealer Expo 2010: Dainese looks to open D-Stores, expand U.S. dealer network

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For the first time since entering U.S. market a decade ago, Dainese is exhibiting at Dealer Expo. It’s sharing Booth 3619 with sister brand AGV. The company is looking for new dealers, especially those willing to open exclusive D-Stores in select cities.

But don’t let the combined booth space confuse you. Parts Unlimited is still the exclusive distributor of AGV helmets, which in prior years has had a booth within the distributor’s area. Parts reps will be on hand to take orders and answer questions.

Dainese continues to be dealer-direct. The company also owns two D-Stores of its own, one in Costa Mesa, Calif., the other in San Francisco (the largest in the world). There are about 160 Dainese dealers in the U.S., including a hundred Cycle Gear locations. The big retail chain carried the brand since it entered the U.S.

“This is a very important partnership, and it’s still working well,” says Roberto Sadowsky, VP of Operations for Dainese USA. Cycle Gear employees are well-trained at selling high-end gear, he adds.

Dainese hopes to replicate in the U.S and Canada the success it’s had with exclusive stores in Europe.

“Because the people are trained by us, they’re really skilled,” Sadowsky claims. As far as the typical apparel salesperson goes, he says, “It’s seldom that they’re really skilled and can sell you something. Because of our production, our quality, we are on a different level, so we also need a different level of sales.”

Dainese is proposing D-Stores to its dealers in several cities, with an emphasis on Chicago, Miami, New York, Seattle and Vancouver.

If you balk at investing in an entirely new store, Dainese also offers its “shop within a shop” concept. The company has several packages, but a dealer’s initial order must be at least $5,000, allowing the products and POP materials to take up a significant space in the store.

Dealer margins range from 35 percent to 40 percent, and Dainese has a strict advertising policy. Because of the relatively small number of dealers, the company is able to enforce the minimum advertised prices. “We have a very tight relationship with our dealers,” Sadowsky admits. “We don’t have the control on AGV yet,” he adds. “This is something that we are going start in 2010 on the price. This is a very important thing because we want to bring AGV to the same level as Dainese in terms of importance of brand.”

Due to Dainese’s made-to-order production plans, dealers also must pre-order by October a large percentage of their spring inventory. In Europe, for example, dealers pre-order 60 percent to 70 percent of their products, Sadowsky says.

Another advantage of stocking Dainese: The brand’s prestige could rub off onto the dealership’s own image, the company says.

Dainese’s overall U.S. sales were flat last year. Even though same-store sales were down, the company added 20 to 25 dealers. Only a few dealers went out of business.

Some of Dainese’s best dealers have strong e-commerce sites. “But it’s a different way of selling on the Internet,” Sadowsky warns. “They have a strong relationship with their consumers on the Internet. They also show videos about Dainese. They do product reviews. Some dealers open the jacket; they open the liner. They really disassemble the jacket to the show the quality. It’s a high-end sale.”

Look for Dainese advertising in consumer magazines. The company also continues to sponsor Valentino Rossi, Aaron Yates and Blake Young. Dainese continues to provide suits to the Kevin Schwantz Suzuki School, and is starting to sponsor Jason Pridmore’s START Motorcycle School.

R&D Focus. Earlier this year, Dainese announced that it was laying off 80 employees at its plant in Molvena, Italy, and moving production of some of its racing suits to Tunisia in North Africa. Production of competitive suits as well as custom suits remains in Italy. The company now employs roughly 400 people.

Dainese says the changes were made to keep a strong balance sheet and ensure money for research and development. The Tunisia plant had already been producing products for years. “Tunisia is Northern Africa, but it’s basically southern Europe because it’s like an hour-and-a-half flight from Italy,” Sadowsky says. “So it’s really close. Our people from Molvena fly there every time there is a need.”

Just a couple of weeks ago, the D-Store in Costa Mesa hosted the media to show off its 2010 products. New this year are modular Thorax protection systems made up of body panels that will reportedly disperse the energy of an impact. The lineup includes products for men and women.

New leather jackets include the Freddie Pelle and the Retro Pelle. A racing suit worn by Freddie Spencer inspired the former jacket. Both jackets have a “bubble liner” that reportedly does a better job at regulating temperatures.

A new AGV helmet is the T2, which is positioned below the top-of-the-line GP Tech and replaces the Ti Tech. Said to have improved ventilation, it comes in sizes XS-XXXL in a variety of solid colors and graphics. Giacomo Agostini, Angel Nieto and Barry Sheene replicas are also available. Other new products include a limited-edition “Donkey” Rossi GP Tech model, new Diesel half-helmets and AX-8 and MT-X off-road helmets worn by Travis Pastrana and Davi Millsaps.

Finally, after getting feedback from Rossi and other racers, Dainese has redesigned its “airbag system for motorcycles,” the D-Air racing suit. Whereas the inflation system used to be outside the suit as a sort of hump that the racer could take off, the system is now integrated into the suit. Dainese claims to have reduced the suit’s weight by 20 percent.

The D-Air could possibly go on sale in the United States some time in the next year, Sadowsky says. “It’s a very complicated project in terms of customer service,” he says, “because once you fall, you have to recharge it. We want to create the system in Europe and then export it here.” – Arlo Redwine