Distributor Update: Racer Turns Distributor

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Editor's note: Dealernews regularly reports on the large distributors, but there are dozens of smaller wholesalers across the country. With this article, we begin to take a closer look at these businesses.

GARY RICCI BEGAN RACING sportbikes 20 years ago. Cash-strapped, he acted as his own mechanic. As he ascended from regional racing in the Pacific Northwest, to West Coast nationals, to his own professional AMA team in 1996 (eventually hanging up his track boots to manage only), he continued to be hands-on mechanically, developing relationships with vendors like Bardahl, Galfer and Vortex, whose products he helped develop. Just a couple of years after entering the professional circuit, Ricci began to distribute for a few of them. About four years ago he left racing altogether to concentrate on Ricci Motorsports Inc., his small wholesale business in Woodenville, Wash.

Ironically, Ricci's steady source of income today is a direct result of all those precarious years of wildly chasing the checkered flag. "All my relationships pretty much started from my road racing experience," he tells Dealernews.

Ricci Motorsports at first targeted only the western side of Washington, then the whole state, then Oregon as well. The distributor also began selling nationwide to dealers interested in its exclusive products and proprietary R-Tech racing fuels. The winning motorcycle at the Daytona 200 has used R-Tech for the past two seasons.

Ricci (pronounced ree-see) offers 18,000 items from 18 vendors, including those mentioned earlier as well as Attack Performance, Competition Werkes, DuraBlue, Factory Pro, Motorex, Performance Friction, Puig, RK Chain, Xena and others. Ricci tries to offer each vendor's full line. The distributor has about 120 regular customers. Most of these dealers rarely pay shipping charges because Ricci Motorsports delivers via two vans. Nationwide, Ricci pays for ground shipping for orders of $300 or more in the continental U.S., excluding oils, fuels and chemicals. Ricci claims 98 percent of orders are hand-delivered or shipped by the next business day.

Major distributors now offer many of Ricci's products. But most of these vendors were with Ricci first, so they've stuck with him. Dealers continue to do business with him, he says, for the following reasons: his strong relationships with the vendors (meaning faster answers), sooner availability of new products or applications ("We can get products in the stream a lot faster than the larger distributors") and competitive pricing.

Vendors, many of which are nearby, also benefit. When the folks at Competition Werkes, for example, had trouble obtaining a new motorcycle model for R&D, Ricci says he used his dealer connections to get it. "It helps them get their product out earlier," he notes.

The ATV aftermarket is a relatively new market for Ricci. His company is the exclusive source for nerf bars, bumpers and grab rails made by Pro-Wheel Racing Components, which is only 45 minutes away. "I'm up there weekly to visit with them an go over products," Ricci says.

Sales to dealers increased 30 percent last year, Ricci says. And they were up about 12 percent YTD in late June. "I'm pretty excited about that," he says, "especially with what's going on nowadays."

RICCI REVAMPS

Sales growth led Ricci to rethink his business operations. Earlier this year, he added to his team of four. He hired a public relations manager, an Oregon rep and a tech guru to build and manage a new Web site, which is now live at www.riccimotorsports.com. The site displays products, pricing and inventory levels, and allows dealers to order online.

The distributor also came out with his first spiral-bound catalog in July. The 100-page book contains all the products Ricci offers.

Finally, Ricci Motorsports has been added to the price file databases of both ADP Lightspeed and MIC Systems. Dealers who use these systems can call the providers for price files and updates.

All these technological upgrades come along after 10 years of being — in Ricci's words — "sort-of archaic." He's obviously glad to be offering more modern services to his customers.

"Dealers had always been bugging me: 'Gary, when are you going to have a Web site? Gary, when are you going to have a catalog? We'd buy so much more from you if we knew everything you had!'"