Drowning in a sea of 'sameness'

Publish Date: 
May 23, 2013
By Eric Anderson

IS IT JUST ME, or are all motorcycle shops starting to look the same?

Maybe it’s because I visit so many of them, they are beginning to blend together in my brain, which is still to this day looking for differences.

I ride motorcycles because they’re different, so noticing any sort of retail sameness begins to worry me. Have architecture, technology, distribution and retail efficiencies reduced the shopping experience to a generic model repeated everywhere?

This isn’t whining, it’s simply noticing the Emperor is naked. This column started 20 years ago looking at powersports dealerships from the customer’s viewpoint — the person who pays retail prices in your store. It’s not about what you want — it’s about what we want.

After the recent economic shakeup, the surviving dealers seem to have minimized their superfluous creativity and maximized their fundamental strengths.

Understandable, indeed, but while you are pulling in the purse strings, don’t forget what got us motorcyclists here in the first place: Individuality!

The ooh-ahh factor seems disappointingly less when a Panigale is just one more machine added to the indoor parking lot.

We customers live on a street somewhere with neighbors who nickname us things like “Motorcycle Guy,” “Moto Mick” or “Harley Hal.” We earn those names because nobody else on the street rides a bike, ATV or UTV. We are unique individuals in our own small worlds and we are proud to be different. Standing out becomes part of the fabric of who we are. Walking into a cookie-cutter Starbucks, McDonalds or Target with our helmets in hand announces we are different.  

But now, more dealerships are subscribing to the same cookie-cutter recipe in their layouts and product offerings. Could the online shopping experience be more interactive, engaging, informative and individualized than the... um, generic brick-and-mortar dealerships of today? MIC statistics show more franchises now exist under fewer retail rooftops. The total number of outlets is down by a third, but the number of franchises remains level. You likely “inherited” a new brand or two in the past few years when one of your competitors bit the dust.

This all means there are more machines crammed into the same retail space you had in 2009, right? The showrooms of the past have evolved into crowded storerooms, overwhelming to anyone walking in the door. The sea of handlebars, roll cages and taillights is overpowering as more and more units get packed in. (Continued)