Gear and apparel: By the numbers

Publish Date: 
Aug 28, 2013
By Beth Dolgner

NO ONE WANTS to be left standing with a lot of odd leftover gear: Boots that would only fit a giant and jackets in colors that match a brand you don’t even sell.

You can minimize the amount of gear and apparel that winds up on the clearance rack by ordering the right combination of sizes, variety and quantity.

The bad news: There is no one formula for perfect ordering. Every dealer will have a different combination that works best for them. The good news: Figuring out that combination is less mystical than some might think; it comes down to the direct reflection of both your customers and your showroom floor.

Knowing what variety of sizes to order is a matter of knowing your customers, so keep track of the sizes that sell the most and order accordingly. Typically, the popular sizes for men will be large and above, while women tend to fit small to large. Each dealer’s ideal sizing spread can even vary based on subsets within the customer base, so what works in motocross apparel might be different from the appropriate sizes in cruiser apparel.

“You can’t stock five of each size. Weigh it in favor of who your average consumer is,” says Steve Jones, senior projects manager of Gart Sutton & Associates Inc. “Are they larger, smaller, younger, older? We’re seeing more of the better dealers hiring people who have experience in clothing stores because of their expertise in the types of customers in the market area and their expertise in displays and fitting the customer.”

Kristen Kunzman, assistant general manager at Skip Fordyce Harley-Davidson in Riverside, Calif., has handled ordering for 14 years. And here’s what she’s found: A waist never lies. Belt sales are the best determining factor when it comes to sizing. “[Belt sales] will tell you a lot about what size your customers are,” she says. “Belt sizes go one size up from what pants size they are wearing. In women’s belts, the biggest selling size for me is large, so I know my most popular size in women’s clothing is medium. A waist says so much about sizing.”

Running reports of what has sold in the past can go a long way toward knowing what sizes to order, but Rod Stuckey, founder and president of Dealership University and Powersports Marketing, suggests also tracking what you don’t sell. “You can generate a report of lost sales to provide a perspective to find out if you’re missing sales to women or of 3XL because you don’t have enough,” he says.

Noting each time a customer asks for something specific that you don’t carry can show whether there is a real demand for something that should be stocked in the future. (Continued)