Gear up your core riders

Publish Date: 
Aug 26, 2012
By Mary Slepicka

YOUR AVERAGE 20-YEAR-OLD is not going to walk into your dealership and plunk down two hundred bucks for a motorcycle jacket. There. I said it.

The motorcycle industry, like many other retail sectors, has spent an inordinate amount of time worrying about what the millennials will do. Panel discussions. Presentations. Books. Blogs. Charts. All trying to answer these questions: Will they come into our store? Will they “Like” us on Facebook? Will they ride our motorcycles?

Wait — do they ride motorcycles? Do they have the money to even buy a motorcycle, much less all of the parts, gear and accessories that go along with motorcycle riding? I venture most of them do not. And if they do, they’re spending it on Apple products.

Most of the kids I know who are out of high school are either trying to make it through college or trying to find a job. If they have a job, it’s likely for low pay. They’re back living with their parents, or cohabitating with a bunch of other kids in well-worn rentals, sustaining themselves with beer, green tea and ramen noodles. (Ah, the salad days.)

Rod Stuckey, in our July issue, said that “the most likely person to do business with you in the future is a customer who has done business with you in the past. The second most likely person is someone in your market area who rides what you sell but doesn’t currently do business with you. The most unlikely sale you will ever make is to someone who doesn’t ride.”

In the September 2012 print edition of Dealernews, we present the annual GEAR issue, where we focus on the new designs, the new fashions and the new technologies that keep riders safe and comfortable. In this issue you will find a selection of the newest lines available from Firstgear, FLY, Cortech, Moose, Alpinestars and others. Veterans like Motonation’s Bill Berroth, Joe Rocket’s Steve Blakeney and Firstgear’s Greayer Clover chime in on our monthly industry roundtable on how form influences function.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg, because gear season is just getting underway.

What our editors have been witnessing over the last several weeks is a new surge of high-design in riding apparel and protective gear. New armored jeans (that actually look good on you) available for lower prices. Men’s and women’s jackets with drop-downs to cover your backside so you don’t imitate the refrigerator repairman while you’re rambling up Route 47. More comfortable helmets and hybrid designs for the adventure-tourer.

In all cases, it’s gear designed not to make non-riders look like riders, but to make real riders look even cooler than they already are.

This apparel renaissance forces dealers to raise the bar when it comes to customer service and merchandising. Sure, most “browsing” is now done online, but a full 70 percent of purchasing decisions is still made in the store. The difference between the price you charge and the lowest price online is the value of your in-store experience.

Dealers will have to spotlight these new designs, and they’ll have to consider buying extended color and size ranges, and using products as focal points, merchandising experts say. Sales personnel must become acquainted with the specific benefits of each product — what elements enhance rider safety and comfort, and what styles are best suited for a customer’s particular needs.

In short, think like an outfitter. And focus on your first and second most important customers (as Stuckey says), where most of your current and potential sales reside.

Then let your customers do your marketing for you. Because regardless of age, cool-looking, well-outfitted motorcyclists help get more people into your dealership.