Real Gear for Real Women Riders?

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In the world of protective riding gear there’s long been a noticeable absence of both women’s riding apparel and gear aimed at scooterists. While the market has corrected this to a degree over the last few years, the offerings are pretty slim compared to the overall gear lineup.

When Arlene Battishill was looking to outfit a fledgling fleet of female scooterists for her mobile advertising company, she was struck right away at the dearth of gear. Sure there were jackets sized and cut for women, but she couldn’t find anything that really nailed a true female aesthetic.

“I was so shocked because I couldn’t find anything that I could put myself or any of these girls in,” Battishill says. So she started an earnest search for decent gear, and when that fell short, the former construction industry project manager decided to create it herself. While her first instinct was to create something that was highly visible, a few conversations with Jessica Prokup at the Motorcycle Industry Council made her realize that it also had to be armored and abrasion-resistant.

What she came up with is GoGo Gear, a highly styled line of protective apparel aimed at women scooterists and motorcycle riders. The line of riding jackets is the result of six months of R&D that Battishill says required her to figure out the style and fashion of the apparel first and then figure out how to engineer such safety features as CE-certified armor and abrasion-resistant fabric into the jackets.

“The reality is women will not wear it if it’s not cute,” she says. “We deal with that problem by giving them something they want to wear in the first place, with the added bonus of the safety features.”

The company’s website says that the gear “was designed by and for women who want the look and cut of fashionable coats that can be worn at work and out on the town, yet still offer the protective features of riding gear.”

Battishill took a unique approach to announcing the gear, opting for the grass-roots style of social network marketing through a very active Twitter account. The approach worked. As word of GoGo Gear spread around the Internet, her Twitter followers started pushing to get the apparel in their local stores. In late October, she brought her gear to a small store in Seattle following such a request and presold eight coats in 30 minutes, she says.

“It has been extraordinary because everyone who has looked at the coats, they’ve picked them up and said, ‘There’s no armor in this,’” Battishill says. “Then I poke them with the elbow and the shoulder [armor] and tell them to put it on and they go, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe it.’”

Battishill is confident that she’s happened into a very large and untapped market segment, by introducing gear that is attractive even to nonriders — nonriders who can eventually be sold on buying a motorcycle or a scooter as an “accessory to the coat.”

“This gives the retailer the opportunity to keep calling the customers. There’s always a way to get them back into the store and keep them buying because women want to buy,” she says. “They want to spend. They love to shop.”

To help on this end, Battishill is developing collateral marketing materials for dealers, such as a postcard that dealers give to customers listing all the things they need if they’re going to ride. She’s also putting together a video on how to sell to women and is looking forward to meeting dealers at Dealer Expo in February so she can explain firsthand how to capture the female customer.

Thus far, she says she’s not received any pushback on the price of the jackets, which have an MSRP that ranges from $199 to $389, depending on the fabric used. “The best part is we’re offering retailers between 40 and 70 percent mark-up, and everything delivering in January will be between 55 and 70 percent,” she adds.

For now Battishill says her company, Scooter Girls, will be selling the GoGo Gear dealer-direct, and she plans to have new styles for Spring and Fall of 2010.

“I think this type of product, whether it’s made by us or it’s made by anybody else, is the key to capturing the women’s market,” Battishill explains. “The bike really has to be the accessory to the coat. People laugh and giggle when I say that, but I know that this is the key. Put the girl in that coat and then say, ‘Let’s go look at the bike that goes with that coat.’”

This story originally appeared in the December 2009 issue of Dealernews.