Stuff Renews Focus on Dealers

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Visit the Motorcycle Stuff area (Booths 819 and 825) today and tomorrow and you'll find a new focus, a new attitude, and new product lines, says Tim Dodd, president of the national distributor.

Last year was a time of major change for the Cape Girardeau, Mo.-based distributor. Motorcycle Stuff is an operating unit of Global Motorsports Group (GMG), based in Morgan Hill, Calif. GMG also owns Custom Chrome, a large distributor of V-twin products, in addition to several other companies.

The changes started last year when New York-based investment group Stonington Partners sold GMG to Cerberus Capital Management, a private equity firm. The GMG/Cerberus team spent most of 2006 analyzing costs, streamlining operations, building up short inventories and rebuilding relationships with suppliers and dealers. Those moves could begin to bear fruit this year.

"With the change in ownership," says Dodd, "the focus changed from looking internally to looking externally. That's how we used to operate. If we were focused on our suppliers and our customers, our bankers would be happy."

One of the big moves last year was to consolidate the company's six warehouses into three.

"Now our cost structure is more in line with where we need to be," says Dodd.

To pick up slack, the company added FedEx as another small-package option for deliveries.

"Now, we effectively cover 95 percent of the United States in two days with FedEx and UPS," says Dodd.

Motorcycle Stuff also has done what Dodd calls "a complete portfolio revamp," dumping unprofitable product lines that were a tough sell for the company and its dealers, and replacing them with new lines reflected in the company's 2007 catalogs, available this weekend in Indy. New for 2007 is a large ATV catalog.

Another big change for this year, says Dodd, is that the company's fill rates are back to an industry-acceptable level, in the mid-to-high 90s.

"We have to be a reliable supplier for our dealers," says Dodd. "To do that, you have to have the inventory, and we've been working hard all year to do that. We're making good progress."

Motorcycle Stuff is actively recruiting to fill sales representative positions while it's here Dealer Expo. It needs to rebuild its staff, which has dwindled in recent years. Indeed, the company has a lot of telemarketers but it needs more face time with dealers.

"We know the market has changed," says Dodd, "and to take care of dealers we have to increase our road force."

Dealers also will see new digital ordering capabilities. The company is participating in the Powersports Standard Protocol (PSP) developed by the Motorcycle Industry Council, which lets dealers communicate with multiple suppliers through a single interface and their individual dealer management systems.

Motorcycle Stuff will be looking to recapture its former glory with a new attitude, new services and an upgraded product portfolio. It can't afford to mis-step.

"We effectively forced dealers and vendors to look at other distribution companies [in the past]," says Dodd. "Once Cerberus came in and provided operational help and funding, we were able to rebuild our supplier relations and improve our fill rates throughout the year.

"Now we're a reliable supplier, and our customers are coming back," he adds. "They're responding to us." — Joe Delmont