Think riders just need riding gear? Think again

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The way I see it, motorcyclists are people first and enthusiasts second. So, when I started my Strokers Dallas empire 16 years ago and had to decide what “gear” to carry, I opted to stock things that would sell to most folks, not just motorcycle folks.

Most motorcycle shops mainly stock leather jackets, riding jackets, helmets, chaps, gloves — all that stuff. But what about everything else a person needs? I have told my staff many times that I’ll sell pencils, doughnuts or bath soap if I thought I could sell enough to make a good profit. To be successful, we have to operate outside the lines. A successful shop owner needs to think: What do riders need besides what I’m selling here? (The answer? They need everything that non-riders need!)

Did ya’ll get that? A motorcycle rider is a person who has the same needs that all people have. With that in mind, I try to stock things that you wouldn’t normally find at the other motorcycle shops in town. We sell Converse Chuck Taylor shoes. I carry the different/unique designs that even the shoe stores don’t carry. Plus we sell socks to go with the shoes.

Not into Converse? How about flip-flops? Everybody has at least a couple of pair of flip-flops, right? I sell tie-dyed flip-flops with my name on them, and they make us a good margin. That’s what I mean about thinking outside the box. Do most motorcycle shops sell shoes, socks, or flip-flops?

Another popular item: jeans. I carry a unique line called “My F’n Jeans.” They aren’t your typical Levis. They are vintage-style jeans covered with cool patches featuring the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, Betty Boop and so on. They fit perfectly with the theme of my shop while also giving us another profit center that most shops don’t have.

Try to look at the “normal” gear items you carry in a different way, too. What does your T-shirt selection look like? Are you selling a bunch of typical shirts with boring logos on them? Who wants a closet full of those? We try to sell stuff that our customers want to wear all the time. People like to have shirts as souvenirs, especially if it has the name of the shop and city on the back. I put my name on every dang thing I can. I also make sure that we carry a large selection of designs and styles. Lots of guys like shirts with pinup girls on them, so I stock several pinup girl shirts. But some guys like shirts with our bikes on them, too, so I make a line of shirts with our custom bikes on them.

I always have more than 20 styles in stock. Change your designs often and make it so customers want to buy every new design you come out with. If you don’t have a cool logo or design, get one. I’m known for my logo and my tie-dye style. What are you known for?

GEAR FOR ALL SEASONS
You should change your gear with the seasons, but I always try to stock stuff for all seasons. As I write this, it’s mid-August and we are in the midst of a heat wave. We have had 40 straight days of 100 degrees or more. But today we just received our latest shipment of hoodies and sweat shirts. We sell them year-round, especially when the weather cools down a little. Gloves are also a good mover. We have many different styles to choose from. We’ll sell about 100 pairs a month, even in the summer. Women’s and kids’ clothes also sell really well. The ladies love to shop, and we even have women’s apparel for the “Ride after the ride!”

Along with apparel, I have a custom leather guy who makes some cool, one-off accessories for us to sell — like belts, watchbands, and cuffs. He’ll come out on busy weekends and set up his work table right in front of the counter so the customers can watch him do his custom leather work.

Another huge seller for us is sunglasses. Everybody buys sunglasses, not just bikers. We stock many different designs and price ranges of sunglasses. I sell an average of 300 pairs a month which represents a net profit of more than $3,000 a month — that’s just in stinking sunglasses.

Do you sell shot glasses? We sell the piss out of shot glasses. They make great souvenirs, and lots of people collect them. Our shot glasses always have my logo on them. We sell tons of Koozies too, for cans and longneck bottles. They all have my logo on them, too.

Texas is not a helmet-law state, but we sell more than 200 hundred helmets a month. The key is that I have more than 500 helmets in stock, and we get in new helmets every week. In order to sell a lot of something you have to have a good healthy stock and selection for the customer to choose from.

Think outside of your comfort zone, but be careful about stocking real high-end, pricey, trendy stuff. If you order too much and it doesn’t sell, your goose is cooked. Don’t be afraid to load up on a variety of inventory. That’s how you’ll separate yourself from the others and make your money. Oh, but please avoid using tie-dye, that’s my gig!

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews September 2011 issue.