Growing vendor sales is a matter of having sales reps focus on the right brands and making sure that vendors are treated like customers. If you lose vendors, you can see it in your numbers the next day.
What changes have occurred in the distribution channel?
The Internet has made purchasing direct from the manufacturer easier. But at the end of the day, the demise of the distributor has been greatly exaggerated. At the end of the day, dealers need branded products. They need to be able to get their product efficiently from one source. The whole concept of going direct [manufacturer to dealer] is very hard and not very efficient.
Dealers have to focus on their customers, and the value that distributors bring to the industry is huge. It takes the complexity out of the supply chain for dealers.
I’m bullish for the future of distributors. It’s a good business, and it’s a needed business. It’s a service dealers will require way into the future. It’s not just products; it’s training, it’s education. In many ways, it’s like consulting for dealers. We bring services to both dealers and manufacturers.
Are there cases where the manufacturer-to-dealer model can work?
Having an independent manufacturer sell to 10,000 dealers is very difficult. We’ve had many try to do this, and come back and realize the value of training and being able to deliver the next day. It’s a real value to the manufacturer and the dealer. It can be absolutely right for the right product, a niche product.
Do you see distributors continuing to develop, source and sell their own branded products?
In certain segments you will continue to see that migration, of trying to brand-build. There are big categories where our core competency is not manufacturing. I don’t see trying to build brands and competing with companies like [Yoshimura or Cobra Engineering]. It’s so far away from our core competency.
Clothing is an area where distributors must look at building their own brands. Obviously we’ve got a fairly rich portfolio — River Road, Speed & Strength (pictured), Answer, MSR, Firstgear and so forth. We’ve got wonderful brands in BikeMaster and QuadBoss.
For the most part, higher volume consumable products, whether it’s batteries, chains or small tools, [products] that are relatively easy to engineer and easy to source, you’ll continue to see distributors look at products like that.
But whether it’s a niche product or a performance product, like performance exhaust, or high-end helmets like Arai, there is so much technology in products like that; you’re better off letting experts focus on products like that.
Will you be associated with Tucker Rocky when you retire next March?
My plan is to stay involved with LDI Ltd. and Tucker. LDI wants me to be available as a consultant.
I’ve built a lot of great relationships over the years at Tucker Rocky and in the industry. There’s no way that I would walk away from that. You’ll still see me around at Indy.
You don’t sound like you’re burned out.
I absolutely love the industry. I had a passion for the industry long before I ever heard of Tucker Rocky. I was a “soccer mom with a motorcycle”; my kids had dirt bikes and we used to ride as a family. We took great rides when I had more time. Once we road 8,700 miles and visited most of the national parks west of Texas.