Note: The following article appears in the September issue. It is based on earlier online stories, which can be found by clicking on the link at the bottom of this story.
According to Tucker Rocky, its sales are down slightly for the first time in years as dealers order less, close shop or fall behind in their payments. But the distributor's marketing efforts are up. Its fill rates are holding steady. And attendance at its dealer show this past July was on par with last year's.
Tucker says about 1,000 people representing 500 dealerships attended the show. Vendor count was also comparable to last year: 150. Vendors picked up in the past six months included Baron Custom Accessories, Cycle Protect, Cyron (high-end LED lighting), Drop-Tail Trailers, DVS (skater shoes), Renthal, Royal Purple, Scorpion, Vertically Driven Products (UTV sound bar) and VonZipper.
Tucker holds its national sales meeting at the same venue during the two days before dealers arrive. This year the distributor allowed vendors to skip the sales meeting and exhibit only at the dealer show. About 60 vendors chose this option. As it did last year, Tucker also assisted dealers by reimbursing for some of their travel expenses if they ordered a certain dollar amount.
Another sign of the times was all the promotions taking place. Several vendors also were displaying products at lower price points, or similar items requiring fewer part numbers. Hiper, for example, is hoping to attract more nonracers with carbon fiber ATV wheels that retail for $109 to $145 instead of the usual $180. Swisher displayed plow blade extension kits that reduce the dealer's need to carry multiple sizes of plows.
Several companies bucked the trend by coming out with enhanced products. GoPro, for instance, will soon sell a high-definition version of its onboard camera that will retail for $299.99, a hundred bucks more than the GoPro Motorsports Hero Wide.
Turning to house brands, James Stewart was on hand to sign autographs after entering a three-year contract with Answer Racing last fall. Tucker's releasing its new street apparel on a staggered schedule: Speed and Strength last month, Firstgear this month, and RiverRoad in October. Picking up Scorpion helmets after parting ways with KBC, Tucker is waiting another season to debut Speed and Strength helmets, though at least one model is teased in advertising for other new items. Firstgear TPG jackets now come with d30 armor with "Intelligent Molecules" that flow freely under normal conditions (making the material soft, flexible and low-profile) but lock together in an impact, absorbing energy. A RiverRoad rep said 2008 was a record year for the brand, with the Vintage Collection being the most popular.
When asked about sales, vendors of maintenance items like oils, tires, chains, etc., often reported either very slight downturns or modest increases. A rep for EBC claimed the company's sales were up in the high single digits. Most vendors of nonessentials said sales were off significantly.