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A Look At The Helmet Market

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AA_1[dropcap]L[/dropcap]ooking for some easy money? With a little product knowledge and some basic sales techniques, you can transform an underperforming section of your dealership into the leading profit center that it should be! The margin is better, the floorspace requirements are minimal compared to unit sales and the buy in is a lot less… so why aren’t you cashing in?

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AA_7According to the experts we spoke to, helmets are still the leading aftermarket product in the motorcycle industry with more than 2 million sold each year. Although there appears to be too many players — before the bottom dropped out in 2008, there were more than 50 brands selling helmets in the U.S. — there is still a way to turn a healthy profit selling a premium product. Helmet House and Shoei believe so strongly in this fact they even have offered dealers a comprehensive tutorial program for the better part of a decade!

But wait, there’s more! The price of success in the helmet market is free! At least for dealers who graduate from Shoei University. Unlike the controversial Trump University, Shoei U is free to powersports professionals willing to invest 30 minutes of their time into the future of their dealership. Registration is painless and the two courses are insightful, informative and designed so even a know-it-all magazine editor can learn something.

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Hosted by Rich Oliver, 5-Time AMA National Champion and the winningest 250GP class rider ever, the presentations are well done and scientifically calculated to facilitate learning (see sidebar). Although designed specifically for Shoei, the basics of helmet construction and the critical differences between a cheap novelty beanie and a premium helmet is good information for any industry professional.

Why Quality Costs More

Oliver says that over those years of racing he learned there are two things you never compromise on: performance and safety. “Sure, you could save a few bucks and get a cheaper helmet, but isn’t your head worth the very best? There can be no compromises when it comes to the helmet riders trust with their life and why Shoei is that helmet.”

Shoei has been in the helmet business since 1959 and in that time, helmet technology has steadily advanced. Shoei puts its experience to work every day while never losing sight of its goal to produce the highest quality and safest motorcycle helmets on the market. “While other helmet companies may spring up where cheap labor can be found, every Shoei created since our inception has been made by hand in Shoei’s own two factories in Japan. Shoei does not outsource production,” says Moichi Tsuzuki, President Shoei Safety Helmet.

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The most critical aspect of a helmet is shell construction. There are two basic types of shells: FRP (Fiber Reinforced Plastic) and Standard ABS plastic. ABS is used for less expensive helmet shells because it is much cheaper to produce due to inception molded construction. FRP shells are much more expensive to produce because they are constructed entirely by hand and made of multiple proprietary fiber types. FRP shells offer the lowest weight and the highest impact absorption possible.

Shoei makes two different configurations: for helmets with DOT certification, they utilize AIM (Advanced Integrated Matrix) construction. For helmets that are DOT and SNELL certified, they utilize AIM+ construction that includes special fibers selected for resistance to penetration. Since shell molds are incredibly expensive to produce, and up to five shell sizes are typically created for each helmet style, it helps to have a computer modeling program.

Handmade mock-ups are created, developed and tested in Shoei’s own in-house wind tunnel (which ensure low levels of lift and drag). Simultaneously, special sensors in the head form test sound levels enabling engineers to fine-tune the helmet to create the quietest ride possible. Once the helmet design has been tested in both the wind tunnel and on the track, a mold is created so that actual production can begin.

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The starting point is layers of material and a vial of resin. The fiber materials are weighed and hand-laid into position in every individual mold. This is where Shoei employees’ experience and craftsmanship are so critical to safety. If a single piece of material is misplaced by even a fraction of an inch, the shell could be too thick or too thin in critical areas. The resin is then poured in, and an inflatable bag is inserted into the shell mold. The bag is inflated and the resin is heated to ensure complete penetration through all the layers of fiber.

The shell is popped out of the mold, carefully inspected and then ventilation and eye ports are cut with the help of lasers and robots. “This is the most automated portion of the Shoei process,” says Tsuzuki. “Everything else is essentially done by hand.” Then it is re-inspected to ensure the cuts were made properly and the thickness across the entire surface is verified by a micrometer and human hands.

The painting process starts with two coats of primer… applied by hand. The primer is sanded down and inspected (again by hand), then a coat of paint is applied by hand and sealed with a clear coat. If it is a graphic model, the helmet is marked for decal transcription. Although the finished product may look hand painted, most graphics are actually water decals. The decals are carefully applied — by a skilled and patient Shoei employee. It is extremely easy to rip or stretch the decals so Shoei insists on the hands-on approach. Then it is time for the final clear-coat and another inspection. All told, this labor intensive process means each Shoei helmet usually takes 7 full days to make!

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What’s Inside Counts, Too

The majority of the impact resistance and absorption duties are handled by the EPS liner inside the shell. EPS stands for Expanded Poly Styrene, the same material found in a styrofoam coffee cup. Small round balls of polystyrene are expanded and then bound together in a mold. “Shoei actually creates several sizes of EPS liners to ensure a better fit,” Tsuzuki adds. “Shoei conducted research measuring thousands of heads around the world, which proved people in different regions need different shapes of EPS liners. This is one of the reasons why it is important for customers to purchase a helmet made for their specific market, rather than getting a smoking deal on eBay from somewhere else.

Shoei helmets utilize two-piece EPS designs in its Dual and Semi-Dual liners. There are two reasons for this approach: 1) the two-piece design enables Shoei to utilize a dual-density EPS with a softer portion in the inside that “gives” much more easily; while a denser EPS closer to the shell provides a second layer of protection to help prevent catastrophic injuries. “You will notice less expensive helmets often utilize very stiff EPS because the shells of these helmets are more flimsy and flexible, the EPS must be made stiffer to compensate. This often prevents the EPS from ‘crushing’ properly.” Unless the EPS is able to crush, the helmet does little more than spread the impact across a wider area of the head rather and absorbing the impact energy properly.

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The second big reason for a two-piece EPS liner is for ventilation. “The secret to Shoei’s advanced ventilation is our worldwide patent on the dual layer EPS system,” he adds. U-shaped channels between the two laters allow cooling and drying air to flow freely through the helmet instead of just where vents are cut into the shell, as is the case with a traditional 1-piece EPS liner.

Speaking of liners, safety is why riders wear helmets in the first place, but comfort is what keeps them wearing a helmet. “Our 3-D comfort liner technology and five-layer cheek pads are unique even in the premium helmet category.” The data derived from Shoei’s worldwide “head mapping” research is used to develop the 3-D comfort liners formed in shapes to perfectly match the rider’s head. Even the relatively simple RJ Platinum-R open face helmet uses 93 different parts to create its comfort liner.

All Shoei helmets feature some easily removable and replaceable interior components in a variety of thicknesses. If a dealer keeps a few of these low cost cheek pads in stock, this allows dealership staff to offer a ‘custom-fitting’ option for discriminating customers. Service like this can help your dealership move that customer up to a high quality helmet and will keep that customer coming back to you. Shields get a special section of Shoei U because there is a method to the madness of the expense of injection molding an optically correct face shield — but you will have to enroll in the course and pass the test on that for yourself.

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Customer service remains a Shoei hallmark, especially on the dealer side. Industry-leading warranty, free warranty repairs, free impact inspection services and the fact that parts are stocked for seven years after the final date of manufacture for all Shoei helmets are all part of the package. “Armed with your new knowledge, I think you will find it much easier to communicate to your customers why they should demand no less than Shoei quality.”

Note: The current Shoei course work has sections on the race-inspired X-Twelve helmet, GT-Air, RF-1200, QWEST, Neotech, J-Cruise and Hornet X2 features and benefits. It is important to know if you have X-Twelve’s in stock, but stay tuned for the X-Fourteen updates for the latest and greatest developments in Shoei technology.

AA_6What’s Inside Counts, Too

The majority of the impact resistance and absorption duties are handled by the EPS liner inside the shell. EPS stands for Expanded Poly Styrene, the same material found in a styrofoam coffee cup. Small round balls of polystyrene are expanded and then bound together in a mold. “Shoei actually creates several sizes of EPS liners to ensure a better fit,” Tsuzuki adds. “Shoei conducted research measuring thousands of heads around the world, which proved people in different regions need different shapes of EPS liners. This is one of the reasons why it is important for customers to purchase a helmet made for their specific market, rather than getting a smoking deal on eBay from somewhere else.

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Shoei helmets utilize two-piece EPS designs in its Dual and Semi-Dual liners. There are two reasons for this approach: 1) the two-piece design enables Shoei to utilize a dual-density EPS with a softer portion in the inside that “gives” much more easily; while a denser EPS closer to the shell provides a second layer of protection to help prevent catastrophic injuries. “You will notice less expensive helmets often utilize very stiff EPS because the shells of these helmets are more flimsy and flexible, the EPS must be made stiffer to compensate. This often prevents the EPS from ‘crushing’ properly.” Unless the EPS is able to crush, the helmet does little more than spread the impact across a wider area of the head rather and absorbing the impact energy properly.

The second big reason for a two-piece EPS liner is for ventilation. “The secret to Shoei’s advanced ventilation is our worldwide patent on the dual layer EPS system,” he adds. U-shaped channels between the two laters allow cooling and drying air to flow freely through the helmet instead of just where vents are cut into the shell, as is the case with a traditional 1-piece EPS liner.

Advertisement

Speaking of liners, safety is why riders wear helmets in the first place, but comfort is what keeps them wearing a helmet. “Our 3-D comfort liner technology and five-layer cheek pads are unique even in the premium helmet category.” The data derived from Shoei’s worldwide “head mapping” research is used to develop the 3-D comfort liners formed in shapes to perfectly match the rider’s head. Even the relatively simple RJ Platinum-R open face helmet uses 93 different parts to create its comfort liner.

All Shoei helmets feature some easily removable and replaceable interior components in a variety of thicknesses. If a dealer keeps a few of these low cost cheek pads in stock, this allows dealership staff to offer a ‘custom-fitting’ option for discriminating customers. Service like this can help your dealership move that customer up to a high quality helmet and will keep that customer coming back to you. Shields get a special section of Shoei U because there is a method to the madness of the expense of injection molding an optically correct face shield — but you will have to enroll in the course and pass the test on that for yourself.

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Customer service remains a Shoei hallmark, especially on the dealer side. Industry-leading warranty, free warranty repairs, free impact inspection services and the fact that parts are stocked for seven years after the final date of manufacture for all Shoei helmets are all part of the package. “Armed with your new knowledge, I think you will find it much easier to communicate to your customers why they should demand no less than Shoei quality.”

Note: The current Shoei course work has sections on the race-inspired X-Twelve helmet, GT-Air, RF-1200, QWEST, Neotech, J-Cruise and Hornet X2 features and benefits. It is important to know if you have X-Twelve’s in stock, but stay tuned for the X-Fourteen updates for the latest and greatest developments in Shoei technology.

Note: The current Shoei course work has sections on the race-inspired X-Twelve helmet, GT-Air, RF-1200, QWEST, Neotech, J-Cruise and Hornet X2 features and benefits. It is important to know if you have X-Twelve’s in stock, but stay tuned for the X-Fourteen updates for the latest and greatest developments in Shoei technology.  


Welcome To Shoei University Online!

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Dealers often want to know what it is that makes a Shoei and how it is different than other helmets on the market. That is why Shoei University was established in the first place. Although anyone can slap a “university” label on just about any “curriculum” (Trump University comes to mind), the helmet manufacturer and its distributor Helmet House were serious enough about the process to seek out Rod Stuckey to create a real resource rather than just playing lip service to the brand or the dealers.

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Having worked in family dealerships in Georgia for decades, Rod knew what was needed when he launched Dealership University in 2004. Stuckey took the lessons learned in developing his dealerships’ operations manuals and pioneered the concept of “Distance Learning” product and sales training for the powersports industry. “Instead of ‘distance learning,’ we created the concept of ‘Dealer Learning’ with the first real online education this business had seen,” says Stuckey.

“In the past, the only way to get someone professionally trained was to put them on an airplane. Unfortunately, that’s not always practical because the training isn’t available when you bring the employee aboard or the expense and the time doesn’t fit into the budget,” he notes. “We thought that bringing training to the dealer would be a huge benefit.”

To do this on a large scale, Dealership University utilized Learning Management System software. The same sort of LMS platform utilized by colleges and universities allows the training programs to be organized, administered and tracked. Stuckey’s idea stuck and Dealership University developed distance learning/dealer learning programs for OEMs, including Kawasaki, KTM, KYMCO, Triumph and Polaris, as well as the aftermarket… including early adopters, Shoei and Helmet House.

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Stuckey knows that people learn differently and that is the key element of any Distance Learning System. The Shoei learning module is a series of 35 “pages” that should take the average student 30 minutes from introduction to final test question. A series of self-check questions must be correctly answered before you can progress. “This ensures you are engaged and immersed in the training module,” Stuckey explains.

“Virtual Instructor” Rich Oliver presents the the courses via a series of video vignettes, but the information is retreated in writing. “Some people learn better by hearing something, others are more visually inclined and then there are the professional test takers who need to see it in writing,” says Stuckey. The Shoei courses feature all these elements (and a few more subtleties) to ensure that the information is easily digested, and more importantly, retained by the people in the dealership.

Shoei University is comprised of three courses, the first track explaining the manufacturing process and a complete Shoei product line preview. The second course done in conjunction with distributor Helmet House focuses on best practices and dealership helmet selling skills, while the third course covers the X-Fourteen. True to Stuckey’s original premise that some people need an incentive (and the idea that people in this industry will do just about anything for a little swag), Shoei U offers caps and a chance to win helmets.

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Participants will also obtain a certificate of completion once passing grades for all courses are obtained. Dealership employees must complete all courses and pass all tests (80% correct answers or higher for a passing grade). By completing and passing all courses, this employee will be automatically entered into the helmet prize drawings.

The fine print: Only current employees of qualified Shoei helmet dealers in the United States are eligible to earn swag. To qualify as a Shoei helmet dealer, you must have purchased a minimum of $1,000 in new Shoei helmets for resale from the exclusive United States distributor over a rolling 12-month period for qualified dealer employees to be eligible for any prize while supplies last. Qualified dealers must also be in full compliance with all current Shoei Safety Helmet marketing agreements and current with his distributor account for employees to be eligible for prizes.

All other participants are welcome to take the course, but are ineligible to win any prizes or be entered in the helmet prize drawings.


Post Graduate Work: How To Sell Helmets

AA_4Your goal is simple: increased sales, improved revenue and better bottom line profits. Helmet House has an idea that can bring in upwards of $50,000 to your dealership. Virtual instructor Rich Oliver covers a proven system to sell helmets in your dealership and highlights what makes Shoei different from every other helmet brand. More importantly, the Helmet House Helmet Selling Skills course explains how to communicate these features to your customers and how to effectively “add-on” to a helmet sale and drive revenue for your dealership.

The premise starts with the “good, better, best” selling basics. But to better understand where you want to be, you need to understand where the helmet market is. According to Oliver, full-face helmets account for nearly 33% of total helmet sales nationally in the non-premium sector. Open face models make up another 10% of the total off-road helmets at  22%, and “half-helmets” or beanies are another 22%.

“Dealer pricing research informs us that 25% of helmet sales come from the low-end of the price range… under $100 per helmet,” he explains. “We call this the ‘good’ segment. Approximately 50% of the sales come from the ‘better’ range with helmets between $100-$200 and only 25% come from the upper or “best” segment priced above $200. So applying this standard to a dealership that sells 300 helmets annually would work out to $45,000 in helmet sales. Not bad! But by adding a line of premium helmets priced over $300, there is a pretty
dramatic shift.”

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Better yet, this shift is not just some pie in the sky prognostication! JD Power & Associates reports that nearly 21% of helmet buyers paid more than $300 for their helmet. With a premium helmet in the lineup you can effectively reset this good, better, best paradigm. A higher average price increases revenues without necessarily selling more helmets. Just by adding the premium option to our sample dealer average, things start happening!

AA_3-What Shoei has found is that information is power! Once dealers are given the information and the tools to explain why their helmet is different, it usually results in a sale. This is just the tip of the training iceberg. Shoei University Online can be reached via www.helmethouse.com or its dealer B2B page for stocking dealers, or via www.shoeiuniversityonline.com.

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