Clothing and accessory sales are a big part of your bottom line, so it makes sense to encourage women, now more than 12 percent of the motorcycle-buying public, to shop in your store.
“I spoke recently at a Gart Sutton 20-group seminar at the SEMA convention,” says Richard Kimes, director of marketing at Helmet House, Inc. “The consensus among the dealers there was the key to survival in today’s market is to maximize your floor traffic while improving the store’s closing rate to drive sales.” Getting women in the door and in a buying mood is not difficult when you follow these easy steps.
Spread the Word
Shop owners often neglect to reach out to new rider schools and women’s riding organizations. Diane Ortiz, founder and president of Big Apple Motorcycle School, works with a local accessory shop that stocks women’s sizes and smaller helmets. The owner offers a coupon for a major discount to students at all the local motorcycle schools.
“My women students love shopping at this guy’s store,” says Diane. “About 40 to 45 percent of his stuff is women’s sizes, so they can try things on and make sure it fits. He gets them when they have just passed the test, are excited about motorcycling and ready to buy a lot of gear.”
You can also contact the local women’s riding group and buy advertising in their marketing materials or sponsor an event. Reed Thompson, a well-known seminar leader and the current sales team leader of Pig Trail Harley-Davidson in Rogers, Ark., has spent a lot of time studying the women’s motorcycle market and what encourages women motorcyclists to buy.
He suggests having women’s ride-in events with prizes. He also says that a women’s message board next to the women’s clothing display at your dealership will give women a reason to visit your store.
“Garage parties, Harley’s women-only events, have been very successful for Harley-Davidson,” Reed says. “You don’t have to be a Harley dealer to have a similar type of event. You should also have a women’s ride every year. Engage the press — send out a press release about the event and ask a woman journalist rider to come. You can get a lot of good, free publicity this way.”
Women On Wheels, www.womenonwheels.org, a national women’s riding organization, has a Participating Dealer program. For $100 per year, dealers are listed on the WOW website and in their bi-monthly magazine and get two WOW memberships to give out to women customers who buy a bike.
“Some of our participating dealers let our local clubs meet at the dealership,” says Cris Baldwin, WOW’s president. “Others let us use the parking lot to start and end rides.”
Welcoming Retail Environment
Now that you have gotten women interested in coming to your dealership, make sure that they don’t turn around and leave once they get to your door! Women are used to shopping at professionally merchandised mall stores. Be sure your store is clean and well-organized. “Nothing turns off women as fast as dirt,” says Thompson. “Make sure your dealership is clean, especially the bathrooms.”
Next, you must make sure your staff understands that any female in your dealership must be politely greeted as a valued customer. “The No. 1 complaint about dealers from my students is that when they walk in alone, they are ignored by the dealership staff. Women are not recognized as prospective purchasers,” says Ortiz.
“Women can often feel intimidated entering what they see as a male domain,” Kimes points out. “Like all consumers, they are interested in making a purchase in a relatively painless process.” If you are interested in getting the most from your floor traffic, you should train your staff to make it as easy as possible for any customer to buy something. “Helmet House and other clothing and accessory distributors will help you train your parts and accessory staff to do this,” says Richard Kimes. “We want you to maximize sales.”
If a woman is accompanied by a man, your staff should be aware that women influence 85 percent of all purchase decisions in today’s market. “In most households, the wife or girlfriend controls the money,” says Kim Rose, general manager of Woodstock Harley-Davidson. “If the wife or girlfriend doesn’t want the husband to ride, he won’t ride.”
Build a Relationship
“You have to understand why the customer is there,” says Kimes. “Find out what they are looking for. Women especially want your staff to be knowledgeable and to make recommendations. Listening is most important. Asking questions to define the customer’s needs and wants, their riding style, how often and how far are all key to recommending the right gear. You have to deliver on that.”
Asking the right questions and providing intelligent answers are the keys to establishing a good customer relationship. Amy Higgins, a top saleswoman for several different motorcycle dealerships, has developed a script to use when a woman walks into her area. “I approach the customer and ask her what style of riding she does. That will open up what she is looking for. I ask her how long she has been riding and what bikes [note the plural, “bikes”— it boosts her ego!] she owns.”
“If a couple comes in,” Higgins says, “Often the guy will approach the saleswoman first. I will start talking to the woman as soon as I can. If both love motorcycles, I can talk to both of them together. If, on the other hand, the guy wants to do all the talking and the woman is shy, I will get him distracted (maybe with a new motorcycle), and then start talking to her. A lot of guys think what serves them well will work on their girlfriend or wife. It won’t,” concludes Higgins.
Fit Is Key
Although you have every right to be concerned about Internet sales, you should be aware that your brick and mortar store has a big advantage with women customers. “Most women want to see stuff before they buy it,” says Ortiz. “Women want to try stuff on. Women are very concerned about fit and safety and don’t like to buy things unless they can try them on first.”
“I have had dealers tell me that they shy away from stocking too much women’s gear because they don’t believe it is going to sell,” Ortiz continues. “This is a self-fulfilling prophesy. If you don’t have gear to try on, women won’t buy it.”
Kimes concurs. “Dealerships tend to stock what they think will sell quickly, so it can be difficult to find extra small and small size helmets. As a result, when a person who needs a small size helmet finds one, they will pay the asking price, without question.”
“I would rather invest my money in a smaller line of women’s jackets but carry every size,” says Rose. “Those who don’t believe in that approach are not making sales.
Bikers-Only Social Networking Connect With Women Riders
Social media marketing is key to attracting female motorcycle enthusiasts, and BikerOrNot.com presents a bikers-only alternative to Facebook and Twitter.
The site allows businesses to create free Fan Pages, recruit fans in their target area, and market their goods or services to those fans. Members can be segmented by gender, location, motorcycle ownership status, age and other demographic criteria.
The Events feature allows businesses to post events and send out mass invites to the members who live and ride within a specific radius of the event location. For example, a Harley dealer can create a Ladies’ Night event and invite all female BikerOrNot members who live and ride within a 50-mile radius. The invited members have the option to RSVP to an event, which lets the organizer know how many people accepted the invite and are coming to the event.
The Rides feature allows members to create, search and join rides for free. Thousands of rides are organized by members and businesses. Rides can be private or public. Dealers often organize charity rides and list them on BikerOrNot.
Fan Pages allow motorcycle industry establishments to have an online presence and interact with members who live and ride in their area. Motorcycle dealerships use their Fan Pages for customer service, promotions and research. Harley dealers often offer discounts to women who sign up for the Rider’s Edge course. The promotional offer is posted in the dealers Fan Page status and broadcasted to all of its BikerOrNot fans.
BikerOrNot is currently developing a new Back Seat feature, which will allow members to post that they have an empty seat and are looking for someone to ride with them. Those looking for a back seat will be able to search the Back Seat inventory. It will be a marketplace for empty back seats!
BikerOrNot.com has more than 110,000 female motorcycle enthusiasts, which is a goldmine for motorcycle dealers who are trying to reach out to this consumer group.
“Our brand is an attitude, a way of life.” This is how Cher Bell, owner of Rebel Girl, would describe it, and the brand exemplifies it to the fullest. Rebel Girl is a fashion line for all women, whether they prefer to ride motorcycles or just embrace the lifestyle.
It all started in 2008, when Cher’s 6-year-old granddaughter came into M/C Leather Works, Cher’s leather and embroidery motorcycle retail store in Washington Twp., Mich., and said, “I want to be a Rebel Girl!” Unable to resist a small child’s enthusiasm, Cher created the Rebel Girl brand, designing clothing with her own eclectic body art as her muse.
There are numerous products under the Rebel Girl banner. Blending colors, a feminine touch and an array of masculine biker mainstays like skulls with wings, sprockets and chains, Cher creates a fashionable niche that is flattering to all sizes from petite to robust. With four seamstresses, two factory workers and a team of motorcycle riding models, sometimes an overnight idea can take Cher months to manufacture and distribute, but the results are edgy and alluring. Products like v-neck short- and long-sleeve shirts, tank tops, studded short skirts, hats, hair accessories, jewelry, purses, leather jackets, belts, buckles, bumper stickers and so much more. In 2011, Cher is adding licensed apparel and will showcase her newest wares at the
Licensing Expo in Las Vegas, June 14-16.
Despite the rapid growth of the product line and the brand, Cher’s revealing leather corsets as seen here remain her specialty.
Cher has successfully melded the mutual lust between fashion and motorcycling to bring Rebel Girl into the limelight. See more from Cher and the Rebel Girl team at www.rebelgirl.com.