Developing An Off-Road Market In Your Dealership
[dropcap]D[/dropcap]irt is for taters, at least according to conventional urban street bike wisdom. However, the powersports industry has seen the off-road market expand far beyond hard core motocrossers. Dual-sport bikes, the burgeoning popularity of the Adventure Touring market, custom and even V-twin powered street trackers are all worth taking note of… and that is just the motorcycle market. UTV sales are exploding and reaching all-new customer bases as well.
More importantly, dabbling in the dirt expands your reach into potential customers too young to get a license for the street, brings in entire families in the process and generally creates a sense of community based around your dealership. In a word, dirt is good for growing more than just potatoes!
“One of the best things about the off-road community is that it captures and exposes the entire family to a life bonding experience,” explains MSR Brand Manager Nick McBride. “For dealerships that have not exposed themselves to this market yet, it will be a new venture, but one that will help broaden their market and consumer reach.”
Look at the number of 50cc-100cc youth bikes in use and check out what the OEMs have been focusing on like the new V-Stroms from Suzuki, the revamped Kawasaki KLR and the ADV bikes from BMW, Triumph and KTM, suggests Vee Rubber’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing John Leale. “Go where the money is,” he sums up.
“Excluding the pure motocross machines, the off-road and dual-sport segments of the industry have shown growth, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) reports over the past year,” Leale elaborates. “Off-road sales will continue to grow in my opinion.” Leale is on the right track – according to the most recent MIC sales report, dual purpose motorcycle sales were up 13.8 percent in December and off-highway sales increased 29 percent, the highest of any segment tracked.
Year-end tallies for 2014 show nearly 35,000 dual-sport bikes sold last year, up 3.6 percent, and pure off-road motorcycles increased 10.9 percent to a total of more than 81,000 new units (the best year for dirt bikes since 2008 when the economy went in the tank).
In addition to an increase in new unit sales, the dirt market means an influx of dollars for parts, garments and accessories. “The demographics of the dual sport/adventure rider are very lucrative – they spend money,” exclaims Leale. “That’s why we’ve expanded our range of dual-sport tires.” (See the off-road tire product focus on page 36). “We now have six tires designated for the dual-sport/adventure rider, ranging from 20 percent dirt, 80 percent road to 80 percent dirt, 20 percent road.”
Of course, we can’t forget the core of the dirt market: motocross. ANSR certainly hasn’t! “Motocross racers always want to have the newest innovative gear and protection products,” says ANSR Brand Manager Randy Valade. “They want to look cool! Keeping up on the current trends is what we specialize in at ANSR to help dealers stay ahead of the demand.”
Valade offers a couple of basic tips for the novice class dirt dealer: “Maintaining a variety of differently priced products is always a good idea. Most people are looking for price point items, but there are others looking for the high-end, top-quality products.” You definitely don’t want to miss out on the “money is no object” local pro racer type of customer.
START IN FIRST GEAR, THEN PIN IT TO WIN IT!
“I would recommend that they take it slow and venture out to their local off-road parks, motocross and racetracks to see what type of products people are using,” adds MSR’s McBride. “By actively participating in their local off-road markets, this will help to expose the dealership to what people are looking for and help to create the viral marketing that we all love.”
“While many dealers do not want to invest in track sponsorship, open houses or demo rides, we feel this is a great way to promote your dealership,” adds ANSR’s Valade. “Once you get them in your store and show them what you offer, more than likely they will return. Having a decent stock of products is what keeps them coming back and eliminates the urge to shop online.” A strong MAP (Minimum Advertised Price) policy can also eliminate some of the discount mail order threat (see sidebar below).
“One quick trick for the dealer to establish himself as a ‘dirt’ dealer is to attend local races – that’s where the riders are,” says Vee Rubber’s Leale. “Seriously, see what kind of terrain is in your ‘backyard’ and then take tires to the events that are suitable to that terrain.” Leale says it does wonders to get the conversation started with the local dirt bike community when it comes time to get on the gas!
“Help the local ‘fast guy’ and become the expert in your area with riders and always have the correct tires for your area,” says Leale. “Get involved with the promoter so that track announcements saying you’re there at the event can be made, tag your shop’s location and the fact that you are a supporter of the sport.”
TRICKS OF THE TRADE
The experts agree that to engage the dirt bike business, your dealership has to be engaged. While there is no real “trick” to doing more dirt business, there is a pretty simple methodology. “There are two ways of developing an off-road business,” says Motonation president, Bill Berroth.
“Stock all the products for every segment of the dirt market, stock ‘em deep and the people will come, like Chaparral does!” As the importer of Sidi boots and Vemar helmets from Italy, Bill knows not everyone has the wherewithal to become a mega store or can afford to stock high-end products to the rafters, so he offers a second, more reasonable approach: Participate!
“Someone from the shop needs to be into it and attend local events on a regular basis to draw people in,” explains Berroth. “This person should participate in the shop’s social media effort, too. Perception is reality and you need to tell your potential customers that you are their source for all things off-road. Behind the scenes, the shop can be more selective in what it stocks. Stock items you believe in or top sellers… which are not always the same thing,” he cautions. Easier said than done.
“For a dealer who is not established as an ‘off-road’ supplier, I’d say the most important thing you could do is hire a parts counter person who has a background in the off-road market,” says Renthal’s Brad Cameron. “Whether it’s a local racer, club member or otherwise, having someone with specific knowledge of that market will be the biggest factor in helping you sell these products.”
Once the proper personnel are in place, then it comes time for the proper follow-through. “Next, I’d say doing some form of marketing/advertising to let people know you are now an option for off-road products is critical,” Cameron says. “This could be done by attending local tracks, races or trail riding areas with a support vehicle, ez-up or other display, advertising with the local race papers or websites, etc.”
“A great way to expose yourself to this new market would be to partner up with a local off-road club/organization and let them know that you are there to service their needs,” says MSR’s McBride. “There are numerous clubs, off-road organizations and race associations around the United States that would love to hear from a local dealership.” On a bigger scale McBride mentions that many of the brands also partner up with some of the premier off-road race series around the country to be actively involved in the sport.
“We have seen great pull through at the local dealership level and at the end of the day are getting to interact with our target customers,” adds McBride. “People love to buy products and use service from people they know; and what better way to reach hundreds of people at once. I have been around this community for the majority of my life and have some of the best lifetime memories associated with it.
At MSR, we strive to outfit the average rider with products that will last longer and survive harder hits than your average gear. Our Xplorer gear encompasses this philosophy and we want to make sure the average rider has a product that will support their habits. Not everyone is out there trying to be the next superstar and we want to make sure their voice does not go unheard.”
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
From point of purchase materials and sponsorships to national advertising and specialized training programs, the brands and the distributors support the sport and the dealers. However, if your store hasn’t wanted to get its hands dirty in the past, it can be easy to overlook some of the tools of the trade that are readily available. Almost like a case of “don’t ask, don’t tell” – if you don’t ask, nobody is going to tell you what you need to know!
“We have POP displays, tents, table covers, tire stands and sponsorships for local riders,” says Leale. “We also like to make sure the fast guy in the shop is running our product and influencing your customers every time he rides. We have all these tools to help the dealer, but they don’t do any good sitting in our warehouse! Take advantage of what Vee Rubber and many other brands are already offering dealers.”
“Our goal in everything we do is to support the dealership population around the United States,” says McBride. “We view this relationship as a partnership, because if it were not for the dealers, we would not exist! So we have a whole host of things that we have incorporated into our business to help dealers succeed. On a national level, we focus our advertising on our consumers and supporting key influential riders.
From the AMPRO Yamaha team and Ryan Sipes on the East Coast to the WFOx team and Robby Bell on the West Coast, we sponsor riders across the U.S. We try and make sure that our marketing is true to who and what our brand is and what our target customers are interested in.”
MSR also supports two of the largest off-road race series, the AMA Big 6 and the JDay Off-Road series. “This helps us get quality face time with enthusiasts as well as support local dealerships in these areas.”
As for specific ‘tools’ to help a dealer, McBride says they have it all, including an in-house store merchandiser and a whole in-store program to help increase the impact of the buying experience at the dealership level. “We are vested in this partnership and are doing everything in our power to make sure they succeed. These are just a few of the things we do to help dealers develop their off-road markets.”
“ANSR has been investing very heavily into our marketing to create the demand for ANSR products,” points out Valade. “We have some of the best athletes in the sport – domestically and internationally – wearing our apparel, along with a very strategic advertising schedule, which includes print and online. Our amateur sponsorship program allows us to tackle the grassroots by helping out riders around the country and creating demand in local areas.”
“We have a full line of POP displays for the dealer, which are available free through our distributors with a very reasonable minimum purchase of stock,” notes Renthal’s Cameron. “Having inventory on handlebars, grips, sprockets, chains and other accessories will show the dealer’s commitment to the market.
It is also important for a dealer to reach out to their parts distributor about getting a top selling SKU list to help bring in the correct mix of product.” The reps are here to help the dealers, claims Cameron, but sometimes it helps to ask them for some tools. “We provide this info to every rep to better aid them when traveling to dealers.”
“Finally, we also provide factory-direct training courses online for Renthal through Powersports University,” explains Cameron. “There are three courses online which only take about 15 minutes each and will teach you about the brand, the products and the best practices for sales success. You can visit www.powersportsu.com for more info.” Renthal and other participating brands even offer swag as an incentive to graduate from PSU… not to mention the fact that it is free!
THE DIRTY TRUTH
MIC numbers don’t lie! From Adventure Touring to moto, opportunities exist in the off-road market. You can bury your head in the sand, or you can dig yourself out of a pit and start dabbling in the dirt. Instead of a bunch of motorcycles making that potato-potato sound, see how the other half lives and raise a bumper crop of new business for your dealership in the process!
KINI RED BULL COLLECTION – NOW AVAILABLE IN AMERICA
From Ryan Dungey to Ken Roczen, moto fans can’t miss the distinctive Red Bull logo being top of mind, and usually at the top of the podium, at any Supercross or Outdoor National Motocross round. Short of being an elite extreme athlete, getting access to the coveted Red Bull logo is all but impossible… or it was up until now. The Kini Red Bull collection is one of the very few ways that retailers and consumers can purchase casual wear featuring the iconic Red Bull logo.
Exclusive, extremely limited in availability, premium-priced and constructed of high end materials, the Kini Red Bull collection combines great features with an unobtainable logo for a great cause! We first saw the collection at the EICMA show in Milan a couple years ago and have been trying to figure out how to get it ever since. The elusive Kini Red Bull casual apparel line is now being offered to dealers in the U.S., courtesy of Motonation.
“Dealers can pre-book next year’s collection, but they must do so with their Motonation rep or direct with Motonation,” says Motonation president, Bill Berroth. Unlike the other high end brands, Motonation brings in from
Europe, including AGV Sport riding gear, Sidi boots and Vemar helmets. Kini is so exclusive its not worth the effort getting it via their existing B2B channels. What is worthwhile about the product line is that all profits go to a worthy cause.
MX world champion Heinz Kinigadner and Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz teamed up to create the Wings For Life Foundation after Kinigadner’s brother Hans had an accident in 1984 and his son Hannes came off his bike in 2003. Both suffered spinal injuries and are paraplegics. After his son’s injury Kinigadner and the owner of Red Bull decided to create the “Wings For Life Foundation” which aims to find a cure for spinal cord injuries. All the net profits from the Kini-Red Bull collection go to the Wings For Life Foundation (www.wingsforlife.com)!
THE KINI CONNECTION
So how does Kini Red Bull gear make it to the U.S. dealers? Heinz Kinigadner was one of the top riders in the Motocross Grand Prix World Championships during the mid-1980s. He was the F.I.M. 250cc Motocross World Champion in 1984 and 1985 while riding for the KTM factory racing team. After his motocross career, Kinigadner began competing in off-road races, including the Paris to Dakar and Incas rallies, and became the first Austrian World Motocross Champion, racing on the Austrian KTM. His reputation resulted in him becoming the first motorcycle rider ever to be sponsored by Red Bull.
But that still doesn’t explain how the collection came to Motonation. Back in the early 1980s, Motonation boss Bill Berroth was Kinigadner’s mechanic and the two have remained in contact ever since. When Heinz decided that the Kini Red Bull collection should be made available in America, he naturally turned to his former mechanic, who just happened to have the infrastructure in place to reach dealers in the U.S. and Mexico.
All Motonation retailers have access to two tee shirts, hoodie and hat that they stock. As mentioned, it is possible to pre-book the rest of next year’s collection, but you better act fast if you are interested.
Map Policies: Leveling The Playing Field
The off-road market used to be the wild west when it came to pricing for parts, garments and accessories. However the industry seems to have begun policing itself, starting with the implementation of Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) policies. From ANSR and MSR HardParts to Progressive Suspension and Vee Rubber, many companies have rolled out a MAP policy to protect the integrity of the brand and keep traditional brick and mortar dealers in the game.
“From soft goods to hard parts, 2015 seems to be the year of MAP Policies,” says David Zemla, director of sales & marketing for Progressive Suspension. “A discount-based race to the bottom does nothing but hurt our market and our brand. Progressive Suspension is employing a 10% off suggested price for both retailers and distributors and has already instigated enforcement. Our focus is retail infractions, but we are enforcing the policy across all channels.”
“Any retailer advertising products at lower than suggested retail prices will be subject to immediate termination,” says MSR Hard Parts brand manager, Jason Gearld. “The MAP policy is being implemented in order to preserve our reputation for providing customers with high value products. MAP will protect the integrity of the brand reinforcing our strong after-sales support and further enhancing the MSR Hard Parts brand image and competitiveness in the marketplace.” This MAP policy is being implemented unilaterally and applies to all distributors, retailers and resellers of MSR Hard Parts products to end users in the United States.
“We want to make sure it is a fair playing field in the marketplace today,” says MSR brand manager, Nick McBride. “We spend large amounts of our budget investing in creating a powerful brand message and overall brand perception, so we have a vested interest in making sure our retail partners maintain the integrity of the brand. Our MAP policy has been established to help protect this, not only at our level, but at the dealer level as well. Anytime price tends to be the sole buying decision, we are not creating a powerful relationship that will harbor life long customers.”
Most of the brands agree in the need to protect the integrity of the brand and their dealers. Although there is no universal standard, 10 percent off MSRP seems to be the maximum. “ANSR has a 10 percent off minimum advertised price policy,” says ANSR brand manager, Randy Valade. “We have closed the loopholes on any discounts at the cart and have eliminated any third party sales.”
“Essentially anyone advertising products at lower than suggested retail prices will be subject to immediate termination,” says Paul Perebijnos, ProTaper brand manager. “By leveling the playing field, we are protecting our dealers and increasing ProTaper’s competitiveness in the marketplace.”
Nobody wins in a race to the bottom, explains Vee Rubber’s John Leale. Now there is a concentrated effort to prevent the discounters from undercutting traditional retailers.