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Business Management

Does it Say ‘Sucker’ on my Forehead Somewhere?

So why is it that many of these same aftermarket distributors, which we’ve been supporting for a long time (some well before LBJ) are now selling direct to the very same consumer that we’ve been trying to get into our store.

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For many decades, we, as dealers, have been supporting aftermarket distributors, the reps of whom have been walking through our doors for as long as we’ve been open. They’ve all built very large catalogs full of the goods we need to fill our shelves, make a living, pay our bills and make sure our employees are well taken care of. I’m certain that the last few years have been tough on the wholesalers, as they have been tough on the rest of us working the retail trenches.

Map-PolicyIn some ways, all of us, wholesalers and retailers, have had to rebuild the market together again after the crash of 2008, (which I still blame on the subprime programs that LBJ introduced five decades ago, but don’t get me started). We’ve all taken punches that have brought us to our knees, closing as many as 3,000 powersports dealerships since then. I can only guess how much lost revenue aftermarket distributors incurred when all of those retail dealers closed down.

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Now it looks like 2015 may be a pivotal year for us to get back to business as usual, and start making some real profits again. We’re now buying more, and, hopefully selling more, to the riders that are back onto their steeds, and putting miles behind them.

So why is it that many of these same aftermarket distributors, which we’ve been supporting for a long time (some well before LBJ) are now selling direct to the very same consumer that we’ve been trying to get into our store. Why are they selling the same jerseys, helmets and parts that we stock, where the consumer touches and tries them under our roof, and then purchases from the very same people we buy from – at a discount?

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[pullquote]In years past, before the Internet, if a consumer walked into a wholesaler’s warehouse, wanting to buy a helmet and an exhaust system, what would have happened? They would have been told that they had to go to a retailer to purchase those goods.[/pullquote]

Now they all seem to have a company owned online retail house (something most usually deny) that doesn’t even have to stock an item; they just phone the head office of the distributor (you know who you are) and have that item sent out.

We have financed, in effect, through our patronage, our own competition. Sure, there’s always going to be discount online retailers, but why are we supporting the very same people who are using our money to set up companies that unfairly compete with us? And for those online discount houses that are not owned by the big distributors, why not have an extensive MAP policy with some real teeth in them to enable all of us to make a decent living?

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What would happen if these distributors had their accessories and parts online listed so a client could look up the goods, and at the bottom of every page were the words “For pricing or availability, please contact your local dealership.” Or, perhaps a program where someone ordered a part or accessory from the distributor and it was sent to the local dealership, where he or she could then pick it up and pay for it? Wouldn’t that be a win-win for everyone?

Sure, you can make the argument that all is fair in love and retail, but consider this: if I, as a consumer, wanted a new jacket, and there were no distributors selling them at a discount, maybe I would go to my local store, and purchase it there instead of just trying it on. The distributor would still sell that jacket to the dealer, and the dealer would be able to pay himself, his staff AND his mortgage that month. I know that when I am purchasing goods for my store shelf, I always feel a little better if I’m not purchasing those goods from a competitor.   

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I realize that this whole concept of everyone making some money, and having a slice of pie has been lost somehow. Maybe it’s time to return to that idea; get back to basics; let’s all earn a living in this industry that we all love, and maybe this next cycle of sales will be a little better and a little brighter than the last one.

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