Old Hat


Old Bike Australasia - - CONTENTS -

Every­one loves a bar­gain, but some­times there is a hid­den cost. Once a year (cur­rently), Ger­man dis­count chain Aldi piles its ta­bles with at­trac­tively priced mo­tor­cy­cle gear; hel­mets, boots, jack­ets, gloves, socks, wa­ter­proofed cloth­ing, and even an­cil­lary items such as load­ing ramps, wheel chocks, bike cov­ers and Blue­tooth units. In­vari­ably, the mer­chan­dise walks out the door, and who can blame cus­tomers for snap­ping up the items at what seem to be prices well below what the mo­tor­cy­cle in­dus­try charge? But spare a thought for the lo­cal mo­tor­cy­cle shop, which needs to stock a com­pre­hen­sive range of cloth­ing and ac­ces­sories year-round, not just for a cou­ple of quick hits. They need to stock a range of sizes, colours and styles to suit cus­tomers of all shapes and sizes, and can­not af­ford to adopt the at­ti­tude of, “Sorry, sold out of that size, come back next year.”

If this sce­nario has a fa­mil­iar ring, in April 2016 the same Ger­man dis­counter’s Aus­tralia CEO was re­ported in The Aus­tralian news­pa­per as stat­ing that Aldi “had es­tab­lished it­self as the largest re­tailer of ski and snow ap­parel in the coun­try (Aus­tralia), with the su­per­mar­ket’s busi­ness model able to out­ma­noeu­vre tra­di­tional ski stores”… “If you imag­ine a ski gear shop they will have rent all year, they will have light­ing, the store man­ager and a lot of over­heads that have to be paid all year. That means when they do come to the six weeks of the ski sea­son they do sell a lot of ski gear but they have to carry an an­nual over­head for much thin­ner sales. Our ap­proach is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent and we re­use that space in our store again and again.”

In this sit­u­a­tion, just sub­sti­tute the words “ski and snow” for “mo­tor­cy­cle”, and you have a model for a sim­i­lar in­va­sion of our tra­di­tional in­dus­try, typ­i­fied by the fast-dis­ap­pear­ing lo­cal bike shop. Since the advent of the World Wide Web, th­ese shops have had to suf­fer an in­flux of cus­tomers who troupe into the store, try on var­i­ous items of ap­parel to as­cer­tain his or her size, then sim­ply pur­chase the same gear on-line. The poor old corner shop be­comes a fit­ting room only, with a lower and lower ra­tio of sales con­ver­sion.

Cam­era re­tail­ers went through an iden­ti­cal sce­nario whereby po­ten­tial ‘cus­tomers’ would oc­cupy the at­ten­tion and time of sales staff to as­cer­tain just which model suited them, whence they dis­ap­peared and pur­chased it on-line from Hong Kong or other for­eign parts. Con­se­quently, sev­eral of the ma­jor man­u­fac­tur­ers brought in poli­cies whereby the war­ranty of the cam­era was only valid in the coun­try where it was pur­chased; not to squirm out of any obli­ga­tion, but to pro­vide some de­gree of sup­port to the lo­cal re­tail net­work that had in­vested heav­ily in the sales, af­ter-sales, and brand pro­mo­tion over many years.

It’s dif­fi­cult to see that hap­pen­ing in motorcycli­ng terms, just as it has failed to hap­pen in the snow and ski busi­ness. But when the tra­di­tional lo­cal bike shop is gone, or when ac­ces­sories will no longer be stocked in a vast range of sizes and styles but sim­ply brought in to pre-or­der, may we ap­pre­ci­ate that there are more as­pects to a bar­gain than price alone.


OUR COVER Stephen Craven's stun­ning restora­tion of a 1973 MV Agusta 750GT. See fea­ture story on P58.

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