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