Saturday, January 8, 2011

NS4L made me think about safety today

It's a Saturday.

I just checked our crazy emails. I start responding to dealers, then I log onto Facebook and what do I see? I see a great store in Gainesville Florida named New Scooters 4 Less. Not only do they rent scooters, they fix them, and they sell both new and used. The first thing they posted was a new jacket display with the Armadillo Camo on it, I was like way to go. Social marketing by a scooter shop, I don't think about it too much I have 10 emails here from riders looking for help even from Brazil thinking I can explain why his engine won't start.

I get every rider emailing me asking how to change a piston or which scooter to buy, I try to fwd these to the nearest dealer since if I explain this to the possible buyer they don't understand I'm not a retailer. Still it struck me that three of my emails today have to do with jackets and I realized why. I went to and the entire South of the US is being hit with rain and cold. So people are going into shops and asking about rain gear and jackets.

I'm new to the clothing game I realize that, but more and more I realize the difference between a store that does really well with clothing and stores that completely ignore it. It's like 10% of the stores do 90% of the business. It all comes down to planning. It's crazy because it has nothing to do with clientele, social status, location, or money. It's all about planning and what the owners or management think is going to sell vs what actually sells.

Most Small Scooter shop owners "THINK" they can't sell clothing or that it doesn't sell. Most shops also don't have good displays or showrooms so there's a lot to talk about here. Just to put out some figures - in 2008 and 2009 all sides of the business fell, but clothing was up. Also, companies like Cycle Gear do over $40 million in clothing in the USA. So if your store doesn't have it, they must be buying it somewhere right? So back to my point about safety and how to sell jackets properly.

This is where you have to plan ahead as a small business owner because for a store to be a year round shop you have to have products for all occasions. I've blogged about the store being an experience not just a place to get a tire, I've talked about building the lifestyle, and I've even talked about creative financing. So when I open my inbox and I see that two of the emails are from stores that get our brochures, but don't stock a single jacket it gets me a little annoyed. The third email is the perfect email. Why? Simple. The owner has a mannequin display in Georgia and when people walk in they see it. He can't afford to have 4 models in 10 sizes but he has something riders can touch, feel, see, and that's how he sells Armadillo. Then he sits and shows them the website. More than likely he will get the sale since I just told him we have the new Armadillo 2011 line in stock and the Travis is in the warehouse.

Back to Facebook I'm looking at the posting from New Scooters for Less. The owner Collin posted that picture on his Facebook account I mentioned, I'm re-posting it below it's showing a jacket display with a mannequin featuring an Armadillo Camo Jacket.

SMART MOVE- students can see the jacket, figure out "I don't have $20,000 for a skin graft," and he can offer products despite limited space because he has something people can feel, wear, touch. is a great example of what you can do even with a limited space and a student crowd. Yes, kids can buy a jacket anywhere but they are already in the shop so why not offer them something that is quality. Without the display, without the jacket, its just a showroom with scooters.

Now the other two emails are just sad.
It doesn't help if you put a catalog on the table and say "you can order this from Armadillo or WPS, but I don't have any jackets in the store sorry." That's just poor planning. This the same guy that a year later might wright me an email to tell me he's closing because he couldn't build a client base. I know not every store is meant to be a Vespa "boutique" but you should try to build the experience anyways. Even if you sell all Chinese put up a classic Vespa sign ( I've made videos explaining why you should do this as well )

My point is you have to build the experience and part of that is lifestyle. I often hear "I don't have the clientele or people here don't spend that kind of money" my favorite from store managers is "The owner doesn't like stocking clothing." This just tells me they don't know their clients and the staff isn't trained to sell on safety. Two other aspects of the business. You have to train your staff to sell clothing, because selling from the brochure doesn't work in 2011. People have the internet and if I wanted to look at a catalog I would stay at home and not drive to your shop.

The truth is you don't offer jackets in your scooter shop they will go down the road to a Cycle Gear or a Sears and probably get a better selection of jackets and rain gear, not to mention Sears now has scooters and helmets. So does Pep Boys and Walmart.

So do like New Scooters 4 Less in Gainesville. Make people happy to be in a scooter shop, build that experience. Maybe they just went there to buy a battery but they might buy a glove or while they wait for the tire change if they see themselves in a Red Scarlett Mac they might get one purely for the fashion aspect, but you will know at night that your client, this person that keeps your business alive is safer and better protected because of something you sold. That's another side to this business that people forget. Clothing is about safety and you have to train your employees to express that especially in college towns. If you Google "Football" "Players" "Scooters" you will see how many Universities are trying to ban scooters on campus because athletes are getting injured, not wearing helmets, and even hurting themselves for riding in flip flops and thin shirts. In a college town like Gainesville Florida it's a great thing when you have a store promoting safety to students.

Let's be realistic not every student is going to buy a jacket. Probably 90% will continue to ride in flip flops and in shirts, but the one girl who buys that jacket will be safer and better equipped than buying a cheap Chinese jacket with no protection at Walmart. Plus it builds on the whole showroom experience since a jacket means a helmet and in this weather likely means gloves as well. That's part of the reason we took on the line.

To the other two emails I got, look we offer terms to good clients, we offer help in promoting the line. I expect more emails like these but my reply to everyone is the same. Build the showroom experience, go over to your competition, take a look at why stores like Cycle Gear do so well, and build that buying experience. Yes, tire and oil can pay the bills, but you will never expand beyond a basic service. By building the experience your store becomes a destination, a brand, an experience. In the case of New Scooters 4 Less you might even become a place where a student gets educated because no other shop near the University of Florida promotes safety the way they do from helmets to a solid quality jacket. Maybe if everyone that sold you a bike did that good of a job we wouldn't have all these tragedies because every student would have a helmet and solid protection. I know you can't force people to buy stuff, I know students will drive drunk, I know they will ride on sidewalks and cause havoc, but the store has to try. The saddest thing is that in most college towns you don't have a NS4L store and all the shops are just full of bikes. No helmets, no jackets, no gloves. You ask the owner why "People don't buy that stuff," drive an hour in any direction find a Cycle Gear or Pep Boys ask how many helmets did you sell this year?

IF YOU BUILD IT THEY WILL COME, build a sold Armadillo display and witness the questions you will get. Those emails I love.

Just some random thoughts on a cold windy rainy Saturday. Now I'm taking my Zuna out, its freezing here like 60 degrees and you better believe I have an Armadillo Hoody on.

If you need help or want to be one of those guys that do 90% of the clothing business email me and I will give you some ideas.

The Scooter Maven

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