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July 2, 2007 – Arai focuses on its online efforts with dealers

July 2, 2007
Filed under Features

FORT WORTH, Texas — The marketing and educational side of e-commerce — not just the sales side of it — has helped fuel Arai’s recent business growth.
That’s according to Brian Weston, Arai’s director of operations, who discussed the helmet company’s recent e-commerce focus at the Tucker Rocky ATV/Off-Road Sales Meeting in Fort Worth, Texas.
After largely staying away from e-commerce for a few years, Arai went back to offering online sales opportunities for dealers last summer.
“We decided the brick and mortar (retail outlets) were utilizing e-commerce much more, and in our opinion, to a better end,” Weston said of the company’s decision to focus more on e-commerce.
Last summer, the company improved its Web site (www.araiamericas.com) to include product information as well as the ability for dealers to sell helmets, under certain parameters, online. The additional e-commerce focus will continue this summer as the company is hoping to add the sale of older helmet parts to its online offerings.
“We’re trying to do an interactive site where customers can click on a helmet and see a picture of the part to ensure they get the right part number,” Weston said. The company has so many parts and so much turnover year over year that “we can’t rely on anyone or expect everyone to have those parts,” he said.
Even putting all of those parts numbers on its Web site is an arduous task considering Arai offers 110-120 color combinations per year. Multiply that by the multiple models over several years and you get a staggering number.
Weston says he’s hopeful some basic parts, like shields and cheek pads, will be available online by the end of July, as well as the disappearance of some bugs the company has experienced with its year-old Web site.
Although stores can register to sell helmets online, Weston said Arai must be convinced the dealers can adequately sell online before it approves the registration. So far, Arai has only approved a number of dealers that is in the double digits.
“For helmet sales, we really want the dealers to use e-commerce as a tool to sell at the store,” Weston said. “We’ve tried to do the best we can to encourage that if they do e-commerce sales, that they follow some basic rules to make sure the person gets the best fit.
“But we don’t want to encourage everybody to (sell online) and open the floodgates because we’d rather have them come to us ready to do it, rather than us force people who aren’t ready to come onboard.”
Weston noted that in addition to increased e-commerce abilities, Arai has also benefited from the company’s decision to offer a range of new graphics on its different helmet models.
One thing that has not changed — for a ninth consecutive year, the company received the top customer satisfaction score on the annual J.D. Power helmet survey.

Pro Armor
The manufacturer of ATV and UTV products is growing so much it’s moving into its second new facility in less than four years.
Pro Armor will be moving this summer into a 56,000-square-feet warehouse in Riverside, Calif., a much larger facility than its current 17,500-square-feet building. That site “was going to be the do-all, end-all,” said Edmund Sutter, the company’s vice president of operations. But continued growth — the company’s April sales were 75 percent over April 2006 totals — has forced the new move.
Besides the new facility, Sutter expects the company to grow its employee base by 30 percent in the coming year.
Pro Armor offers a number of items, from foot pegs and bumpers for quads to UTV armor and winch-mounting kits.

Shark
Officials from Shark say its first year in the United States under a national distributor was a success, and it plans to offer the U.S. market more product offerings in the coming year.
Last summer Tucker Rocky became the exclusive distributor of the brand that is among the top selling helmets in Europe. Despite being in the Tucker Rocky catalog for only six months, Shark had the top sales of any of the distributor’s new brands, said Christophe Miravalls, Shark’s export director.
So far, the company has offered four price points for full-face helmets and one price point for the off-road market.
“We need to enlarge the range to target more segments, and we will do that in the next few months by introducing more models within the full-face range, hopefully one more model in the off road and very probably attacking most of the urban touring market,” Miravalls said.
The latter product will be a “real modular” helmet, Miravalls said, where the chin bar can rest at the back of the helmet, allowing the consumer to have either a full-face or open-face product.
Miravalls said that product is scheduled to be shown to Tucker Rocky management in July, be unveiled to the public at a Paris show in October and potentially could reach U.S. dealerships this fall.

Sportech
The Elk River, Minn., manufacturer principally known for manufacturing product for OEMs has developed three UTV products for QuadBoss, the Tucker Rocky house brand. The products include a universal UTV top that fits four different side-by-side brands and has a two-piece design, making it easy to ship, often a costly part of bulky UTV offerings.
“The advantage we have, working with those OEs, is we know where the holes are in the market,” said Steve Kapaun, product manager for Sportech. “It allows us to return back and design stuff for this distribution side that now just isn’t being served.”
The QuadBoss universal top fits the Yamaha Rhino, Polaris’ Ranger and Kawasaki’s 3010 and 610 Mules.
Sportech also has developed a half windshield and folding windshield for the QuadBoss line.

RedArt Corp.
The Southern California manufacture of a slew of UTV products is new to Tucker Rocky this year.
RedArt, mostly known for its off-road auto products, has three brand names — Beard Seats, Speed Industries and SuperStrap — that all deal with the side-by-side segment.
The company ventured into the UTV realm three years ago by building Beard Seats for the Yamaha Rhino.
“This was a natural extension for us,” said RedArt owner Timothy Sousamian of the company, which has built seats for dune buggies, jeeps and other off-road applications.
Besides seats, the company also offers rollbar extensions that bolt directly onto the factory cages, front bumpers, door kits and other UTV products through the Speed Industries brand name. Overall, the company offers more than 30 UTV products.
“We do not handle tires, wheels, suspension and performance. We leave those areas up to the pros,” Sousamian said. “We handle the cosmetic” items.
RedArt, which also distributes through Western Power Sports and others as well as Tucker Rocky, does most of its manufacturing in-house at its Anaheim, Calif., facility. That manufacturing includes the development of a cargo restraint line called SuperStrap, a rope material that doesn’t bind to itself, meaning customers don’t have to cut it after it restrains something.

Blingstar Industries
The aftermarket company known for its motocross accessories is branching into a new segment arena — cross country.
The company, which thus far has focused solely on motocross products, has introduced the XC Rodeo Bumper, which Blingstar says is designed to handle the harsh terrain of a cross country course.
“We’re kind of waiting to see how we do in that market” before introducing more cross country products, said Geoff Langland, Blingstar’s general sales manager.
To market to what Langland sees as an entirely different customer, Blingstar will attend cross country events, including Grand National Cross Country races, and develop advertising for that segment.
Blingstar, a California company, recently opened a new, nearly 13,000-square-feet warehouse facility in Corona, Calif., and has tripled its number of employees to about 30.

Tire Balls
The Kentucky manufacturer that uses an air cell system rather than traditional inner tubes to inflate a tire has increased its production capacity enough to be carried by a national distributor, said Jeff Stoess of Tire Balls’ customer service department.
Stoess said the company is expanding its Crestwood, Ky., facility into a neighboring building, allowing it to double its current size. The privately owned company also says that it expects to increase its employee base during the fall.
Before making these changes, “we couldn’t have been able to keep up with demand for a big distributor like Tucker Rocky,” Stoess said.
Another challenge for the manufacturer, which sells tire kits for ATVs and motorcycles, has been educating consumers on how to properly install the air cells, which the company says provide better traction and suspension performance. The company now has a video on its Web site (www.tireballs.com) that shows the proper installation.
“Up until now we’ve been mostly focused on the racing crowd,” Stoess said. “Now we’re getting more in the trail riding crowd so I’d say dealer installs will probably go up quite a bit, especially with Tucker Rocky’s involvement.”
The company has tools that can make the installment easier for dealers or consumers.

Seizmik
The manufacturer of UTV products formerly known as Kart Accessories has changed its name to Seizmik.
Wayne Cole, sales manager for Seizmik, said the manufacturer had at one time considered making products for go-karts, thus the original Kart Accessories name.
Included in Seizmik’s mix of UTV products is an aluminum Exo-Cage Rack & Brush Guard for the Rhino that includes an integrated headlight and fender guards.
But the company’s new product that has received the most attention, Cole said, is its new UTV door, which allows the user to have either a full door or a half door because of its modular structure.

Visual Impact Promotions
Owner Walt Duncan said the company that provides canopies, flags and other marketing devices to dealers and manufacturers has seen its business with Tucker Rocky jump 27 percent this year.
The canopies, which are built from a nylon material, can include logos, graphics and dealership or manufacturers’ names. Duncan said dealers have had success co-oping with manufacturers to fund such canopies for various local race events.
Visual Impact has been in business for five years, and has been in partnership with Tucker Rocky for three years.

J.Strong Industries
The Kentucky manufacturer of UTV products for the Yamaha Rhino is new to Tucker Rocky.
The company, which has been selling UTV products for three years, offers a number of side-by-side items, including windshields, light kits, front and rear bumpers and half doors.
All of these materials are assembled and packaged at J.Strong’s Kentucky warehouse.
Western Power Sports and Motorcycle Stuff also distribute the company’s products.
— Neil Pascale

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