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Cold weather gear contributes to bottom line in all seasons

Liz Hochstedler
October 31, 2011
Filed under Features

As the weather gets crisp across the country, many riders are beginning to put their motorcycles away, but some are still plugging away, and others would consider extending their season with the right gear.
The proper cold weather gear can keep riders on the road well into seasons many consider too cold to ride. And the sales of that gear, along with the residual effects of a longer riding season, can add to the revenue of a dealership.

Gearing up

Riders can be supplied with a variety of gear to keep them going in the cold.

Often popular for riders is layered gear with liners. Many customers buy gear with liners in the late spring or summer, but some throw the liners away, said Richard Kimes, director of marketing for Helmet House. Liners can be as simple as jeans or sweatshirts, but to add to sales, dealers can sell liners themselves. The outside layers should prevent wind from getting into the gear and should be waterproof, experts say.

“They should be looking at some waterproof gear and something to insulate under that,” said Steve Schoen, sales manager for Icon.

Riders should also be thinking about head-to-toe coverage and looking at boots, socks and gloves, in addition to jackets and pants. Gloves are extremely important to riders who have their hands exposed, Kimes said.

“A good, quality, gauntlet glove, perhaps maybe even with a waterproof barrier in it, is better to have in those colder climates,” he said.

Often riders try to rely on heated grips, which work with some gloves, but the grips don’t heat the outside of the hand. Kimes also recommends riders buy a breath box to prevent fogging of the helmet shield.

Becoming more popular in riding is heated gear, which either plugs into a motorcycle or includes a battery pack to charge the gear.

“Heated apparel in the past two or three years has been coming on really strong, and you’ll find yourself easily using those at 45 degrees and less,” said Mark Salvatore, Firstgear brand manager for Tucker Rocky Distributing.

Heated gear extends riding seasons beyond even what layering traditionally can, and many motorcycle gear suppliers are now carrying heated gear, including jackets, vests, jacket liners, pants, pant liners, gloves and socks.

“Good cold weather gear that seals well and has good insulation can help keep your body warm and retain the heat that your body naturally creates to a certain degree. But the elements are very successful at sucking out body heat and eventually the insulation inside of your jacket. And that’s where heated clothing comes in. Heated clothing doesn’t count on your body to make heat — it makes heat for you,” said Fernando Belair, director of sales and marketing for Gerbing’s Heated Clothing.

Keeping offseason riders warm is important when it comes to keeping customers happy.

“It doesn’t take very long at speed on a motorcycle or snowmobile to be underdressed and get yourself in some trouble in that situation, so it really does behoove a rider to plan out what to bring with and what to wear,” Kimes said.

Without proper protection in the cold, riders can become not only uncomfortable, but they could also succumb to hypothermia, even when the temperature doesn’t necessarily seem cold.

“Figure out what part of your body gets cold first, and then if you don’t have a specific spot, go for the jacket liner that is going to keep your heart and torso warm,” Belair advised.

Added sales

Cold weather gear not only gives dealers an opportunity to sell their customers a second set of gear, but it also provides a chance for added sales in a variety of departments.

Within the PG&A department, Kimes said added sales can be found with non-riders, including hunters, parents who sit at football games, outdoorsmen and others. Also, of course, much of this gear is appropriate for snowmobilers.

“We saw a huge amount of dealers who are bringing in a whole new kind of customer into their shop to buy this type of gear for outdoor use in all kinds of applications,” Kimes said.

Also, because fully-geared riders are on the roads longer than they traditionally would be, added revenue can be found across all departments, especially service.

“A lot of riders would pack away their bike in August, but they could ride into November with heated gear,” Salvatore said. “That’s another 60 days, and for a dealer, aside from the apparel, just think of the kinds of things you go through when you ride. It all goes into the business long-term and creates this wonderful residual effect.”

Belair said heated clothing sales have sustained many dealerships though the fall and winter seasons.
“If you want to extend the amount of time that you can enjoy your pleasure vehicle, you want to be able to ride it for as long as you can in the winter and as early as you can in the spring, so a dealer can explain to the customer that this extends the pleasure you can get from your motorcycle,” he said. “Heated clothing does a wonderful job of helping a customer extend a riding season and the investment they’ve made in this pleasure vehicle.”

Stocking

The experts’ opinions on when to begin stocking cold weather gear vary. Some say dealers should only stock the gear shortly before and during the cold seasons, when customers are thinking about bundling up.

“Generally for the fall, you begin to think about it — August, September,” Schoen said. “Definitely by September, you should have some cold weather gear floating around. By October, you should have a full stock of cold weather gear. Generally that will carry them through the holidays.”

Others say dealers should carry some stock of cold weather gear year-round, so customers know where to turn when they need such gear.

“Really the wise thing a dealer can do is keep a size run or two and really work with their customer to examine what kind of riding they’re doing and when,” Kimes said.

It’s most important to be fully stocked within a few weeks before the cold weather sets in. For each region of the country, the cold can come at a different time, but cold weather gear can be sold nearly everywhere. At one time, a dealership in California was the third-best seller of Gerbing’s Heated Clothing, Belair said.

“Tallahassee [Fla.] gets down into the teens at night, and on some days can get down into the 20s, but even when it’s 55 or 60 degrees, and someone from Michigan says it’s a balmy day, someone in Florida will say, ‘Gee, I’m freezing,’” he added. “You’re going to find heated clothing customers everywhere.”
Riders traveling to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in August have even been known to buy heated gear in preparation for the cold mornings and nights in the Black Hills.

Promotion of the gear should start a few weeks before its needed, so customers can prepare for the upcoming season. Most customers will still wait to buy the gear until they need it, Salvatore said, but if it’s advertised, they’ll know a dealership has it in advance. He recommends a dealer dress a mannequin in cold weather gear when it’s available and place that mannequin in a focal point of the store.

With the addition of cold weather gear at a dealership, extra sales can be found in the PG&A department as well as others, and those riders who continue riding late into the season can be comfortable and happy.

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