Bell Powersports, Santa Cruz, Calif., the newly formed division of Bell Sports, plans to sell its motorcycle helmets dealer direct rather than through distributors, and says U.S. retailers will be able to buy 2003 model helmets through the company’s independent sales force as early as mid-August.
Bell motorcycle helmets have been available through Parts Unlimited. Now, all orders will be shipped from Bell’s distribution facility in Rantoul, Ill.
“The move was necessary for us to achieve our ultimate goal of market leadership,” explained Greg Shapleigh, Bell’s vice president of marketing. “We have three primary strategic imperatives: rejuvenate the Bell brand with innovative product, restore retailer confidence and build an infrastructure for long term success. The ability to work directly with our dealers reinforces each of these points.”
Bell says recent advertisements — featuring sponsored riders Jeremy McGrath, Mike Metzger and Andrew Short — have helped generate significant interest in the brand, but says consumers are “frustrated” by how difficult it is to find the products at retail.
“We have nothing but respect for the Parts Unlimited organization,” said Bell Sports CEO Bill Fry. “Bell and Parts Unlimited have a long history of working together and we appreciate the loyalty they showed to the brand through the good times and the bad. Yet it became clear to us that Bell was never going to get the focus we think it deserves; we were just one of 12 helmet brands in their catalogs.”
Shapleigh says Parts Unlimited will sell the Bell product currently in stock, and says a new, comprehensive sales program will be rolled out with 2004 product in the fall. Dealers, he said, should notice an immediate difference.
“We’ll be able to offer a sales program that’s structured differently from that of a large distributor,” Shapleigh told Powersports Business. “I think there’ll be opportunities for better margins for the dealers, better programs, and we’ll probably be able to offer them more in terms of merchandising and personalized service as far as their helmet business is concerned.
“I think that a rep that goes in and tries to manage 12,000 SKUs can very effectively take orders. But, what we will have is people who can help dealers manage their helmet categories and give them better, more specialized training. Having people who are helmet experts, and who know the brand and know the market, will better be able to service the dealer’s helmet categories.”
Bell is no novice at selling direct. It has used the dealer direct distribution model to gain market leadership in every other helmet category it has targeted. For example, Bell says it leads the U.S. bicycle helmet market with a 63% share of the $254 million industry. It also claims a 32% marketshare in the fast-growing ski and snowboard helmet category.
Bell also expects to be able to handle fulfillment and delivery without a problem. Shapleigh points out that the company’s bicycle helmets are sold through mass merchandisers such as Wal-Mart, which demands a 98% fill rate.
Although it is working with rep groups and employs more than 65 independent representatives in the U.S., Bell Powersports is interviewing for sales positions in several territories. For information on the product line and how to become an authorized dealer, call 800/776-5677.
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