Used bikes, apparel focus of new Seattle Used Bikes
When a young rider — soaked from rain, dressed in a parka, jeans, tennis shoes and gardening gloves — recently walked into Seattle Used Bikes, David Roosevelt sprang into action. The young man had little cash, but had happened upon the right dealership.
Roosevelt found the rider a pair of rain pants for $25 and a pair of mechanic’s gloves and helped the rider pad his gear with newspaper for added insulation on the ride home. The young man made it home safely without freezing and promptly thanked Roosevelt and his staff for their help.
Creating a place where riders feel part of a community is key to what Roosevelt is building at Seattle Used Bikes (SUB). Roosevelt, founder and former owner of Ducati Seattle, opened SUB in August. The dealership specializes in pre-owned motorcycles and gear and service for all models.
SUB was formed following Roosevelt’s departure from Ducati Seattle. Though he was done with his first venture, he wasn’t done with motorcycle sales.
“I just decided that this is all I know. This is what I do,” he said. “I’m a motorcycle guy. It allows me the freedom to get around to all brands.”
Roosevelt decided his new dealership would focus on pre-owned because he wanted to try running a business without OEM restrictions and he was interested in the higher margins provided by pre-owned.
“I just want a break from the OEMs for awhile, nothing against any of them. I respect all of them,” he said, adding that he may consider adding a franchise in the future.
For now, Seattle Used Bikes offers only pre-owned bikes sold directly from the dealership or on consignment. So far, it has been easy for Roosevelt to find inventory.
“Because of my long time in the industry, people are just bringing them to me, people are just finding me,” he said, adding that he has also posted an ad on Craigslist seeking more units.
Consignments allow SUB to not have to invest in the units, but still receive some of the profit.
“On consignment, I just try to establish what the customer needs to find in his pocket. We look for at least a 20 percent margin,” Roosevelt explained. “I look for 30-35 percent on the bikes I purchase.”
SUB takes in any model bike from any year. The dealership has carried anything from 1970s units to a 2011 Aprilia RSV4.
“What I’m looking for in bikes is bikes that I can sell,” Roosevelt said, adding that he prefers bikes that are already running and only require minor touch-ups to be road-ready, though the shop has taken on a couple project bikes.
In carrying some of the older bikes that other dealers don’t sell, SUB has found a niche.
“We see that vintage motorcycle market being huge here in the Northwest,” Roosevelt said.
He’s finding customers who are in their 50s looking for the bike they first wanted when they were 18. The Cretins Motorcycle Club, which is focused on vintage, café and streetfighter bikes, has driven the vintage bike movement in the area.
“We’re seeing mid-’70s Hondas bring $3,500-$5,500 up here in the Pacific market,” Roosevelt said. Other vintage models bring even higher prices, and with that, higher margins.
Before a bike leaves SUB, it’s delivered to the service department for minor repairs and an appraisal report that mentions recommended repairs. Customers pay $100 for this service before taking their bike home.
“I try to hold my line on that as much as I can,” Roosevelt said, adding that customers have been willing to pay the fee.
The bikes are advertised on Facebook and Craigslist, and the dealership launched a new website in mid-December.
Apparel and service
In addition to offering pre-owned bikes, SUB also offers a selection of used apparel. Roosevelt has sought out gently used gear from friends and customers and through an ad on Craigslist. His apparel inventory currently has about 100 items.
“Apparel has been really good so far. I’ve done really good with that,” he said.
Apparel sales works just like the bikes. SUB either offers apparel it has acquired or consignment pieces.
“What I do on the apparel side is give sellers 50 percent of asking price [on consignment] or 40 percent if I buy it from them,” Roosevelt said.
His margins on apparel are about 50 percent, a number he could never reach with new product. Used apparel also gives Roosevelt a chance to get new riders into a sport, or offer a struggling rider a $25 pair of rain pants.
“The riding gear thing is great. I can get new rider in to a jacket, pants and boots for $400,” he said.
The dealership carries gear from shoulder to toe, but won’t sell used helmets. Though SUB doesn’t sell any new gear yet, Roosevelt says he plans on offering at least basics, such as gloves, in the future.
In service, SUB has two contract techs, each of whom split their $75 per hour labor rate with the dealership. Roosevelt says this system is similar to how dealerships were operated decades ago.
“The way I see it is here I have a guy who wants to work and isn’t always trying to find a new job,” he said about sharing the rate.
Roosevelt’s goal with Seattle Used Bikes is not only to create a profitable dealership, but to create a store with its own motorcycling community.
The dealership allows customers to watch their bikes being serviced, and it offers access to free air for tires. In the summer, SUB will also open a wash bay for customers to wash their bikes for free, and soon the dealership would like to add a warehouse for winter storage and an on-site coffee shop.
In doing this and connecting with riders like his recent rain-soaked customer, Roosevelt hopes he can become more supportive of Seattle motorcyclists.
“I get back to where I came from, which is helping people,” he said. “I do like giving back a little bit to community because they’ve done the same for me over the years.”