Dec. 3, 2007 – Corbin steps outside the manufacturing box

California-based aftermarket manufacturer Corbin has capped off a four-year effort to become fully dealer direct with its motorcycle accessories, severing its ties with distributors to speed new products to dealers.
The distribution method Corbin had been working with was prohibitive, given the speed with which the company comes out with new products, said Corbin CEO Mike Corbin.
Corbin specializes in seats, saddlebags and fairings, many of which are color matched for various models produced by OEMs. The company previously used distributors Tucker Rocky, Custom Chrome and Parts Unlimited to get its product to dealers.
“We develop new products very rapidly at our company, and the distribution cataloging system is always two years delayed, so it’s hard to introduce new products rapidly to dealers through distributors,” Corbin said. “It’s harder [for distributors] to represent a fast-moving line in a timely fashion.”
Also, dealers are on the receiving end of the economic benefits of being dealer-direct. Namely, an entire pricing level is eliminated. Corbin is able to offer a lower MSRP, and dealers gain higher margins, Corbin said.
Now, Corbin has a corps of 14 telemarketers who work with dealers as soon as a new product rolls off the assembly line. The growth the company has realized as a result of the gradual change is staggering.
“Sales are up 400 percent in two years,” Corbin said. “We were dancing in the daisies. We knew we could get more growth than [we would have] dealing with distributors, but we didn’t think it was going to happen so fast.”
40 Years and Counting
Founded in 1968, Corbin celebrated its 40th anniversary early with a party during the four-day Biketoberfest motorcycle festival held in mid-October in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Looking back, the key to the company’s success has been its chameleon-like nature, Corbin said.
“Corbin has been a company that’s been able to continuously reinvent itself as a company and its product lines,” Corbin noted. “It has applied itself wisely to new model motorcycles and followed trends.”
The company has seen a lot of trends come and go through the years. In the past five years, the company has had particular success with its touring packages, Corbin says. The packages include fairings and saddlebags paint matched to OEM colors. Strong growth in the street fighter bike category in recent years led the company to dive headfirst into that arena. Luxury touring bike accessories, however, continue to be the manufacturer’s strongest revenue source.
Adventures in Retailing
Corbin is also breaking the bounds of traditional manufacturing with its retail presence.
Nearly one year ago, the company opened the third incarnation of its 16-year presence in the Daytona Beach, Fla., area. The new store, in Ormond Beach, replaces a facility the company previously used in Daytona.
The company strategically chose the Ormond Beach location, less than a mile south of Destination Daytona Harley-Davidson, to be close to the action for motorcycle-centric events like Bike Week and Biketoberfest, but far enough away to be out of the traffic snarl.
“Destination Harley-Davidson is probably one of the most important motorcycle locations in the United States,” Corbin said.
The new facility opened in January and has 10,400 square feet of showroom, warehouse and shop space. It is also home to about half of Corbin’s dealer-direct telemarketing team. Having that presence on the Eastern seaboard has lead to copious benefits for the manufacturer.
“We’re way out here in California, and 80 percent of the U.S. population lives east of the Mississippi, so it gives us an outlet there,” Corbin said. “It puts our salesmen in the correct time zone. The warehouse there is closer to shops for shipping.”
In addition to its Ormond Beach location, Corbin does have a smaller showroom at its Hollister, Calif., factory, but it’s more of a ride in service location, Corbin said. The company is considering adding a second full retail facility, likely somewhere in the New Jersey/New York/Pennsylvania tri-state area.
Having a retail location also affords the company something few manufacturers get: lots of face time with customers. Daily interaction with people who seek the store out for the only thing it carries — Corbin product — means lots of ideas for product development.
The company is in the middle of a flurry of product development, preparing new items and project bikes for the Cincinnati V-Twin Expo in February and for a new Harley-Davidson dealer catalog, due out around Jan. 1. psb

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