By Neil Pascale
LAKE FOREST, Calif. — Industry veteran Rick Miller has seen his share of business challenges in powersports.
In the 1970s, the-then Harley-Davidson Motor Co. employee tried to convince V-twin dealers to take their one or two Marlon Brando-styled leather jackets out from behind the counter and actually put them within reach of a consumer, a la the typical department store. It was a difficult conversation, as many a dealer feared the consumers would try the jacket on, and then promptly steal it.
Today, Miller, the president of Scorpion Sports Inc., has a much different issue, although one no less challenging. Miller’s Lake Forest, Calif.-based company is not only dealing with the economic downturn but a significant change in distribution that is impacting the dealer-direct business.
Starting last summer, Scorpion’s parent company (Kido Sports) decided to add Tucker Rocky as a helmet-only distributor.
“It didn’t take long to realize the small guy going up against the big guy is not going to win in a fistfight,” Miller said. “So we’ve continued to be more service-oriented.”
For Scorpion Sports, that means having a hand in dealership events.
“We’re not going to be in the stores as often as they are, but we have to make our visits more productive,” Miller said of Scorpion Sports’ sales force. “We have to get closer to the dealer.
“We really want the dealer to know we are as interested in him selling the product at retail as we are in selling the product to him. We encourage all our reps to work as many open houses and special events with the dealer as possible, so they see our representatives are there helping them sell the product.
“We’re trying at the local level to do as much as possible and to make him feel like we’re part of his team. We’re going to help him. We’re not going to leave him stranded.”
Miller says Scorpion also is working to increase the effectiveness of its in-store marketing, not only with its product hang tags but with a full array of marketing materials, including wall displays and signs.
“The minute that customer walks in the store, he has to have an immediate impression of Scorpion,” Miller said. “We have only 5 minutes to do that. He has to be able to see it quickly; something has to draw his attention to it.”
Although the helmet line is available through Tucker Rocky, Scorpion Sports still has exclusive distribution of the brand’s ExoWear apparel. In fact, Scorpion Sports recently unveiled its spring 2010 collection, which includes additional women’s wear. The new collection includes the Fiore matching helmet, jacket and gloves, which includes CE-approved Exo-Tec armor in the elbows and shoulders. The new jacket’s contoured cut is designed to fit a female form and has a dual-side adjustment system that aids in getting the right fit.
Miller notes Scorpion Sports has been effective in expanding its presence in dealerships, from solely a helmet provider to the obvious extension: men’s and women’s apparel.
“We get our fair share of the women’s market,” he said.
The new apparel product is a far cry from what Miller tried to get Harley-Davidson dealers to drag out from behind their cash registers so many years ago.
“The whole market has become more fashionable,” he said.