Biggest area for growth? Could be the scooter aftermarket

What’s the hottest part of the aftermarket? Scooter parts and accessory manufacturers and distributors could certainly make a case for their market segment.
Scooterworks Direct, a manufacturer and national distributor, reports huge growth in 2008 over the previous year as does another national distributor, Parts for Scooters.
Sean Cummings, director of sales for Scooterworks Direct, compares the scooter aftermarket to what the motorcycle aftermarket was like 25 years ago, with significant sales increases among a few big players.
While the average scooter PG&A ticket might not equal the new cruiser, it certainly doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of dealership opportunity.
“These guys (scooter buyers) are just as enthusiastic and spend just as much, percentage-wise, as a Harley buyer does on their new unit purchase,” Cummings said, noting it’s not unusual for a new scooter buyer to pay an additional 15 percent of the cost of the new vehicle in PG&A at the time of the purchase or within the first month of ownership.
“This is where shops were really cleaning up last year,” Cummings said, noting the rise in new unit sales in the United States last year for scooters. “They weren’t leaving the shops without a rear rack and a top case so people can use them for commuting.”
The business has grown so fast that Scooterworks Direct’s 2009 catalog will be more than 100 pages longer than last year’s and include an additional 2,000 parts.
James Canning, vice president of Parts for Scooters, says his company saw a 40 percent increase in sales in 2008 compared to the prior-year period. The St. Petersburg, Fla.,-based distributor saw across-the-board increases, not only in commodities but performance parts as well. “We’ve seen a large increase in the performance end,” Canning said.
That especially is the case with buyers of a 50cc, four-stroke scooter.
“They can get potentially 35-45 mph, but it’s difficult for them to keep up with traffic,” Canning said.
As a result, many of these scooter owners purchase exhaust packages to add 5-10 mph to their current unit rather than purchase a larger-displacement model.
Cummings has seen the same consumer buying habits with his company’s house brand, Prima, as well as other exhaust system suppliers they carry, including NCY and Malossi.
“People putting pipes and performance stuff on their scooters is very, very popular,” he said. “I didn’t anticipate that big of a marketplace out there for it, but really there is.”
Similar heightened interest has been shown in some of the more traditional items, like soft luggage and windshields. Cummings notes just in the past year or so consumers have been provided with accessories for KYMCO, SYM and modern Vespa scooters from aftermarket companies. Previously, there were some aftermarket products for older Vespas or products made for European use. That doesn’t always necessarily transfer successfully over to the U.S. consumer, Cummings notes, mentioning for example the large, heavy windshields that are popular in Europe but not in the United States.
Other national distributors, like Parts Unlimited, Tucker Rocky and Marshall Distributing, also have been adding scooter accessories to their lineups.
“The scooter parts that we do sell sold very well last year,” said Chuck Herman, national sales manager for Marshall Distributing. “It was hard to keep up with the demand.”
— Neil Pascale

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