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New life after franchise chop

Franchises are fraught; selling second-hand bikes online and by appointment is the way to go, according to motorcycle dealer Robert Rooney who has set up a new slim-line business following his bitter split with Triumph in September last year.

Rooney ran one of Triumph’s longest-serving dealerships, Hughenden M40, before being “terminated at the stroke of a pen”. The dealership, situated close to the motorway and on the A40, east of Oxford near Thame, was said by Triumph to be “in the wrong location”.

Now Rooney has sold his former Triumph showroom and is relishing the relatively worry-free benefits of his latest venture – The Motorcycle Barn at Swanbourne.

The 3000sq.ft former tractor workshop houses a second-hand motorcycle operation with a small mezzanine and separate servicing area, although Rooney says “he’s not getting into servicing in a big way”.

“I haven’t got a showroom – deliberately not. I don’t do parts, clothing, accessories, tyres, anything like that. It’s second-hand retail only, and by appointment,” said Rooney.

“I’m franchise-free, and my life is so much better. I may not be doing everything I want but it isn’t far off it. If I don’t want to go to work – if I want to take my dogs and go shooting – I don’t go. I sold two bikes the other day on my phone without actually being there. All I had to do was phone back the following day for the card details.

“It’s a simple way of doing business – a bit like it used to be. People want to buy stuff and I am making it easy for them. Previously the sales process was long, drawn out and laborious; a lot of work for no reward.”

Although The Motorcycle Barn is an on-line operation, the former farm building has a wooden office and is “a bit like a gentleman’s club”, with leather chairs, a leather-top desk, antique lights and chandelier and pictures of dogs on the walls. The entire investment amounted to £20,000.

“My overheads are only £6000 a month. With Triumph I was losing more in the month of December than it would cost me to stay open for six months here without a single sale.”

Full story – and more on the franchise/corporate identity debate – in the November issue of BDN.

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