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THE CURE FOR COVID-19 HAS TWO WHEELS

E letter / Opinion

Industry veteran John Featherstone waxes lyrical on the bike trade’s resurgence and talks to frontline dealers.

So we are back as a source of recognised safe commuter travel. Now for many, especially third-generation family dealers, it’s déjà vu and, strangely enough, the green light coming from a government previously fixated with mass-transit trains, trams and buses.

How could we have anticipated “Don’t use public transport unless you have to” and “You must wear a facemask”? We were not exactly high on the agenda as any future mobility option. But events and individual rider responses have brought a welcome smile to the faces of many dealers and their suppliers.

Continuing reports highlight dealers selling out of new and used  machines, with rocketing spares and aftersales demand. Training schools are booked well ahead for CBTs and the MCIA has launched its eye-catching campaign. And most of all we can see the resourcefulness of individual dealers to make the best of a fast-changing business situation.                               

DEALER AND DISTRIBUTOR FEEDBACK

Mark Handy at Motech Motorcycles and Scooters in Newcastle on Tyne is very optimistic: “We have been open for a couple of weeks concentrating on key worker demand and service, but enquiries increased big time and now sales have gone through the roof with Sym scooters topping demand. Saying that we are selling all new and used — whatever we can get hold of. Likely we will increase on our June 2019 sales at this rate.”

The comment of one happy customer at Motech is worth repeating. He told Handy: “How come I didn’t know how affordable all this is? I’ve been spending a fortune on a weekly bus pass and at times city car parking, if you can find space. You need to advertise these bikes and scooters you know…”

Bruce Gallieni of BMG Scooters in London is never lost for a perceptive word: “Yes. Being kept very busy. What has been noticeable is the quality of customer enquiries. Male, thirty-plus age group mostly, with one man in particular whose wife was with him in when they called in. She was so enthused she got interested and decided to take her CBT. They bought another scooter as well and we have two new customers. One gripe I do have and am taking up with my MP, is the annoying press and Transport for London insistence to refer to only car, bicycle and unbelievably EAPC pedelecs, as alternative commuter transport.  What’s wrong in saying motorcycles and scooters?”

21st Moto is a Honda, Zero and now Super Soco dealer near to Brands Hatch in Kent.“Sales and aftersales are recovering very quickly,” says 21st Moto’s Rob Francis. “We are selling lots of motorcycles and scooters to customers who are terrified of using public transport. And nobody is asking for a discount. The electric scooters still have an initial cost and price resistance for some, until future running costs are explained. But that market sector will increase.”

Leading Chinese brand Lexmoto is zooming up the MCIA’s top-ten brand chart and increasing sales especially in the 125cc leisure and commuter sector. Lexmoto’s dealer network manager Dan Frost is understandably ecstatic: “There has been some ambiguity on shops reopening but the social media aspect has helped to clarify that. We had record-breaking parts sales in May and bike sales are also going through the roof. We planned ahead and have had our best-ever machine deliveries in the past four weeks.”

Speedway Motorcycles in Cannock knows all about volume sales in the lower capacity range. Matt Plested of this family-run business said: “It’s been an interesting couple of months. April was the worst-ever with only 33 sales. Come May, and it was like someone had flipped a switch as many opted out of using public transport. We had our best month in business, with 117 sales, no doubt helped by the great weather.” His father Garry Plested, who founded the dealership, added: “We have sold 30 bikes and scooters already for June and the serious enquiries keep coming. Lexmoto as always brilliant for us but we are selling practically everything across the brands we have.”

Blackpool-based North West Honda has been prospering too. “Our experience since the first day of lockdown has been overwhelmingly positive,” said general sales manager Neil Morris. “We’ve seen existing customers having the time to enjoy the pleasure of two wheels and new bikers coming on board rather than using public transport. Our online store Cox Motorcycles Direct, has never been busier. And the showroom, when we reopened, was akin to the local supermarket with customers patiently queueing and observing our social distancing measures. Long may it continue and even more people embrace our two-wheel culture.”

John Lee Motorcycles is based at Rushden in Northants, focusing on the off-road scene as a trials specialist. Dealer principal Chas Lee has an interesting take on the months since lockdown in March:

“We quickly weighed up what to do when lockdown was announced and carried on trading within all guidelines. We are fortunate as a family business to live adjacent to the shop, so this made service continuity easier. Amazingly, sales have kept going and we soon adapted to online selling and handover with 120 bikes sold in the past ten weeks, observing all the rules. Many of our customers have been on 80% salary for a while now with fewer overheads, less tax and outgoings and nothing to spend their money on. The pubs were shut and they were fed up, so raring to go.”

 

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