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Used stock shortage but dealers upbeat

E letter / Opinion

In his latest trade round-up, industry veteran John Featherstone was happy to discover that sales recovery continues unabated. But many dealers are experiencing a used stock shortage. Some are also reporting lack of progress in CBT and testing, as well workshops fully booked on repairs and MOTs.

“We have been here 33 years but never as busy as this,” says Tom Hodges at father-and-son business GV Bikes in Taunton. “How do I sum it up? Not enough hours in the day! We are coming in at 7am and here through until 9pm most days so far, in June. We’ve sold 60 new bikes this year, 26 new Royal Enfields and AJS macines are selling well. The last three used bikes we had went this week.”

At the family-run Gildo’s Motorcycles business in Wisbech,  Adam Gilding is in the same situation as many other dealers. “Finding good used stock is not easy,” he complains. “The age of our customer base is mainly 30-plus and we are selling a few new Sinnis machines in the smaller capacity range. But a lot of our customers want mid-range upwards and have no problem about spending. So they are fed up.”

Paul Shaw, who runs A1 Motorcycles and Training in Doncaster, has overcome a longer-term problem: “We had a serious break-in just before lockdown, so we’re only now making a slow return to selling. There’s a mixed picture on the training side and we are waiting for clear guidance on that. We decided to be more selective on the reduced stock we have left, but are already finding a demand for the retro look on scooters. It’s just going to take the next few months, to see what happens.”

Down in Sussex, New Street Motorcycles in Horsham is owned by Rob and Lesley Ticehurst. Besides a Herald franchise, it specialises in used large-capacity bikes — and reports very good demand. Jeff, who runs the clothing department, adds:  “We also have a good range of quality used leathers, with really exceptional sales.”

Dave Whitaker, owner of Scarborough’s Royal Enfield and Moto GB dealership DW Motorcycles, is very upbeat: “We’ve just had six Keeway Superlights delivered and all are sold — and have taken on the Benelli range as well. I’ve never seen this volume of sales before. We are getting enquiries from well outside of our usual area. There’s not enough hours in the day! I’m working hard and making the most of it.”

Cooperb Motorcycles of Wellingborough is firmly entrenched in the older-rider leisure profile and larger-capacity bikes, according to owner Ian Cooper. “Nobody comes in here asking for a 125,” he says. “But we are having a busy time with sales and workshop. We sold 115 new Royal Enfields last year and have shifted 40 new and 60 used bikes this year up to the third week in June. Being realistic rather than negative, I see the major problem being a shortage of used machines for our market. We’ve only got nine in stock at present. We could see a challenging time for the rest of this year, in terms of new and replacement used stock. But it’s still a great opportunity for us.”

Gavin Nightingale in Rugby heads the family team at a third-generation eponymous dealership. “We are reacting to a different marketplace after 48 years, with online machine sales and a massive growth in mail-order accessories,” he says. “we sold an amazing 150 helmets in one day last month. But in many instances, we developed and sealed online bike sales enquiries during April and May with a personal phone follow-up call. It works — there’s still a place for the human voice, product knowledge and the trust factor. For the future, we will look at selling large-capacity used Japanese and Triumph machines. We’ll keep the lower-capacity Suzuki franchise and continue to review all internal costings and retained margins, to prepare for changing times.”

Carole Linsdell, a partner at Premier Yamaha dealership Flitwick Motorcycles near Milton Keynes, said: “Closing the doors for more than two months was hard, not knowing the effect it would have on our business. But we were fully open again in early June and have been missed, it seems. Being starved of a local motorcycle dealer has reinforced how much they might need us, with many old and new faces appearing ready to buy. There’s a definite increase in those switching from public transport as their choice of commute. Mail order been busy too, reflecting more to spend or perhaps a reluctance to make personal visits. Our only concern could be getting enough bikes to meet demand, but we will cope with that as and when.”

Mike Grainger, well-known proprietor of GT Motorcycles in Plymouth, has the four Japanese franchises and Ducati and is very optimistic for the future: “We took the lockdown opportunity to revamp our sales areas and it’s working,” he says. “About 90% of our staff are now back full-time and hopefully the café will be fully operational again soon. So many positives are coming through for the future of the motorcycle market. Like many others, we’re going to make the best of them.”

 

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