By John Wyckoff
The fact that women control 85% of all the discretionary dollars spent in the US is beginning to wake up retailers everywhere. The last bastion of macho has been the motorcycle industry. They too have seen the shift and are now running at full speed to capitalize on this paradigm shift.
About ten years ago women represented about 3% of the motorcycle owners. This year that number has ramped up to 12% in motorcycles and 16% in ATVs. Who changed? Both the OEMs and dealers have realized that they can no longer ignore this powerful market.
First the OEMs — Harley-Davidson, the “man’s” motorcycle, now produces a Sportster specifically targeting women. The seat height is 24.5 inches, much lower than the 26 to 28 inches of the rest of the big bikes. The Japanese are catching on too by bring out sleek scooters designed to appeal to women and capable of keeping up with Interstate traffic.
Now for the dealers — Thanks to very intensive training dealers are beginning to understand their salespeople can no longer talk down to women. Some have accepted the idea and have even begun hiring women salespeople. Once only men staffed dealerships, except perhaps for the bookkeeper. Now, although still in the minority, women are showing up as techs, service writers, parts counter, and unit salespeople.
Behavior has changed. Women customers now feel more at ease. Male salespeople have learned to treat women more like intelligent men. Why the switch? Perhaps it’s the Internet that allows women to do the research before they enter the dealership. Dealers report that when a woman comes in to buy a bike she sometimes knows more than the man trying to sell her.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) conducts training for new motorcyclists. Last year they reported that 40% of those signing up for the class were women. That’s up from single digit percentages a few short years ago.
Car dealers are just beginning to wake up to the fact that they can no longer treat women the way they did just a few years ago. Those who have spent more time developing the women’s market have shown greater success than those still in macho mode.
The new pickup trucks show a woman’s influence. Pickups are no longer a simple workhorse vehicle. Why the change? Pickup truck makers discovered that women were buying pickups in ever increasing numbers and were insisting on greater comfort and more amenities. The challenge now is to educate the pickup salesmen to the new world of selling to women.
What’s the upshot? There are fewer “girly” semi-nude posters in motorcycle, ATV, auto, and truck dealerships. Women’s rest rooms are clean. Want to increase your business? If you’re in a male dominated market learn to cater to and sell to women. Ignore them and suffer the consequences. In this millennium, women rule.
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John Wyckoff is a true guru of the motorcycle industry. A sought-after speaker at motorcycle events and frequent contributor to the motorcycle press, he is the founder of Intersport Fashions West. He is an expert on the motorcycle business and dealerships and is known for having his finger on the pulse of the motorcycling public. He is the author of Mind Your Own Business, 2nd Edition: The Complete Guide to Profitable Powersports Dealerships.