The Little Detail that Matters for Small Retailers

Editor’s note: One of our most popular guest Experts, John Wyckoff, joins us once again. This month John describes how a seemingly minor detail can make a big impact on a small retailer such as a motorcycle dealership.

By John Wyckoff

“50 Ideas in 50 Minutes.” This was the title of a presentation given to motorcycle dealers at a large trade show recently.

There were three industry professionals on stage, including myself. Between us we have well over 100 years of powersports industry experience. The event called for each of us taking turns presenting one idea within one minute.

There was one idea which caused some snickering and embarrassed glances. It was an idea which I presented. Here’s the text of that idea.

My idea number 21: Make your restrooms sparkle. I am serious that this is an idea to improve a dealer’s (or any retail business’s) profitability.

First, more and more women are becoming riders. More women are accompanying their husbands, boyfriends, family member when they shop for a motorized “toy.”

Next, women frequent a restroom twice as often as men. Women over 20 and those who have had a baby frequent restrooms even more often. Women are very sensitive when it comes to the cleanliness and supplies when they use a restroom.

If the women’s restroom is not up to her standards she will NEVER come back to your store. Remember, women control 85% of all discretionary dollars spent in the US. Men like clean surroundings too but because of the “macho” syndrome seldom respond if the conditions are less than sanitary.

Let’s take it from the top. I don’t care if you have the best looking store in the neighborhood; the most dynamic display; the best lighting and the most attentive staff. If your restrooms don’t sparkle the rest really doesn’t matter.

Let me give you two examples, one positive the other negative. They have both stuck in my mind because of the extreme difference.

The first one was Mike’s Famous, a large, well run, dramatic Harley-Davidson store bordering the Freeway in Dover, Delaware. Several years ago I was invited to do what I call a “store tune-up” by the owner, Mike Schwartz.

When I entered the store I was impressed with the creativity, the display, the furniture, the fixtures and the background music. Mike has a captive radio station that broadcasts music and in-house commercials — very impressive. Mike also has a restaurant connected to the store. The food and service were top notch. Matter of fact his restaurant has been listed as being among the top 10 eating establishments in Delaware.

On the second day of my visit I had Mike gather all his employees into a meeting at which time I made my presentation and divulged what I thought might be needed for the store to go to the next level. The 60 or so employees were polite and attentive. I started my presentation by asking who was responsible for the condition of the restrooms. A young lady in the back of the room raised her hand. At this point I commented that the men’s restroom was the cleanest I had ever seen in any dealership anywhere. Everyone applauded the somewhat embarrassed young lady.

Before I made the comment I talked to Mike and told him what I had discovered. He didn’t think this was anything noteworthy and felt that every retail operation with restrooms should make those places clean, well lighted and well equipped. He felt it was a part of developing repeat customers by showing them that nothing was being overlooked when it came to their comfort and their impression that the store personnel care about their customers.

Now for the other side of the coin. In this case I won’t name the dealer. If he reads this article I’m sure he’ll know I am talking about his store. I was with a banker visiting stores in southern New Mexico. We visited one store which was not particularly well organized. I needed to use the restroom. It was clearly marked but when I opened the door I decided to wait until I could get to a gas station or our next stop. The room was filthy. The fixtures were covered with black grease as were the walls and floor. The mirror was broken and there wasn’t even a latch on the inside of the door.

I told my banker friend that we should move on and that this store wasn’t worth our time and effort. We left after making some sort of a lame excuse.

Here’s what’s real. Yeah, I know no one ever talks about restrooms but perhaps they should. The restroom is quite often a safe haven for the wife or girlfriend of a biker. He wants her to be at ease. That can’t happen in a dirty environment. When she returns chances are she’ll often suggest they leave the store — NOW!

When discussing this with others who are in the same position as I am, one brought out an interesting point. He has visited hundreds of dealerships in the past few years and commented that he could always tell when a woman was in charge of the dealership or its janitorial concerns. “You’ll never find a dirty women’s restroom where a woman runs the store. For that matter you won’t find a dirty men’s restroom either,” he commented. He then went on to say that I was “getting way out there” by doing an article on the subject. I agree with him but I feel that this problem has to be addressed.

As I’ve said before, “It is not my job to tell you what you want to hear. It is my job to tell you what I believe you need to know.”

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John Wyckoff, author of The Complete Guide to Profitable Powersports DealershipsJohn Wyckoff is the author of Mind Your Own Business, 2nd Edition: The Complete Guide to Profitable Powersports Dealerships. To read more of John Wyckoff’s guest articles like this one, visit our Experts directory.


John Wyckoff John Wyckoff (now deceased) is the author of Mind Your Own Business, 2nd Edition: The Complete Guide to Profitable Powersports Dealerships. He founded Intersports Fashion West, a wildly successful powersports leather accessories business which he sold to Hein Gericke. In later life he appeared as a frequent speaker and consulted with motorcycle dealership owners on profitability and retailing.

10 Reactions
  1. I love it!

    Being a washroom aficianado, I can’t help but say, “About time!”

    Here’s another thought: put some decent reading material in there. Everyone does it, no reason to be ashamed about it. Maybe throw a couple glossy catalogs in there…I might as well shop while I…you know…

  2. Yes, Ben. I agree.

    There are many restrooms I have simply turned around and walked out of, and just kept going out the door. The worst is in restaurants — I could never enjoy a meal in a restaurant with a filthy restroom.


  3. I agree, I am from South Africa and would like to throw something else into the mix. Saftey, there is a cinema complex that my husband and I don’t visit due to the long corridor and unsecure feeling. We also don’t stop at any gas station when on long journeys and will stick to a particular chain as we know their bathrooms will be clean and well kept. A woman usually has to take children to the bathroom and will be more inclind to feel comfortable if they are clean for themself and their kids.

  4. I completely agree! I just started a new job at a mechanic store. The store itself was recently remodeled and looks great, but the first thing I said to the manager is we have got to improve this bathroom. Some customers wait hours for the work to be finished on their vehicle and a nice bathroom will keep their spirits up.