After a short ride on America’s highways, it becomes obvious that there is no such thing as a “typical” motorcyclist. The estimated 85 percent of motorcyclists that take to the streets ride big v-twins, nimble sport bikes, or fully decked-out touring machines all with their own styles. Even the remaining 15 percent that take their machines off-road have unique needs, whether they are going trail-riding or heading to a motocross track.
Cycle Gear has been around helping the motorcycle enthusiast select parts and apparel since 1974, and Cycle Gear CEO Dave Bertram insists that the business is anything but mainstream. “We don’t really single out any one type of rider,” he explains. “We’re a family store, and we’ve got a lot of great customers that ride all types of motorcycles.”
Cycle Gear locations are as diverse as the customers that frequent them. The company has 102 stores in 30 states and is in the process of hitting all of the great motorcycling markets. “It’s been a systematic growth plan from California across the Sunbelt – initially, the smile states,” Bertram says. “We’re now moving up the Eastern Seaboard and starting to backfill into Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. This year, we’ve opened two stores in Chicago, one in Milwaukee, one in Indianapolis, and we currently have stores under construction in New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.”
The company plans to open eight stores in 2014 and open approximately 10 percent more stores annually each year. Bertram believes the U.S. market will support more than 400 locations in addition to the possibility of international expansion. The average store size is approximately 4,500 square feet, but the largest in Sacramento, Calif., is 26,000 square feet. Cycle Gear’s stores typically are located in small shopping strip centers or standalone locations, but not in malls.
“There’s some variability to the real estate from a dimensional standpoint,” Bertram says. “However, when you walk into our store, you immediately know you’re in a Cycle Gear from the way the store looks. We send a consistent branding message throughout our company – our graphics, store layout, signs, advertising, website and store teams – all echo one consistent message.”
Cycle Gear has two distribution centers to keep its store locations well-stocked. The first is in Benicia, Calif., and is approximately 60,000 square feet in size, while the second is in Louisville, Ky., and boasts 72,000 square feet. Both locations also fulfill orders placed on the company’s website.
Cyclegear.com accounts for a significant portion of total sales and is a key component of the company’s overall marketing strategy. Cycle Gear’s new e-commerce platform, rolled out in March, will enable the company to offer in-store pickup with Internet purchases and special orders.
The new fully scalable platform will allow Cycle Gear to blend online, mobile and in-store experiences while allowing customers to purchase any way they choose. “We have a rapidly growing Internet site,” Bertram notes. “We’re fortunate enough to have a tremendous competitive advantage by being the only omnichannel retailer in our industry. With the new platform, we know our online and overall business will continue to grow significantly.”
The company’s national store footprint supported by a significant e-commerce presence provides a competitive advantage within the motorcycle industry. “We really don’t have any major competitors at this point,” Bertram maintains. “We are the only national chain in the $5 billion motorcycle apparel, parts and accessories industry. Our competitors are the mom-and-pop stores, about 10,000 of them. There are literally no other national or regional chains of stores.”
A competitive advantage for Cycle Gear is its own exclusive brand program that provides quality products at a great value. “We have brands that are exclusive to us which we direct-source from the factories,” Bertram notes. “So we can offer great quality at a value price point. That’s one of our many key competitive advantages. We’re the only retailer in our industry with sufficient buying power and sourcing to make that happen.”
Cycle Gear’s exclusive brands offer apparel such as boots, gloves, jackets, pants and helmets, and cut out the middlemen so Cycle Gear can price its exclusive products lower than competitors’.
Promotional events such as motorcycle “bike nights” are organized at the grassroots level by store managers. Cycle Gear organizes more than 1,000 bike nights annually at its stores, and in addition, the company supports numerous motorcycle clubs that promote local events. Cycle Gear’s grassroots marketing program also supports more than 500 regional and local racers by offering discounts on products it sells.
For Bertram, a former national motorcycle racing champion himself, and the more than 900 motorcycle enthusiasts on Cycle Gear’s team, the important thing is to be passionate about what you do every day. “Our sport is driven primarily by passion,” Bertram emphasizes. “It’s a lifestyle – it’s what our customers love to do on the weekend. It’s that emotional connection that helps our industry remain very stable.
“The recent recession has dealt serious blows to most specialty retailers, but we’ve continued to grow every year through the downturn,” Bertram asserts. “In fact, our same-store sales have averaged 8 percent per year for over 30 years. It’s just been steady growth for us. For us, it will be continued expansion in a good, solid industry with very loyal and passionate customers.”