Confessions of a former motorcycle dealer
First blog for quite a while. Why? Because Pure-Triumph and Pure Ducati – AKA Pure European the store in Ft. Lauderdale – are dead, (although http://www.pure-triumph.com/ and http://www.pure-ducati.com/ the online stores live on). And I got a bit distracted.
It would take more than a few blogs to chronicle the full story of Pure Triumph Ft. Lauderdale as a business. Anyone who has had a burning passion to do something which deserved doing well will understand how we feel about the demise of the store. Flash back to the day in mid October 2005 when we retired across to Ernie’s over the way on S. Federal, and watched the Triumph sign light up on the freshly white-painted store, with a well earned cool one in hand. We’d done it – the largest Triumph store in the world – with our name on it. We’d just finished our Opening Day, and were enjoying the antics of one irascible Gary Nixon – erstwhile AMA champion 1967-68 - and still flirting effectively with the waitresses, large Bourbon in hand.
18 days later, driving round the M25 back in London, I hear the news about Hurricane Wilma that I had been dreading: ‘Hurricane Wilma made landfall on the south western cost of Florida, and has turned east towards Miami’. Five days later I was landing in the sunshine in Miami. Ft. Lauderdale airport was still closed. We didn’t open the store again until after Christmas, and pretty much wiped out all our capital reserves in the process. I guess we should have read the omen – it was always going to be a struggle after that.
And yet – and yet. . . By 2007 we were #1 in the US for sales of Triumph clothing and accessories thanks to the success of http://www.pure-triumph.com/ , and by the end of 2008 we had experienced 40% growth a year since we started. We were regularly the best selling store in the south east US for Triumph bikes, and in the top 10 stores in the US. But having the biggest, best appointed shrine to Triumph motorcycles in the world – in downtown Ft. Lauderdale - took its toll, our overheads were simply stupendous. As a Brit I was used to high fuel bills but - for instance - $1,000 a month, just to keep the store cool? 2009 was going to be make or break. If we could sustain our sales and cap our costs we would make it. I think the first real shock we got about the market was in at the end of the first quarter when Honda conceded that their sales were down 25%.
If we had sustained our sales I’m sure that the store would still be here. But the bottom fell out of the leisure motorcycle industry sales in a way that I’m sure it never has in its entire history in the USA. By June the writing was on the wall – only another large injection of fresh capital from the store’s already impoverished owners or backers would have kept us going, and with industry sales pointing in the direction they were, that made no sense and would only cost everyone more. With heavy hearts we closed the doors in July. I’ve just checked the US over 250cc motorcycle sales for August. Down 80% versus the previous year. Yes that isn’t a typo – it’s minus eighty percent. No wonder even Harley have thrown the towel in with Buell (and if you haven’t seen this you should – we know how he feels).
Lessons? 1. If you hear that a cyclical market has been growing steadily for ten years – maybe it’s the wrong time to pile in (check out which year m/cycle sales peaked in the US in this chart).
2. Put your investment time and dollar against things you understand better that anyone else, not things you simply love more than anything else. The motorcycle industry – like all pastimes that invoke a passionate response - are full of people (to quote Ed Gallo from Triumph-BMW Ft. Myers) who have “made a small fortune out a large one. . .” 3. Those manufacturer’s brands you love will see you coming, and once you’re done, they will cut you loose like a rabid dog on a lead. Just another foolish amateur evangelist to help subsidise your motorcycle habit. So next time you buy a bike, think of the other enthusiast who may actually be providing your bike to you for less than its delivered cost.
One door shuts and another one opens – Atlantic Motorcycles of Pompano and Palm Beach are now running both http://www.pure-triumph.com/ and http://www.pure-ducati.com/ , and have recently acquired a Ducati franchise. George and his father Eric are 100% enthusiasts, and also very experienced business people. More importantly for shoppers to the online stores, they are as committed as the staff of Pure were to give the best possible service to Triumph and Ducati riders worldwide – as well of course to their local customers.
For those of you waiting for the next instalment of Miami to Sturgis on a Triumph Bonneville – this will be resumed! - just excuse us while we shut the store that supplied it. . .