Interviews

How COVID-19 is both good and bad for motorcycling

We sat down with the manager of Doble Motorcycles to find out what the upsides and downsides of COVID-19 have been

WITH most parts of the UK getting back to the ‘new normal’, Visordown wanted to find out what the post-COVID-19 landscape felt like for one of the UK’s biggest motorcycle dealerships, Doble Honda in south London.

To get a 'boots on the ground' idea of how COVID-19 has changed the two-wheeled world, we sat down with Paul Styles, one of the partners at Doble, to find out exactly how the last three months have played out.

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New motorcycle sales ‘phenomenal’

One widely publicised positive of the lockdown, and more latterly the easing of restrictions, is the shift from commuting on public transport to a more socially distanced method of getting around.

Paul Styles

‘It’s fair to say that sales have been phenomenal since the lockdown came in, mainly thanks to myself and the staff working hard to keep the dealership functioning, even when the doors were closed.

‘We had staff working from home, arranging sales over the phone and online. The tricky part was realising that all these bikes we’d sold would need to be PDI’d (Pre-Delivery Inspected) and actually delivered to customers. We managed to though and staying open really was the key.’

‘Here’s a stat that I’m pretty proud of actually. In the last two months (mid-May to mid-June 2020) I have sold 411 bikes. So with a dealership that is closed to the public, shutters down, and staff working from home I’ve sold 411 bikes. Compare that to the same period for 2019 and I sold 399. So, we sold more units with the doors closed to the public than we did when we were fully operational! You can only do that if you and your staff put in the hours.’

Visordown

Are there any downsides to such a strong start to 2020?

PS

‘Absolutely, we’ve pretty much used up our stock of bikes for the remainder of the year, and it’s not just as simple as ordering new bikes. There’s a lead time for them to be delivered, but Honda UK is very good, they have to look after all the other dealers in the country too. Demand has definitely outstripped supply.

‘I’ll give you an example, the PCX is normally our biggest seller and a bike we can readily get hold of as new stock. Compared to pre-COVID-19, the supply of that bike is down by nearly 75% - that’s a big drop for such an in-demand machine!’

Visordown

So, what does the landscape of sales look like, mainly scooters and mopeds or bigger motorcycles?

PS

‘Obviously scooters are massive at the moment, with mainly new riders looking to get off public transport. But that isn’t to say there’s no demand for bigger bikes. COVID-19 has forced a lot of people’s hands, owning a motorcycle hasn’t ever really looked more attractive!’

Visordown

And how about second-hand bikes, have you seen just as much demand for used stock as you have with new?

PS

‘Even more so! Used bikes are literally selling within a couple of days of being put on the showroom floor. It’s unbelievable how quickly the bikes will sell.’

Visordown

But is that all good news, or is there an issue looming?

PS

‘The downside is that used bikes will dry up, it’ll get to the point that the used bike market sees a drought.

‘I went to an auction the other day, one I go to quite a lot and that I normally come away from with a large number of nearly new bikes. I couldn’t buy anything. There were dealers there paying full retail price for auction stock.

‘I can see why they are doing it; an empty showroom is a dealership manager's worst nightmare, people just need units for the shop floor, but I just can’t pay those prices.’

Visordown

Finally, what are the measures you’ve had to take to ensure you can re-open to the public safely?

PS

‘We’ve had to invest heavily in reopening actually, in terms of signage, hand sanitiser, face masks, gloves, and balaclavas for people to try on helmets. After somebody tries on an item of clothing or a helmet, the item gets quarantined, preventing other customers from risking contagion after trying on the same item. We’ve also got a one-way system in place throughout the store to try and prevent people from coming into contact with each other.

'Probably the worst thing for customers through is we've had to turn off the tea and coffee machine, that really is a new low!'

It’s not all doom and gloom!

While the chat with Paul has highlighted some issues for dealers that many (me included) hadn’t foreseen, it’s not all doom and gloom. The main point is if you’re looking to buy a new bike or know somebody that is, get on the case quickly. If the strong sales continue, which looks likely, it may be tricky getting the bike you want in a month or two.

And if you’re a rider looking to thin the herd a little, and the time is right to offload a lesser-used machine, there might never be a better time to sell you used bike – and Visordown has the perfect tool to help you do it.

The Visordown Marketplace is a free to use sales tools, that will place your bike under the noses of over 1m users per month. It takes minutes to list a bike for sale, and all you’ll need is your contact details, a brief description, and some good quality pictures from your mobile phone.

To list a bike for sale, head to: visordown.com/sell-your-bike

To browse bikes for sale, head to: visordown.com/marketplace/search

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