Dealer Conversations:
Simon Garrett, General Manager, Wheels Motorcycles

Summer 2021  |  5 minute read

  • Demand has been strong since restrictions lifted
  • Online sales continue to grow
  • The traditional buying experience is still popular
  • Customer interest in electric motorcycles is growing
  • Proactive advertising – especially on digital channels – continues to offer extra opportunities

Our Dealer Conversations share first-hand experiences from dealers who’ve successfully navigated the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope their insight and advice will shed new light on your own situation, and inspire you on your own road to recovery.

In our second conversation with our powered two-wheeler (PTW) dealers, we spoke to Simon Garrett, General Manager at Wheels Motorcycles in Peterborough – the largest motorcycle and scooter dealership in East Anglia.

How has COVID-19 affected your business so far in 2021?
The whole industry is seeing greater demand across all classes of bike. The demand for smaller capacity bikes for commuting and food delivery has increased during COVID-19, as they give people the opportunity for additional income or an alternative to public transport. The large capacity motorcycles are also seeing huge demand.

“It’s like the home improvement and the leisure markets – we’re rocketing through the roof as people have a lot more disposable income to spend after lockdown.”

What’s your experience with online trading during COVID-19?
A large proportion of our sales have been online rather than face to face, and we’re particularly hot on search engine optimisation (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC).

We do a lot of work to depict the quality of our vehicles. We offer video tours of the bike so the customer can have confidence in what they’re buying – and it really works.

What did surprise me was the growth in remote sales on used bikes. I would say that for 60% of what we sell at the moment, the customer doesn't come into the store. They would much rather make the purchase online and have the bike delivered.

The fact the finance can be done remotely and the documents can be e-signed with Black Horse’s SignIt Anywhere service means they don’t need to come in to the showroom.

“With new bikes, I’m not surprised about the growth in online sales. People generally know what they are buying and trust the manufacturer to deliver on quality.”

What impact has social distancing had on your business?
We were always a bit of a destination for people out on a ride. People would come in and browse or buy or spend time in the café. Obviously, we had to close that all down through the lockdown.

We’re looking forward to getting back to normal. As bikers ourselves, we like having a destination and somewhere to go where we’ll meet like-minded people with a passion for motorcycles. Even if we do move further towards online sales, I don’t think that will change.

I would rather be able to serve somebody and share my knowledge. For most people buying a car is a necessity, but a motorcycle is more of an experience – and that’s what makes the bike community different.

Are you seeing any changes in the demographic looking to buy?
Recently, the biggest change in the type of customer we’ve seen is the advent of EV customers who would never have bought a traditionally fuelled motorcycle, but are attracted by the green aspect.

Several years ago, the motorbike had gone away from commuting – but people are now moving back to choosing to commute on motorbikes due to traffic issues and more reliable journeys.

“There is a huge opportunity for electric motorcycles to play a role in urban mobility that the industry and government should grasp.”

How are the new FCA regulations affecting your business?
It makes the whole thing more transparent and simpler. Customers can now make careful decisions based on facts. It took a while for us to get everything set up and for our sales teams to understand the process, but it’s working well for us now.

Anything that makes finance and financial products simpler and more transparent is good in my mind.

What advice would you give other dealerships in your sector?
Don't let the grass grow under your feet – the market won’t wait for you. We have really been investing in our online sales, and we’ve created lots of videos and launched our new YouTube channel.

“Don't wait for the customers to come to you. Search them out. They are there.”

We hope Simon’s insights provide food for thought as you and your team work to build back from the impact of COVID-19 and take your dealership further down the road to recovery. Look out for future Dealer Conversations, and please do explore our Dealer Resource Hub for other useful articles.

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