*Copyright 2012.  Not for redistribution without permission. 

Maybe because I like to fish and ride, or because of the way my mind works, or both, I think a dealership set up like this would be an awesome store.  I’d certainly shop there.  What better way to choose tackle or camping supplies than to be able to see first-hand at the store how they’d fit and stow away on your bike?  This article went on to instruct dealers how to set up window displays and store their stock properly in the store, but due to length I didn’t include the remainder of the article.  It came from Motorcycle Illustrated.  March 1, 1917.

How Sporting Goods Supplement the Motorcycle Business When Handled by a Dealer Who Knows How to Approach His Market.

The motorcycle dealer who handles motorcycles alone is becoming more and more rare as time goes on.  Naturally we find bicycles usually being pushed in connection with the power two-wheeler, and yet there are still dealers who prefer not to handle the push bikes.  Their reasons are generally about as follows:  The “bother” of handling the bicycle, and the “bother” of taking care of small repair jobs, such as punctures and the like, which bring little return; the smaller profit in bicycle sales as compared to motorcycles, and possibly the thought that bicycles may detract from the dignity which may accrue from a “motorcycles exclusively” sales policy.

Such dealers are making a serious mistake.  Certainly there is more profit in the sale of a motorcycle than a bicycle, but frequently it is as easy to sell several bicycles as a single motorcycle, the demand for the former being much larger.  Such dealers are also overlooking the very important fact that every boy who rides a bicycle sincerely envies every motorcyclist that passes him, and that every youthful bicyclist looks eagerly forward to the time when he can own a motor himself.

In other words, the bicycle rider of today is the motorcyclist of tomorrow.  If the lad gets his bicycle from a dealer in motorcycles, the chances are all in favor of his buying his motorcycle there later on, always providing that the bicycle was satisfactory and that the dealer was far-sighted enough to treat the lad decently.

Boys are quick to resent what appears to them as unfair or discourteous treatment, and while no dealer wants young lads to make his store a loafing headquarters, he should make them as welcome as if they were actual prospects.  As a matter of fact, of course, they are potential prospects.  To call a youthful bicycle rider’s attention to the good points about the latest three-speed model motorcycle is a sort of delicate flattery that will make a big hit with that particular boy; it makes him feel grown up, on equal terms with the fellows who purr smoothly past him on big twins, and it will be quite likely to result in the sale of a motorcycle to him a few years later.

There is really a fine opportunity for the motorcycle dealer in general sporting goods as a side line—not for every dealer, by any means, but to one who would like and thoroughly understand the stuff he would be pushing.  A man who never does any hunting and who barely knows the business end of a gun from the other, who couldn’t tell the difference between a bass and a trout, and to whom the word fishing suggests sitting on a dock with a fifteen-foot “pole” in one hand and a corncob pipe in his mouth will rarely make a success in selling sporting goods, whether he is trying to sell them from a motorcycle shop or over the counter of a genuine sporting goods store.  But the motorcycle dealer who is something of a crank on the subject of guns and fishing tackle has splendid opportunities for building up a profitable business.  Let me point out some of his advantages.

In the first place he comes in daily and intimate touch with an out-of-door crowd.  A good big proportion of motorcycle riders are also hunters and anglers, and a lot more could be made so by a little judicious coaching.  Many of these men are regular customers of the dealer along the line of gloves, goggles, leggings, repairs and parts; in short, all kinds of motorcycle supplies.  Every season they are buying more or less guns, ammunition and tackle of all kinds.  They would just as soon buy of their friend, the motorcycle dealer, as at the sporting goods store around the next street—probably they would rather buy of him, if he is the sort of person he should be.  A modest assortment of well selected goods could not fail to pry a good many dollars from the pockets of the motorcycle crowd. 

And right here is where the dealer’s own personal experience will prove invaluable.  He will know what sort of goods to put in stock.  For example, there is a good bit in the way of fishing tackle on the market today that is made to sell.  The old-timers never buy that junk; they are far too wise.  They know enough to spot a practical kink at sight, and wisely turn down the impractical contraption, no matter how attractive it may chance to look.  The stock should be practical all the way through, and the quality should be good.

The variety of things carried would have to depend largely on the section of country.  Unlike the big sporting goods stores, the motorcycle dealer who carries this side line will sell in the main for local use only.  He won’t be called on to outfit a party for a month’s canoe trip off into the wilds, and therefore his stock should reflect local conditions.  If the hunting possibilitiesin his section of the country are confined to small game such as upland birds, ducks, squirrels, rabbits, and the like, he should stock up on standard gauge—twelve and sixteen—shotguns and shells, going light on rifles and their ammunition, save possibly the smaller calibers like the ever popular .22.  If there is any deer hunting within reach, that would create a demand for moderate powered rifles and cartridges.

The same thing applies to fishing.  It is a waste of money to stock up with trout tackle in a region of shallow, marshy ponds and slow-flowing streams inhabited by bass and pickerel.  Near the salt water a fair proportion of the stock should be designed to attract salt water anglers, as of course every form of angling calls for its own particular implements.

Whether the stock is complete or not, it would be easy enough for the dealer to have catalogs on hand from which he could pick out any desired object.  Suppose an automatic pistol is called for, and the dealer has not one to his name.  He should have the Colt or Savage, or what-not catalog out in a second, let the customer pick out the gun he wants, and guarantee to have it for him in the shortest possible time.

It is mighty poor business to turn a customer away when he calls for a standard article along the line you are supposed to carry.  For example, there is a drug store not far from my home, to which I almost never go, because on several occasions the goods I wanted were not to be had.  The same principle applies to any store and to any business.  The purchaser who has been disappointed once or twice or three times will say to himself, “Oh, shucks!  No use going around to Smith’s!  He never has anything you want.”  While the motorcycle agency that carries sporting goods as a side line certainly could not be expected to have an absolutely complete assortment, the proprietor should at least be in a position instantly to quote prices on anything called for and to get the article on short notice.

The motorcycle agent can vastly increase his business opportunities by making it a point to be posted on shooting and fishing possibilities in the country around where he lives; in short, be a veritable information bureau.  In his meetings with riders from various parts of the country, he has a fine chance to acquire all sorts of useful knowledge which should constantly be on tap for the benefit of his customers.  If they find that he knows where to go, but is not disposed to pass the good word along they will buy their shells, tackle, and so on, elsewhere.  No dealer in sporting goods can afford to “hog” a good thing. 

The dealer should be able to tell any inquirer how to find good hunting and fishing.  He should know all about such things as possibilities of renting boats and buying bait at various popular fishing spots.  He should be a regular road map of varied and valuable information on how to reach any particular stream or pond, what parts of it are best fishing when one once gets there, etc.  It would pay him now and then to take a customer to some especially fine place.  What could be a better sales argument than to invite a prospective motorcyclist on a fifty or sixty mile trip from home after bass or trout via the sidecar combination?  You could get more true demonstration out of such a trip, especially if the prospect was an enthusiastic angler, than in any other possible way.

A bulletin board would be a fine scheme for keeping up sporting interest during the outdoor season.  Suppose one of the boys made a killing.  Tip the public off in some such way as this:

Rod Jones caught a 5 ½ pound bass in Sackett Pond last Saturday.  Rod says it’s easy with an _____ Motorcycle and our tackle.

 There is a lot of good advertising in that both for the machine the dealer handles and for his line of fishing tackle as well.  The bulletin board would also serve to keep the public informed as to the abundance of fish and game.  Doesn’t such a notice as this carry an appeal?

Bill Palmer just rode in from down Lake Country way.  He says ducks are coming in to beat the band.  You bet Bill gets his share; that is, since he bought his motorcycle of us.

Or:  Joe Bradley got five ruffed grouse last week along Walnut Ridge.  Joe always gets his birds.  Why?  That’s easy!  He shoots our shells and gets after ‘em on an _______.

Or:  Bass are so hungry on Leon Lake that they’ll eat out of your hand.  Good boats can be rented on the grounds.  Better ride down on a ________ and try your luck.  Buy your tackle here, and make sure of a good catch.  Don’t keep any undersized fish!  The game warden there is always on the job.

Every now and then Motor Cycle Illustrated has featured some successful Nimrod bringing home a goodly buck in his sidecar.  It would be a poor sort of dealer indeed who couldn’t get a bit of valuable advertising for his line out of such splendid material.  Further illustrations of the limitless possibilities in this direction are unnecessary.  Whatever is done will mean publicity for the dealer’s make of motorcycle and for his sporting goods side line.  And publicity, of the right sort, always brings business…