Harley-Davidson store sells riding lifestyle
Company focuses on merchandise to prepare for 100th
By- Doris Hajewski / highlights by Black Echo
Brookfield - Harley riders, it is often said, don't just buy a bike - they buy a lifestyle.
Now Hal's Harley-Davidson is making the lifestyle part more accessible to both riders and Harley wannabes, with a new Harley store at Brookfield Square.
It's the sort of shop vacationers are used to seeing in tourist spots like Cancun or trendy retail areas such as Chicago's Michigan Ave. shopping district.
The Brookfield Square store, the first of its kind in the metro area, opened in June in 1,500 square feet on a side corridor on the east side of the mall.
The 100th anniversary party will run all year, with a 10-city global festival that starts this month. Harley dealers plan to meet at the company's Milwaukee headquarters Sunday through Tuesday, and the Open Road Tour kicks off July 20 in Atlanta.
Other cities on the list include Baltimore, Los Angeles, Toronto, and Dallas, as well as such far-flung locations as Sydney, Australia; Japan and Munich, Germany.
The tour ends in Milwaukee in August 2003, on the weekend before Labor Day.
"The majority of the general public has never been in a dealership before," said Kirk Topel, co-owner of Hal's. "We saw the mall as an opportunity for people to come into our dealership and hopefully draw traffic to our store."
The opening now puts Hal's in a good position to capitalize on the increased interest in all things Harley that will come with the company's 100th anniversary celebration next year.During the 90th and 95th anniversary hoopla, people who had no connection with a rider bought Harley stuff as a way to show community pride, Topel said.
Brookfield Square aimed several marketing programs at visiting Harley riders during those earlier celebrations, and actively recruited Hal's to open a shop at the mall, Topel said.
The 100-year party will run all year, with a 10-city festival that starts this month. Harley dealers will meet at the company's Milwaukee headquarters Sunday through Tuesday, and the Open Road Tour kicks off July 20 in Atlanta. Other cities on the list include Baltimore, Los Angeles, Toronto and Dallas, as well as such far-flung locations as Sydney, Australia; Japan; and Munich, Germany.
The tour ends in Milwaukee in late August 2003.
A $425 limited-edition 100th anniversary clock is already on sale at Hal's Harley dealership in New Berlin. The dealership moved just over a year ago to a glitzy new building at 1925 S. Moorland Road in New Berlin, just about a mile south of Brookfield Square.Harley clothing, jewelry and accessories take up about half of the dealership's 15,000 square feet of showroom space. General merchandise sales account for about 25% of the dealership's total revenue, Topel said.
Around the country, there are 65 dealerships with merchandise shops like the one at Hal's. In addition, there are 50 Harley stores in malls, airports and vacation destinations, and another 20 seasonal shops operating out of kiosks in high-traffic areas.
From a financial analyst's perspective, the business of selling leather jackets, logo shirts and denim skullcaps for dogs isn't an important part of Harley's corporate revenue picture, said Terrence Mackay, an analyst with Morningstar in Chicago.
The company sold $164 million worth of general merchandise last year, up 8.2% from 2000. Those sales comprised 4.9% of Harley's total revenue and are expected to increase at a slower rate than motorcycle sales, Mackay noted.
But from a marketing standpoint, the merchandise could be viewed as a "self-propelled advertising mechanism," Mackay said.
The story of Harley's skill in turning its brand into a lifestyle has been told countless times in marketing books and college classrooms.
One point that comes up in marketing advice books is the need to make sure the products are appropriate to the brand.
"I think they're reasonably disciplined about offering what makes sense and not overreaching the assortments," said David Cumberland, an analyst with Robert W. Baird & Co. "It has to be managed so the brand is not omnipresent. Ten or twenty years ago, there were Harley products that weren't appropriate."
Harley-branded wine coolers made the list of bad branding ideas in "The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding," while Jon Spoelstra, a sports marketing consultant, went on at length in "Ice to the Eskimos" about a bad experience he had with a Harley golf cart. The cart had no exhaust pipe, which resulted in a really smelly ride, Spoelstra said.
Those products may have been turn-offs, but cool Harley togs, designed for everybody from infant to adult, are a definite plus for the brand, marketing experts agree.
That's particularly important for a brand with an average age customer over 40.
"Because Harley offers such trendy clothing, that attracts younger buyers," Hal's Harley salesman Randy Larson said. "Then they want a bike."
Submitted by AdamL