Hard to believe it's that time of year...again...
Earlier this week, I stood in the office doorway of one of my co-workers chatting about something (of which the topic escapes me now), when I suddenly realized that next weekend was Christmas. "Next weekend is Christmas weekend, isn't it?" I demanded. He looked at me kind of funny and replied that it indeed was. Where did this year go? It's really hard to beleive that it's time to deck the halls and jingle all the way all over again.
Honestly, I don't know why I should be all that surprised. It's not like I didn't have any warning. After all, we've been bombarded by Christmas decorations and holiday ads for the past 3 months. Is it just me, or does it seem like each year, there's a race by department stores and discount retailers to be the first to play Christmas carols and hang holiday decorations in their stores? It's worse than watching Cat 4's race for beer preems. Is there any reason we need to be looking at Christmas ornaments well before we've even started thinking about what we're going to dress up as for Halloween?!? For crying out loud, let me enjoy Halloween and Thanksgiving before having to even think about buying Christmas presents and stringing lights. Every year, it never ceases to make me wonder what the reward is. With all the hype that surrounds Christmas during the preceding 3 months , once Christmas does finally roll around, it's downright anti-climatic.
What else does this scenario remind you of? It's funny; I get a similar feeling when I walk through the front doors of the Interbike trade show each year. While it's a great opportunity for we industry folks to see people we only get to see once or twice a year, cut loose, and party a little bit, that's really not what trade shows are for. In a perfect world, trade shows are supposed to be a sales and marketing function where attendees come to see your new products. But what happens when all the attendees have already seen your product? It's about as anti-climatic as the holidays can be.
Welcome to the bike industry...where the model years just keep coming earlier and earlier. It's not uncommon for manufacturers to release their new models as early as May; a full seven months before the end of the year. Just like I do at Christmas, it really leaves me wondering what the reward is. Seems like everyone loses and nobody wins, to me. Dealers certainly don't win. Since much of the U.S. is under snow until Spring, "new" models pretty much become obsolete before their peak selling season even begins. Just when the dealer is ready to place orders to gear up for Summer, vendor's stock levels leave much to be desired since they are getting ready to start placing orders for the next year's new models. Any "new" product ordered better be turned around pretty quick, too. If the dealer has to sit on "old" product over the Fall and Winter months, they don't stand a chance at making full margin on it come Spring since consumers know that the new models will be released in July. I'm not real sure that vendors are big winners either. For the reasons just mentioned, you've gotta wonder if we'd stand to gain more sales if we had product when it's convenient (and easy) for our customers rather than the other way around.
So what's the solution? It's simple, really...we just move away from model years. I suppose this is easier said than done since there are fewer manufacturers living by this business model than are actually doing it. Unlike the traditional model, it seems like it's a win-win situation for everyone. Dealers have bikes to sell on a more consistent basis...when it's convenient (and easy) for them to sell. No longer do dealers have to suffer through long dry spells of unavailable product while being forced to wait for new product to be available. Plus, no more closeouts...dealers maintain margins year-round since there's no threat of a whole new batch of bikes being released when they still have "old" product on hand. Vendors will win in a big way. I can't even imagine what it would be like to not have to go through the brutal "crunch time" that occurs each year from roughly May through early July as we struggle to get sample bikes ready for catalog shoots and product launch meetings. Our expenses will decrease tremendously if we don't have to produce expensive catalogs and re-do our website each year. Inventory levels and supply chain management would be much easier to manage.
But, like many things in this world, it's going to take a major player to pioneer such drastic changes like this for others to follow suit. So who's going to go first? Is anyone brave enough to swallow the pill in the name of creating a better mouse trap? Who knows, if we're successful, we just might be able to use some of the skills we learned to convince the department stores to let us all enjoy Halloween and Thanksgiving for just a little while before rolling out the Christmas trappings.
Happy Holidays, everyone!
Posted by jill hamilton at 8:01 PM