Cover Story: Full Speed Ahead
It's the ability of J&P Cycles to be first to market with new products that drives its success, Parham says. But he admits this is becoming harder than it used to be, as more competition has entered the niche, especially online. These companies don't have the infrastructure that J&P Cycles does, making them somewhat more flexible. Couple that with the down economy, and J&P Cycles has been forced to re-evaluate the way it does business.
After averaging close to 10 percent growth over the past five years, this year, like most other companies, J&P has been victimized by the down economy. With "flat" sales — a win for most these days — in an increasingly competitive marketplace, J&P has begun to shift its focus to the web for future growth. While keeping its four catalog titles — Harley-Davidson, Metric Cruiser, SportBike and Vintage — as part of its marketing mix, albeit with reduced circulation, J&P has made significant investments online this year. It's relaunched its website, for instance, and doubled web staff over the past year-plus.
The company's goal is to get its website to account for 40 percent of sales this year, leaving the majority of sales for the catalogs to generate. With a somewhat aging customer demographic in its mid-40s and up, J&P has no immediate plans to abandon print. "The catalog is still the backbone of our business," Parham says. "We're trying to move our sales online more consistently, but reinforce that effort with the catalog and the combination of the two."
Online Spending Up
To that end, the company has increased its spend on search, both natural and paid. It's also in the midst of reworking its affiliate program, paring down its number to the 25-30 top producers from the hundreds it currently has.