State of Play: Part 5, The Distributor

2 weeks ago | Words: Simon Barratt / Joel Ryan | Photos: Supplied / Jarrad Duffy

If you’ve purchased rubber, ride gear, parts, helmets, apparel or basically any other moto product in this country, chances are it’s been through the hands of a distribution partner. There’s plenty of good operators in the market who have been bringing international brands into this country for the best part of 50 years, acting as a middleman between you, the retailer and the companies pushing design and innovation across all categories. They take a small clip on the way through, working with your local dealers, retail stores and online channels to make sure you don’t miss out on the latest gear. 

When importing is your business and the shit hits the fan with currency variation, or supply chain issues, or retail downturn, things can get difficult very quickly. In Part 5 of our “State of Play” feature content, we caught up with Joel Ryan, Brand Manager of Ficeda Accessories (Dunlop, Scott, Unifilter, Just 1, FIST etc.. etc..), to understand what impact Covid-19 has had on their business model. 

Check the other “State of Play” features here:

What have been some of the immediate impacts on your business?
Pretty quickly we saw a big rush of people buying up service items with the plan of spending their lockdown getting their bike maintenance jobs done. Sales of soft goods, such as gear and helmets, have reduced as people are less willing to go in-store and try products on. As a result, we have seen an increase in online sales as the restrictions continued. 

What is your current situation with staff and business operations in general?
We pulled our sales team off the road pretty early on and set everyone up working from home. Our dealer network had to quickly adopt laws about how many people could be in the store at one time, plus practicing social distancing. Having our sales staff on the shop floor was clearly not the right thing to do. We have used this time to keep in regular contact with our dealers and help them out with anything they need. We still have the warehouse working at full capacity, so orders are still going out like normal.

What initiatives are you/your business working on to adapt?
We have been focusing on keeping in regular contact with the dealer network to offer special discounts, new product training and send customer orders out in a normal time frame.

How have you been impacted by international markets? 
We have luckily had no issues with our supply of products to date. Very few of our products are produced in China and all our key partners have managed their factories to fulfil our requirements. The Australian dollar is still very low though, so we’ve seen a few price increases this year already. 

What do you see as the biggest challenges over the next six months? 
The next six months are going to be very interesting to see how our industry bounces back. I think there will be a long-lasting impact on some of our social interactions and behaviours. Maybe the elbow bump is here to stay! (hope not). At the end of the day, our industry is a passion industry and when people are under stress, uncertain about the future or just generally anxious, the best thing we can do is get out on our bikes and go for a ride with our mates. The sooner we are allowed to get back to that, the better.  

How will this change the way you do business in the future? And what does April 2021 look like?
I think how we communicate will be forever changed. Having to use video conferencing due to current restrictions has helped us work more efficiently as a team. We will most certainly continue to adopt these practices in the future.

How do you see this all playing out (work and community) before we return to some kind of normality?
I believe that our government has handled the situation very well and we are now in a really good position compared with the rest of the world. Thankfully we haven’t seen the infection and death rate that Europe and the US have. We have also been very lucky that we haven’t seen the complete lockdown laws that a lot of countries have had imposed on them. This has allowed key industries, like building and trades, to continue, keeping our economy ticking over. We are now starting to see a slight relaxation on the lockdown laws across the country, which will hopefully be well managed and continue to ease over the next month.

Any other thoughts about the wider moto community industry in general?
Support your local bike shop by calling up and buying a few things! Maybe a few spares for your bike or a fresh helmet. It doesn’t matter how big or small; it all helps right now. As soon as we see some racing return later in the year, get along and watch a MX Nationals or ASBK round, get out and ride a Transmoto Enduro or two and show some support to our local events and riders. 

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