Auto makers gear up to test drive merchandising skills


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It isn’t very flattering to smell like a horse, until of course it’s a mustang. Ford Motor Company is all set to launch its best selling perfume by that name here. And this is just the start of a merchandising blitzkrieg by the American carmaker. In the pipeline is a line of apparel, toys and car accessories.

It’s been touted as a bold move by some but Ford is not doing anything new. Cult motorcycle manufacturer, Harley-Davidson Motor Company rakes in nearly 15-20% of its revenues by just selling merchandise — jackets, coffee mugs, lighters, boots, pillow covers and in some cases even Spider Man tees for kids. And after a gala launch of its bikes here, the American bike maker is also planning to launch its range of merchandise. “We are in the process of finalising our product line now. Merchandise will definitely follow,” said an official familiar with the developments at the Harley camp.

It’s just not the global auto manufacturers who are working on a merchandising plan. Homegrown bike maker Bajaj Auto is also racing ahead with its merchandising strategy after Japanese motorcycle manufacturer Yamaha beat it to it. With both the Kawasaki and KTM brands now under its belt, Bajaj is planning to ramp up the show at its Probiking showrooms. Says Amit Nandi, GM, Probiking at Bajaj Auto: “We can’t divulge our plans yet. But very shortly you will see our merchandise line in our stores.”

Next to jump on the merchandise bandwagon is none other than Royal Enfield, the equivalent of Harley-Davidson in this country. Armed with old school styled roadsters such as the Bullet, the Machismo, the Thunderbird and now the recently launched Classic range, Royal Enfield cannot ignore this segment, which has not been tapped here yet according to experts.

“The potential for India to benefit from the brand license industry is huge,” says Gaurav Marya, president of License India, which is carrying out Ford’s brand licensing plans for India along with Beanstalk Group, a global brand licensing and consultancy company. License India is tasked with extending a number of Ford brands, including the iconic Ford blue oval, Mustang and Built Ford Tough marks. “The emergence of organised retail in India, estimated at close to $30 billion out of a total market size of over $300 billion, has been projected to grow at 40% per annum”, adds Marya. Worldwide, the licensing industry was estimated at $192 billion in retail sales in 2008, according to License! Global magazine.

So, it’s little surprise that Royal Enfield has started to sit up and take notice. “By the beginning of next year we will be rolling out 10 biking accessories on a priority basis,” says Shaji Koshy, head of sales and marketing at Royal Enfield. “We are looking at value proposition for our customers since we cannot just pick up anything from the market, brand it and throw it at our customers.”

Source - EconomicTimes
 
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