Mum and dad motorcycle dealers ‘squeezed out’

Brisbane Motorcycles mum ad dad dealership

Small mum and dad motorcycle dealers are being squeezed out of the business by “conglomerates”, just as Bunnings did to Masters, says veteran dealer Brett Mutton of Brisbane Motorcycles.

We recently published a couple of articles in which Australian Motorcycle Dealers Association boss Stuart Strickland said dealers were doing it tough.

The articles met with a lot of criticism and skepticism from customers and our readers.

Stuart suggested the best person to answer the critics is Brett who Stuart believes is one of the best private dealers in the country.

“He always ran his retail outlets with balance – all departments well staffed with intelligent guys and girls and getting income from each department,” Stuart said.

“His customers were well serviced. He grew his business using good old common sense.”

But times are now tough, says Brett. He blames large conglomerates, manufacturer pressures, the ACCC, online parts and insurance, and wage costs.

Mum and dad dealerships Vs conglomerates 

Brett Mutton Brisbane Motorcycles mum and dad dealer
Brett Mutton of Brisbane Motorcycles

Brett says mum and dad dealerships like his will disappear from the capital cities because of the discounting pressures of big conglomerates.

“I walked away from 17 deals last month because TeamMoto was $500 under cost on every one of them,” Brett says.

“The conglomerates are slowly trying to get rid of the smaller mum-and-dad dealerships until they totally dominate the cities.

“It’s exactly what Bunnings did to Masters. Masters came in to take them on and Bunnings slaughtered them on prices until they left.”

He says his Windsor store had $2.1m turnover in the 2015-16 financial year, but was down to $600,000 in the past financial year. The Caboolture store went from $1.69m to $550,000.

Brett believes that Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney will soon be dominated by just three “players”.

“It’ll be TeamMoto, PS Importers and a car industry player, although who that will be I don’t know yet,” Brett says.

“I believe one of the car guys will get in and buy off the smaller shops.

“They will concentrate on Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney and won’t worry about country shops.”

(TeamMoto is owned by MC Holdings which is the largest owner of motorcycle dealers in Australia. The company floated in May last year and has nearly doubled its share price.)TeamMoto business mum

Manufacturer pressures

“Manufacturers are just pushing us to the limit, wanting us to put in more and more stock and they’re just not selling,” Brett says.

Brisbane Motorcycles sells Suzuki, Honda, Ducati, Aprilia, Moto Guzzi, Vespa and Piaggio at its Windsor and Caboolture dealerships.

Brett says Ducati importers Fraser Motorcycles will soon open another Ducati store outlet at Springwood Suzuki.

“There’s only one Ducati dealer in Melbourne – and that’s Frasers – yet they want two dealers in Brisbane,” Brett says. “It will destroy me.

“I also used to be biggest Goldwing seller in Queensland, but now Honda has given them to TeamMoto at Springwood and the Gold Coast.

“I used to sell 100 a year, now sell just three or four.”

Brett says the manufacturers also make unrealistic demands on how much floor stock they should have.

“We sell a bike and the next minute they ring up and tell us we have to replace it.”

He says manufacturers also require extensive corporate signage in their dealerships.

“We have to pay for it. The return on the investment just isn’t there.”

Internet competitionMotorbikeWriter staff dog mum

“People are now going on the internet looking for a deal and not coming into stores,” Brett says.

“So we’ve got this tin shed somewhere stocking everything from everybody and one bloke sitting behind a computer and selling them to online customers.”

Brett says online may be good for customers in the short term, but not in the long term.

“When the mum and dad dealers go, try getting a flat tyre fixed online,” he says.

Finance and insurancetax sale motorcycles novated lease buying selling mum

Dealers used to make a lot of money out of finance and insurance.

However, Brett says it has largely gone because of a shake-up in the industry by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

“You can’t make any money out of it anymore,” he says.

“I’m ready to close both finance departments to cut costs and go through brokers which long term won’t be as good for the customer.”

He says insurance companies, such as Swann Insurance, have now left dealerships and are doing all their business online, so dealers don’t get a commission.

“We used to get 10% commission from people renewing their insurance. Now we get nothing,” he says.

Brett says manufacturers are also offering “crazy finance” deals down to around 1.1% that are eating into dealership earnings.Brett Mutton Brisbane Motorcycles Mum and dad dealers 'squeezed' out

Wages and staff

Brett says it is difficult to pay his 44 staff each week when profits have decreased to about a third in the past year.

“I’ve got the best mechanics you can get in Brisbane. I’ve had them for a long time and I pay them very very well.

“But you have to charge the right bills to cover the wages.”

Meanwhile, he says the bigger conglomerates are charging top dollar for servicing and repairs but are letting apprentices do the work.

“They’re not paying good money for good mechanics,” he claims.

Bowing out

Brett was diagnosed with a brain tumour in March and says he would like to get out of the business for health reasons.

However, he may have nothing much left to hand over to his 25-year-old son, James, who raced in the British Superbikes for a season.

James Mutton in BSB mum and dad dealers
James in BSB action

James is now back in Brisbane studying at university for a marketing and business degree while also managing the shop’s accessories department.

“He’s put it all online now as it’s all about pricing. Everyone is cutting each other’s throats.”

Talk to your dealer

Dealers face tough times says Stuart Strickland mum
Stuart (left) with Isle of Man racer Cam Donald and their wives at the TT

Stuart suggests customers with a grievance take it up with their dealer.

“I really wonder if riders who are dissatisfied with the level of service or prices bother to lay down their thoughts with the dealer principal?” he asks.

“Yes, poor service is widespread, unfortunately. It’s because the owners can’t afford to pay salaries for people with sales experience in the motorcycle industry, with a few exceptions like Harley outlets.”

21 Comments

  1. I bought my last 3 bikes from teamoto, different store each time. The service i get from my local store is as good as anywhere and competetive so far. Ive had service departments make mistakes many times in my 35years of riding. Loose steering bearings, coolant hose left off, tires flat within hours of fitting, etc.
    All dealers have these issues including (from personal experience) the dealer quoted above.
    The best thing about modern motorcycles is the extended service intervals. Less opportunity for mistakes.
    I have the same loyalty to dealers they have to me. That is; precious little. Its the modern world where the dollar rules supreme, best learn to live with it.
    Oh, and when automation and the internet destroyed my trade, i didn’t notice any dealers principal leaping to my defence…

  2. I bought my last 3 bikes from teamoto, different store each time. The service i get from my local store is as good as anywhere and competetive so far. Ive had service departments make mistakes many times in my 35years of riding. Loose steering bearings, coolant hose left off, tires flat within hours of fitting, etc.
    All dealers have these issues including (from personal experience) the dealer quoted above.
    The best thing about modern motorcycles is the extended service intervals. Less opportunity for mistakes.
    I have the same loyalty to dealers they have to me. That is; precious little. Its the modern world where the dollar rules supreme, best learn to live with it.

  3. Lived in SW Sydney in the late 90s. Lots of nice bike shops around. Then seemingly overnight they were all rebadged as Red Baron. Moved back here in 06 and they’re all gone and there was no bike shops unless you wanted to go down to Campbelltown.

  4. Wow how the M’Cycle trade has changed over the years. I started work with Barry Tapsall Yamaha Moorooka in 1972 as a mechanic then five years later with Eurotred Qld as a sales rep for the next ten years selling to family businesses like “House of Honda owned by the Larter Family, Sandgate Honda by the Price Family, and the list goes on. I met a chap named “David Arnold?’ at a M/Cycle trade get together at the B/Creek pub one Sat arvo and he not long had partnered up with “John Oliver” and that the company they were forming was going to take over the line share of motorcycle business in Brisbane within two years to which i scoffed and said your dreaming mate.
    The rest is history i’m afraid. So Sad indeed.

  5. I think that some of the responses to Brett’s comments are grossly misunderstood.
    Tony Armstrong’s Springwood motorcycles (Motorcycles “R” us) is certainly not a conglomerate, you could think that it is, but I think that you will find it’s just a well-oiled machine that is managed very very well like Brett’s Brisbane motorcycles. yes, online is largely the future and any retail store can do the same… but in saying this… an online store cannot fit a new tyre, fix a flat tyre, do your servicing or sort your warranty issue if one arises let alone have a handshake customer vendor relationship…… Tony Armstrong’s Springwood motorcycles (Motorcycles “R” us) Brett’s Brisbane Motorcycles can certainly shake your hand and say thank you for your custom and see you soon for a coffee. Well that won’t happen if they shut shop right !!!.
    Yes, we as motorcyclists / consumers will always need bricks and mortar stores to keep us motoring…..

    1. I bought my first NEW Bike (V-Strom 650 ) at Springwood Suzuki in 2015 , had purchased my ad on’s before buying the bike . They fitted the parts for FREE ! Had a coffee while getting a service done . Getting good service in the parts department for some of my old 70’s Suzuki’s .

  6. Bunnings vs Masters was a battle of two juggernauts where the loser licks their wounds and moves on to the next venture – not a great example. It’s the small independent who suffered, long before Masters came along, and my local hardware shop is finally shutting down with the construction of another Bunnings almost complete just up the road. It’s sad that independent businesses so often can’t survive, but it’s shops of all sorts, not just motorcycle dealers.

  7. I’ll be the first to say “nope” I’m not buying his story.

    Brett says Dealers used to make a lot of money out of finance and insurance but it has largely gone because of a shake-up in the industry by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Really? He’s blaming consumer protection for a loss of profits? Is he referring to this: https://www.accc.gov.au/media-release/accc-proposes-to-deny-authorisation-for-insurance-companies-to-jointly-set-a-cap-on-sales-commissions ?

    I quote: …”The Australian Securities and Investments Commission … found that consumers are being sold expensive products that often provide little to no benefit. “…

    You’ll get no sympathy from me for that loss of revenue!

    I’m surprised that he didn’t complain about the cost of providing demo bikes for people to test ride. Is that because he doesn’t provide test rides?

    Also, I dispute what he says was the reason for Master’s failure. Bunnings didn’t undercut them and drive them out. That’s simplistic and completely wrong. Master’s failed for a variety of reasons that I won’t go into in detail here, I’ll just say that bad product mixes, bad store layouts, bad interior design, bad market positioning and a lack of understanding who their target market was, were all more important factors than price competition from Bunnings. Woolies had enough capital behind Masters to survive pricing pressures.

    There are lessons to be learned from Masters’ failure that would apply to a motorcycle dealership, but “Bunnings’ undercut them” isn’t one of them. (And no I don’t work for them).

    Consumers have a right to buy at the best price without paying middlemen 10%, 20% or more who add no value at all.

    Consumers have a right to get their motorcycles (and cars) serviced and repaired without being charged to cover the cost of …”extensive corporate signage in their dealerships. “…

  8. Bullshit ! Comparing the Motorcycle Retailers to Bunnings and Masters is chalk and cheese. They were 2 big , no giant , retailers competing for market share. And Masters just gave up. The motorcycle retail situation is about a small market restricted by regulation. The retailers, large and small need to lobby for an easing of regulation and policing of motorcyclists and they all need to encourage new motorcyclists, growing the market. Cheers Bill

  9. This is so true. I worked for Team Moto for a while, and their bike servicing is generally crap. Lots of complaints and bikes coming back in. They do have a couple of genuinely good mechanics with lots of experience, but the bulk of them are kids that cost stuff all to have there. Their after sales service is also rubbish, with customer call back requests often being ignored. On pricing, clearly they get a good deal from the manufactures just on the bulk buying of bikes, but they do cut the hell out of the profit to get a bike out the door if necessary. At one stage, they were in a real price based war with Sunstate at the Sunshine Coast. People would come in and say ‘Here’s the deal Sunstate are offering, I’ll just go up there if you don’t match it’. Sunstate was known to be doing deals with absolutely nothing in them, and some times at a loss. The idea was to sell all the add ons to make up some of the money. Team Moto would match that price if they could get a commitment to buy there and then from the customer. The Oliver family(Team Moto founders) have since gone back and started their own shop at Marooka (where it all began for them with Team Moto), with more of a small bike shop feel. I know a lot of Triumph owners, particularly, that go there rather than Team Moto for their servicing. It would be crap if shops like Brisbane Motorcycles disappeared from the landscape….. giving huge shops sole ownership of the industry.

  10. If these guys are the standard for “mum and dad” dealers, no wonder the industry is being taken over by conglomerates. As I have commented previously, this is the kind of store I would love to support, but they were terrible when I was looking to buy my Viffer (sales staff only interested in my wallet). Just go read the google reviews for these guys. If you are a learner and don’t know any better, these guys seem to get great reviews. Anyone with a modicum of experience seems to rate them pretty poorly.

  11. That’s simply not true about the wages.
    I’ve personally worked for both sides and can honestly say the MC Holdings team pay me well, look after their staff and manage it very well.
    They are employing older senior qualified and experienced technicians to lift their output quality and service.
    They are building the best teams possible to enhance the industry.

  12. Tony Armstrong is certainly not a conglomerate.
    He has worked hard to build his business to where it is today. I personally can’t wait for him to have Ducati and it isnt so I can get a better deal. The Ducati salesman (the one who sits in the corner) at Brisbane is usually more interested in eating his lunch than to help with any enquiries.
    I think the big problem is getting rid of the middle man , namely Frasers which would make the bikes cheaper from the start and everyone would be on a level playing field.
    I feel sorry for Brett but he has taken on other marques that Springwood had as well so he can hardly blame Tony for getting Ducati.

  13. I totally agree with Brett. Just look at what Fraser’s have done to shops like Ducati Noosa. It was best selling regional shop and John Brady lost his dealership. The first he found out was when a customer told him new ducatis were being sold at another shop.
    I personally will never buy a motorcycle from one of the big group. I don’t buy anything from bunnings if I can help it as well. Perhaps the independents should band together and form a buying group to take on the “team Moto’s” of this world on a level playing field.

  14. Please don’t shut down. Your workshop is THE BEST on the northside for Honda owners.
    I’ve had a fair bit of work done there and it’s always been top standard. Maybe we need to get the word out using “the enemy”- the internet.

  15. Unfortunately there is fierce competition on a global level. These things happen in most of the western world. At the same time the motorcycle industry is going through a crisis for two main reasons:
    1) The transition to electric bikes
    2) The labeling “motorcycles are dangerous”
    About the transition i would argue that its a temporary thing until the industry slowly enters the new era of electric motorcycles.
    About the labeling i sadly notice that the society labels motorcycles as dangerous instead of labeling motorists as dangerous and try to educate drivers and riders.

    Motorcycles are not dangerous. They are far from that. Bikes ease and provide comfort to our modern way of life. Unfortunately, other motorists are becoming less and less respectful and aware of their surroundings.

    Sad….

    This in return affects sales and this is how we end up with the dealers etc.

  16. Is Springwood Suzuki not a “Mum & Dad” business are Brisbane motorcycles upset because they no longer have a monopoly on Ducati in Brisbane. There is certainly no mention of them taking Aprilia and Guzzi which were once at Springwood ?. If his business is going backwards there may be more to it than just competition from the group , none of us want to see conglomerates have a Monopoly and there are plenty of us that will pay a little more in a deal to keep the $$ away from Teammoto and the like but that comes with the expectation that the service you receive will be inline with the relationship you are able to build with a “mom & dad” dealer . Springwood are not Teammoto they are Not Frasers i think the inclusion of that statement hardly balances the point Brett is trying to make. Sounds like sour grapes. Win over your customers, be loyal to them and provide them with exceptional service.

  17. I won’t buy from a car dealership pretending to be a bike dealer. I talk to the block who services my bike and if the price is close I buy local if they have stock.

  18. I hope Brisbane Motorcycles can stay a viable business. I’ve found their prices, range of stock, and service to be excellent. They deserve a place in the industry, and it will be a loss to motorcyclist’s if they are forced out.

  19. Times are changing. They either ger onboard, find a different/new way, or unfortunately get out.
    Not being heartless, it’s just how it is. Online is the future one way or another. Holding onto the past while bigger fish swim around…You’ll get eaten up.
    Lamentably.

  20. Real shame, hope people see that price isn’t everything, it flows through to what people in the stores are paid and what they in turn have to spend and so it goes on.

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