MAD ABOUT MOTORBIKES
Motorbikes inspire passion. As Stewart Rodwell of TSS Red Baron Motorcycles says, “Unlike cars, people want a motorbike, they don’t need one.”
TSS Red Barron Motorcycles
Stewart and all 18 staff at his Lower Hutt business are as passionate about motorcycles as their customers, and it pays off in the repeat business and masses of enthusiastic feedback online.
TSS Red Barron Motorcycles is the largest dealership and motorcycle accessories business south of Hamilton. The showroom of new and used motorcycles is huge, while above, on the second floor, helmets, apparel, parts and accessories offer aisle after aisle of browsing and buying.
“Six years ago we moved from a smaller building just down the road and went from 500 square metres to 1,400 square metres. I thought we’d never fill the space. But we did, within a year or so.”
Stewart formed the company in late 2003 and brought in two containerloads of used motorcycles from Japan. “I intended to be a wholesaler and sell them on to local bike shops but that just didn’t work. So, within two months I became a dealer and hired two mechanics.”
Stewart had worked in used car sales for a dozen or so years. In his past, he has also had in a general auto repair workshop and owned a car rental business.
But his lifelong passions have been motorbikes and martial arts. He bought his first motorbike at 15 and didn’t learn to drive until he was 22 when he needed a car for a job in insurance sales.
He and his family all practise and compete in martial arts; at one point he had a martial arts supplies shop “But I got burgled out of existence. After the third break-in, my insurance company refused to cover it anymore.”
Today TSS Red Baron Motorcycles employs six staff in the apparel and accessories store, seven mechanics, three sales staff, two part-time admin staff (including wife Chevanne), and one customer service receptionist.
The parts, apparel and accessories store is open on weekends and does a roaring trade, particularly on Saturdays.
“We have a really wide range of clothing and other gear, and this side of the business makes up about a third of our income.” The showroom is only open during the week and Saturdays.
TSS sells new Suzuki, KTM and Royal Enfield bikes with around 450 to 500 new and used motorcycles expected to blast out the door this year.
Some of the parts, apparel and accessories team from left: Andrew Lawrence (manager), Clinton Keenan, Mike Denovan and volunteer Daniel Palamountain.
DROPPING DOWN A GEAR
At 52, and after gradually shifting more responsibility on to staff, Stewart says he’s now able to loosen the reins and take a more strategic approach to the company.
“We’ve always sponsored some on and off-road racing and I’m doing more of that. We are a sponsor for three riders: Jake Whitaker in Enduro racing– he’s a six time Australasian champion in trials riding. Then there’s Sloan Frost, the current New Zealand superbike champion, and Jay Lawrence, who’s in to superbike and road racing. He’s going to be making his debut at the Isle of Man Classic TT this year.” Jay is a key member of the TSS Red Baron Motorcycles parts sales team and uses his specialist knowledge to help customers chose everything from boots to bolts.
A key member of the parts sales team, Jay is also a superbike and road racer who is making his debut at the Isle of Man Classic TT this year.
Stewart says, “I want to put more time into sponsorship and promotion and get more involved with motorcycle clubs in the area.”
He sees real benefits, not just in promoting his company but also in the passion he and his staff have for motorbikes.
Stewart sees a strong future for the business – he has no plans to get into electric motorcycles at this point but believes there will come a time.