Harley turning to Amazon to expand brand’s reach

Company launches online storefront to sell apparel, gear

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Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson Inc. on Monday announced an agreement with Amazon to sell the motorcycle maker’s apparel and riding gear on the online retailer’s website.

Harley-Davidson headquarters
Harley-Davidson Inc.’s headquarters in Milwaukee.

The agreement is part of Harley’s accelerated “More Roads” strategy, which calls for the company to expand access to its brand in an effort to increase motorcycle ridership.

“We have an opportunity on Amazon to showcase our brand, to grow reach, relevance, and access – and ultimately, the opportunity to bring new riders into our Harley-Davidson family,” said Heather Malenshek, Harley senior vice president of marketing and brand.

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Harley began selling products through an Amazon storefront on Monday. Select merchandise is available for purchase in the U.S. with two-day shipping for Amazon Prime members.

“We live in an on-demand, anywhere, anytime business environment where success depends on the ability to meet consumers on their turf and on their terms,” Malenshek said. “The reach Amazon offers is critical to building stronger customer relationships, inspiring new people and creating an integrated online and in-dealership retail experience – all of which leads to profitable growth and a stronger brand.”

General merchandise, including apparel and riding gear, annually accounts for around 5.5 percent of Harley’s revenue. Sales have trended down over the last few years from $292.3 million in 2015 to $262.8 million last year. General merchandise revenue is up, however, through the first six months of this year, increasing 5.4 percent to $125.3 million.

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Harley has previously facilitated ecommerce transactions for its dealers for certain general merchandise, parts and accessories. The company provided an online storefront along with shipping and fulfillment for dealers, who actually sold the products to customers.

At a press conference during Harley’s 115th anniversary celebrations earlier this year, Malenshek said the company is not concerned about taking sales away from dealers with the new program. At the time, Harley had said it would be expanding in BigCommerce, but had not announced Amazon as a partner.

“This is about expanding our reach into spaces where our customers are today where we’re not,” she said. “The idea is that we start giving them access to our brand and then slowly we’ll bring them into our dealer network. These customers that are not in our dealerships today.”

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Harley has used a similar strategy in Asia, providing access to Harley clothing and other branded products ahead of actually selling someone a motorcycle. Those efforts, however, included opening a physical storefront while the Amazon deal is focused on expanding brand access through ecommerce.

“We sometimes call apparel the gateway drug because it’s a way of bringing people in,” Malenshek said at the press conference. “They buy a t-shirt from us today on a third-party provider site and then tomorrow they may be walking into one of our dealerships to figure out how they want to learn to ride.”

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