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Offline Richard Clark BS parts

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Marketing of Bridgestones (read only)
« on: March 08, 2009, 10:21:58 AM »
Marketing of Bridgestones
by Richard Clark

This short story is  what I know of the marketing in the early days of Rockford Motors.  This information is to the
best of my memory from many years of dealing with Rockford Motors.  Knowing Mr Emery personally and by being
the last of the factory racers, in which is another story.

Mr Emery owned, operated and marketed Rockford Sewing Machine Co.  He took that small company into almost every
household in the USA, the sewing machines were sold under most all popular names, through mass merchants of the day.

The Rockford Sewing Machine Co saw the success of companies like  Cushman and Doddlebug selling scooters, both selling
directly and through mass merchants.  Doddlebug was sold through Western Auto Stores and Cushman through their regular dealer
network.  Mr Emery wanted a piece of this action, so the  Rockford scooter company was born by selling Silver Pigeons scooters that
were made in Japan.   Silver Pigeons were somewhat copies of Cushmans.  I would say he had limited success with these. 

Mr Emery saw the Japanese invasion of small proper motorcycles on the rise, so he made the deal for Bridgestone.
From his roots in merchandising, he took the road of using existing business to sell his new line of motorcycles.  From this
point on, they concentrated on small business, like Hardware, Bicycle, Lawnmower shops and even people in unrelated industries.
On the other side, Honda and others pushed for stand-a-lone motorcycle shops.  Today, 40 years later, we all know which
business model was better!

In the early days of Rockford Motors, they also attempted to market motorcycles through mass merchants.  In the 1960's there
were a few nationwide mass merchants, like Sears, Montgomery Ward, JC Penneys, ect .  There were also many smaller ones serving
regional areas.  Grants and Aldens in the midwest, Sun TV in Chicago, White in the eastern USA, and many more.  Mr Emery
made deals with many of these merchants.  Montgomery Ward sold a rebadged BS7, and to my knowledge,  this was the only nationwide
deal.  However, there were many of the smaller mass merchants who were to sell either rebadged or regular Bridgestones on a regional
area.  You could even order a Bridgestone 90 with S&H Green stamps.

This attempt at selling Bridgestones through mass merchants, angered most of the "regular" dealers selling  Bridgestones. I am sure
this really limited most from starting stand-alone motocycle shops - Why spend by money on  setting up a Bridgestone dealership, when
customers can just go to the "big" store and buy one?  Remember Honda was not doing this.

Mad Man Muntz  (yes of the 8 track player fame) did sell BS 90's for a while.  Aldens sold a relabeled BS7.
JC Penneys marketed a Bridgestone called Champion at a few locations, mostly in the midwest.  White Stores set up operations too. 
There were many more.  All attempts seemed to die the same way, none of these stores had any repair operations nor did they have sales
people who knew anything about selling motorcycles. They all soon decided to stop selling motorcycles.   I understand that there were a
few single stores, who on a one on one basis  continued to sell Bridgestones for a while.

Sears had the best luck selling motorcycles (not Bridgestones)  as they already had repair operations set up after selling lawn mowers
and appliances for many years.  It is a shame the Mr Emery had not been able to set up a deal with Sears, as perhaps operations
would have been much more successful as Sears was by far the largest chain of stores in those years.  What might have been?

By the time all this played out, Bridgestone in the USA was reduced to a small player, even with great hype from the press
about the outstanding 350GTR.   Rockford Motors were never able to recover. The "Big 4" motorcycle companies had already gotten
established. 

A good thing for BS owners did come out of Rockford Motor's marketing attempt!   In a rush to supply parts to these merchants,
Rockford Motors established 13 parts depots throughout the USA.  Rockford Motors supplied the 13 depots, and the depots supplied
some dealers.  This allowed parts to be available to most locations in the USA within a day.

All in all, it came to an end because of marketing that just did not work.

A sad tale to the best engineered Japanese motorcycles from the 1960's


Richard Clark






If you know of any additional information, please send it to me and I will add to this article as a addendum.
Please send it to bsparts@aye.net
« Last Edit: March 08, 2009, 01:30:38 PM by Richard Clark BS parts »
Richard  Clark, Owner and provider of this site
BRIDGESTONE MOTORCYCLE PARTS
New Albany IN

bsparts@aye.net

 


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