My 2 cents, coming from working for family businesses for over 20 years. Granted my experiences are different as my family owned restaurants and then later was an independent surveying company in the ports of Tampa. Now, not being familiar with where you are, and I'm sure with your background in Real Estate, you know the demographics better than I would. Know your customer and know your product.
If you're in an affluent area and also an area with a local college or university you can cater to 2 different sets of customers. I'd suggest Genuine Scooters
. Possibly also check out Tomos
, more for the mopeds as they have a nice cult following.
has a good selection of scooters, the Stella is close enough to a classic Vespa to possibly draw in more affluent buyers who want that nostalgia but with more modern components. The Buddy series are affordable, have a good range of models to cater to students on a budget to people who want something more than 50cc if the option is there. Don't overlook the Blur! Their business model and customer loyalty has grown by leaps and bounds that parallel Honda in the 60's in my opinion.
also has a large line of scooters, ranging from the classic inspired look to the more modern looking swoopy designs. If memory serves me right they're Taiwanese and their quality will be top notch, second to Japanese. Sadly their not as widely known as I feel they should be as they offer a much better product than most of the fly-by-night Chinese scooter companies.
is an excellent choice for the Symba
and the Wolf 150
. Sym makes engines for Honda so that should be a testament to their quality standards. The Symba ( Honda C70/Passport ) and Wolf ( Classic Honda CB ) can appeal to the older crowd who longed for these bikes when they were younger and can now afford them, also the college student who wants something fun and not necessarily in the lines of a scooter. They are comparable in price to many scooters and performance wise they offer the best of both, economy and power.
maybe an odd choice but their price for their mopeds, with the pedals, is comparable to most Chinese scooters and there are some hard core Tomos fans out there. Check out the Moped Army webpage and forums and you'll get a sense how popular mopeds really are. I wouldn't recommend the scooters they offer as they're Chinese where the mopeds are still being built in Slovenia. There are tons of mods out there for the Tomos mopeds too. http://www.mopedarmy.com/wiki/Shop_links
I'd also stock up on parts and accessories as this is where many dealers make their money. The add-on components is where you will see significant profit. I wouldn't give these away for free as you will lose valuable needed income. Offer package deals or pick and choose combinations in different price ranges. Give them options, so you'll have more of a personal relationship to your customer so they'll want to come back for repeat business. Explain to them that you know your stuff and that you can guide them correctly for lubricants, safety gear and accessories that are appropriate for the longevity of their investment. Definitely hit that home, it's an investment, you want this purchase to last and to have fun with your new investment. Many people don't drive this hard enough as it's just a transaction or another number. You want their business, how many people in the automotive department at Wal-mart or Autozone know their name? Would they trust this person with their investment? Drive this point across.
The product must sell itself give them options and information and let them fall in love with a scooter to want to buy from you.
When I worked for Best Buy I quickly began to outsell most of the staff in the TV/VCR department because I didn't push for sales. We weren't on commission so I saw no reason to get aggressive, I honestly felt that if the customer were truly intending to buy that day they would buy. If they're inside the store they're there for a reason. I just gave them guidance on what I felt was a good product, pros and cons and what each product offered to suit their needs then I let them decide for themselves. I actually had fellow associates get angry with me because I was outselling them by double digits, often at times 3 to 1, on the extended warranties in less than a month of working there. There was no trick to what I was doing, my motto was "How would I want to be treated by a salesman?" I didn't want want to feel pressured into a purchase because then they'll always be regret or they'll go home feeling resentment because they were pressured to buy today.
Now not being on commission at Best Buy is a completely different scenario than selling scooters and needing that commission and profit to stay in business. I just think that these days many people want to be acknowledged as a person and not another sale. Little things do add up, a cup of coffee or cocoa on cold days for the customer browsing. A magazine to flip through to see what's available out there and to see how people are customizing their scooters. A catalog with all the coolest gadgets, accessories and gear for their purchase. This will get them dreaming and scheming .... Wow! if I customized my scoot like this I'd be the only one in the area or the coolest kid on the block. I often think back to the service stations in the 50's and 60's of how attentive the staff were to people just who were just getting gas. It's simplicity that sells.
Have a few British magazines like Scootering available for people to see, they're cheap enough on Ebay for some large collections than paying $10 per issue. Granted it's more old school Lambrettas and Vespas and models we don't have access to but many people don't realize what's out there. Maybe buy some back issues of Scoot! from their webpage, they're still available and cheap enough. Have them laying about on a table or small stand for people to flip through. They'll see it's a whole subculture and not just a means of transportation. Find some videos of scooter rallies on Youtube and copy them to DVD to play in the store on a small TV. Show that there is a community for them and it's more fun to ride in groups and with like minded people, it's infectious.
I'd also look into restorations. If you can find a decent used older Vespa and do some cleaning, painting or basic maintenance you can make quite a profit. Old school Vespas can command a good price if the quality is there and if the model is popular. Depending on the initial investment this might be an option to explore. Also the older rarer mopeds are often sought after and many people don't know what they have and will sell them for cheap. Some models were only sold regionally so they're some specific models that are sought after. People ride them until they die and dispose of mopeds not knowing much about them. A little research can go a long way.
For Example: I once bought 3 motorcycles for $100, literally around the corner from me. All were stored in a barn for over 20 years and not in running condition. One was a old Yamaha Dirt bike ( I forget the model ), the keys were lost and the engine was possibly seized. I sold it to a friend for $100. Come to find out it's a rare 1 year bike bike that commands top dollar. My friend did an off the frame restoration on it, rebuilt the engine and got it running. I'm happy for him as he cherishes it and I didn't care because I'm not into dirt bikes. The second bike a Yamaha RD200E, that was beyond saving so it was pretty much a parts bike, I ended up trading for 2 mopeds and also giving the guy $250. I got some pictures of the mopeds before the trade and did some research. One moped was really rare ( a Puch Cobra ), I sold that one for $450 alone and it wasn't even running. The other moped a Peugeot 103 I sold for $350. The last of the initial 3 bike purchase was a Honda CT90 I sold for $200. I did quite well and came out ahead in this with minimal time and investment. Craigslist is definitely your friend, for selling and buying! You could even buy off of Craigslist and part out scooters and make some money.
Become a local advocate for organizing scooter rallies for awareness and charities. Promote safety courses with the local MSF classes. Inform potential customers on certain models they'll more than likely need MSF certification to legally ride on the street. That can be a deciding factor in a potential sale. Send the MSF customers and they'll more than likely send some back to you. Organize monthly rides. Plan in advance different routes, work with local businesses like restaurants to let them know you're coming a day or 2 before the actual ride so they can prepare if it's a large group. Get involved with charities for awareness and rides. Promote a cause that's close to you or a fellow rider/customer and let the local TV station and media know. Publicity always helps.
Get involved with the local college whether a community college or larger university. Hand out flyers, offer classes in riding and road safety, extoll the virtues of the technology today, comfort, convenience, reliability and anything else that could bring in more customers. It's been shown that many students now don't own a car and it's growing every year, as the desire to own a car is waning. Maybe explore the option of electric bicycles? Depending on their reliability and how the weather up that way can affect performance and charging capabilities.
OK, I've babbled on enough. Hopefully something I wrote can help a little. If not I apologize.
Best of luck to you and definitely keep us updated when possible.