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Scooter Hut is looking to add another couple of stores to its national retail chain by the end of this year – convinced that the market is set to enjoy sustained healthy growth.
Headed by recently appointed CEO Josh O’Neill, the company has been busy in recent weeks examining possible locations for new stores in Melbourne, encouraged by mounting consumer demand since Victoria legalised private e-scooters earlier this year.
Its short-term plans for expansion also include boosting its presence in Queensland, another State where private scooter use has been legalised in public spaces.
“Our sales numbers are really firing. We have a great loyal customer base and we are building a great team culture. We would absolutely like to open a handful of stores before Christmas. It really comes down to finding the right spots and ensuring those additions fit our model,” Josh said.
“We would then fully focus on delivering for our customers for Christmas, before reviewing and deciding where our next growth will come from.”
“The people we’re really designing our business around is that person who is looking to find more time in their day, to solve a logistics problem in the family.”
Josh said the company’s confidence to pursue further growth stems in part from changing public perceptions about e-scooters and how they can assist people’s day to day lives.
“It’s really changing, in that people are buying a scooter as a real solution to help their daily life, versus customers more interested in wanting to try scooters and have some fun,” he explained.
“We’re fully focused on delivering for our customers and we are finding that people are catching on to adding scooters to their transportation mix. That’s what a lot of them are talking about when they come into our stores.
“Our halo customers, the people we’re really designing our business around, is that person who is looking to find more time in their day, to solve a logistics problem in the family or who is looking to ride a scooter to work and back.
“It might be a mum who is buying their teenager a scooter because it can go in the back of the car. They can drop their son or daughter at school, knowing they can then ride the scooter to basketball practice and then back home.
“There’s no way scooters won’t become more of a solution to a lot of transportation problems, whether you’re looking at it from a town planning perspective or from a family perspective.”
“There’s a lot of younger females using e-scooters as a solution to get to work … a lot more than people might think.
“We feel they are the type of people who will continue to grow as customers.”
People buying scooters for fun, for recreation on weekends, still represent 30% of Scooter Hut’s business.
“But our big customer base is that commuter-style customer, who will hopefully be with us for a long time. They might start with more of an entry-level scooter, and upgrade to another scooter in about a year’s time,” Josh added.
“For a place like Australia, there’s no way scooters won’t become more of a solution to a lot of transportation problems, whether you’re looking at it from a town planning perspective or from a family perspective, from a community perspective.
“If you want to save some time in your day, you want to save some money, and the planet, you want to have some fun and get outside, it really ticks those boxes already.”
Consistent Industry Focus
He says in the meantime, to ensure that potential is maximised, the industry as a whole needs to be proactive in community education, after-sales service and greater emphasis on safety.
Josh says Scooter Hut’s emphasis on these three core areas, particularly since he joined Scooter Hut eight months ago, has been fundamental in capitalising on the growing demand among parents and young women.
“We’ve done a lot of work to make sure we’re partnering with the best brands and we’ve spent extensive time in China making sure those brands have the best quality and best-control measures in their factories,” he added.
Market leader Segway and other China-based brand, InMotion, have emerged as Scooter Hut’s primary brands.
“Globally, Segway is the biggest brand by a long, long, long way. In Australia, they will probably sell two out of every three scooters over the next 12 months, so we’re really pleased to have developed a good relationship with Segway’s international team and their new distribution partner in Australia, 360 International Trading, that came on board this year,” Josh said.
While Segway is a national market leader, InMotion has become Scooter Hut’s major brand.
It had one InMotion product in its range last November and this November will add a fifth model.
“While their speciality is actually unicycles, that knowledge makes them an excellent partner for us,” Josh said.
“E-Scooters are a far more spec’ed down machine than a unicycle and the thought they put into the structure of their scooters really suits how we feel about the products and quality that should be going into the Australian marketplace.
“InMotion will be increasingly known for its fantastic specifications and quality, and making sure its scooters always have the right torque for each model.
“They have a very, very low return rate and while we often hear from people who buy a scooter elsewhere and discover it can’t do what they thought it would, that never happens with InMotion scooters.
“At the same time, InMotion is obviously really happy with what we’re doing. Each of our brands are precious to us and we feel highly responsible for them.”
“By far the best designed e-scooter in the market.”
Scooter Hut’s line-up also includes performance brand Kaabo, which focuses on high-powered off-road scooters, and Scooter Hut will introduce Canadian brand, Apollo, to the Australian market in mid to late October.
“We are really excited about Apollo. As a premium brand, it’s a great first or second e-scooter solution for our customers,” Josh explained.
“They are focused on design and innovation which will appeal to the urban commuter. It’s by far the best designed e-scooter in the market and they are continuing to grow their range.”
To further build on the high quality of each brand, Scooter Hut has established its own quality control program to test every scooter individually before it goes to market.
“And our focus for the past six months has been maximising the efficiency of our after-sales care program,” he said.
“My car lease is up at the start of next year and I’ve already received three calls from the company that sold me the car. They know I’m ready for an upgrade and that’s where we want to see the scooters industry in its level of after-sales assistance.
“When customers purchase an e-scooter from Scooter Hut, we want them to know we are with them for the life of their e-scooter. We will have parts available, have techs to change tyres and do repairs.
“The more information that’s out there for customers to make good decisions, and the more quality products we have out there, the better it will be for our industry”
“This is a key reason why we want to continue to invest in our stores. I’m a retailer at heart and love the concept of being there in person with our customers, as well as a great digital experience. Our role is to look after all our customers in ways that best suits them.
“Other retailers are also doing this quality control and rider education – doing it in their own way – and there are plenty of great brands. Our biggest role as an industry is educating customers so they can make an informed decision.
“The more information that’s out there for customers to make good decisions, and the more quality products we have out there, the better it will be for our industry, especially when things are a little unregulated with the products coming into Australia.”
Josh says that’s a major reason why Scooter Hut has a mix of digital and stores, combining easy access to online information and sales with the value of in-person assistance, to help people get the most out of their scooters.
“When buyers click and collect with us, we don’t just hand the box over at the counter. We unpack the box and test the brakes, make sure the display is working, make sure it powers up, the bolts are tight and the tyres are pumped up.
“We have a safety guide we take customers through, including the safety gear we recommend, and we discuss how to check the scooter regularly.”
Scooter Hut currently has around 100 employees in 12 stores: three each in Victoria, WA and Queensland and single stores in NSW, SA and the ACT.
“We have a really good footprint in Perth. We know it’s got more legs but right now we feel we’re undercooked in Victoria and Queensland,” he said.
After entrenching itself in inner Melbourne, the company is now looking at the city’s south and has a pop-up store at the Fountaingate Shopping Centre to test the market in the suburbs.
“We won’t really expand beyond one store in Sydney and Adelaide until there’s more support from the regulations in those States.
“It’s not the goal to have 100 stores by the end of next year but we have a strong culture of growing and reaching more customers.
“We’re very dependent with what happens with the regulations and how we’re being supported by those regulations.
“The key is we need to be patient and constantly be responsible in how we’re doing things. The more responsible we are, including riders and retailers, the quicker it will happen.
“Sharing the enjoyment of e-scooters is a really fun job! I ride every day to remind myself why we do what we do.”