The Australian helmet market is only a relatively small market and with the large range of manufacturers, models, colors and sizes it means low volume sales on each model and size. This requires high stocking levels for the distributors and retailers to meet the demands of riders for over the counter purchases.
The rapid change in fashion styles for paint work on helmets can also mean a short saleable shelf life for retailers.
Overall it would be easy to conclude that the market in Australia was a marginal profit market.
Helmet sales in Australia are estimated to be 100,000 helmets annually. With the number of brands and models it would be unlikely that any one model would exceed 10,000 in sales.
The low volumes mean that any certification costs to bring helmets to market could be considered a significant component in the cost of any helmet.
Any regulatory regime imposed to ensure the safety of helmets must take into account the cost penalties imposed on the importers, retailers and purchasers.
Where full certification of helmets is specified, the cost to an importer can be high. Certification is carried out by a Conformance Assessment Body (CAB).
The expenditure to become registered as a CAB for helmet testing can be $25,000 initially then $10,000 annually.
This is before any actual testing of a helmet is done. All these costs add to the cost of a helmet.
There are currently 4 CAB's accredited for helmet testing so there is $100,000 initially and $40,000 annually to be recovered by the CAB's before any helmet testing is done and excludes any administrative costs.
The initial certification cost for each helmet model is estimated at $15,000 to $25,000. There are also ongoing costs for further batch testing and factory inspection by the CAB. These costs are difficult to estimate.
The late 1990's Federal Govt move to deregulation and self certification by the manufacturers as per the US DOT model was intended to reduce the costs of certification. The ACCC has been doing random testing of helmets since that time.
The failure of the States to amend their Road Rules at that time and the new State Road Rules has meant the continuation of full certification so we are effectively paying twice. The price can be seen in helmet costs.
The advent of on line shopping both domestically and internationally is here to stay, this will fragment the market and affect the profitability of helmet sales by Australian importers and retailers.
Australian consumers are already seeing the lower prices on helmets in overseas markets and are purchasing from those international retailers.
Customs regulations allow importation of helmets complying with ECE, UK, US, Snell standards. This is needed to allow helmet importation for competition use and meet international trade agreements so cannot be easily changed to prevent general importation for road usage. The legality of sales of these helmets is a good question.
Australia is not alone in facing these problems. The world has moved from having no standards to national standards and now moving into the international standards era. Countries are internationalising their local standards and opening their markets to international standards to lower costs and open markets to free trade. Many Australian Standards are being rewritten to meet WTO requirements. The sun glass lens standard which is part of the helmet visor standard is one. The helmet standard is marked to be rewritten to internationalise it and align it with UNECE 22.05.