Bart Price: COVID & The Karting Industry

Bart Price is the Director of one of Australia’s most notable karting businesses, DPE Kart Technology that manufactures Arrow and imports and distributes thousands of lines of karting product via the DPE Kart Superstore network.

COVID-19 has impacted people and commerce around the globe. We had a chat with Bart about how it’s affecting DPE and the Australian karting industry.

Inside the DPE Kart Superstore distribution centre in Melbourne.

KartSportNews – It’s mid June, you’re open and trading. Where is DPE at right now from a trading perspective?

Bart Price – We’re currently trading Monday through Thursday, but the business is operating Monday to Friday. We’re using the downtime to work on various projects that we normally don’t get the time to do work on.

As far as sales, we’re about 70 percent down on normal. Having spoken with other distributors in the industry, like Remo Racing, Patrizicorse, IKD, that’s pretty representative of where the industry is sitting right now.

But it’s improving?

Yes. It is up and down day by day, but week on week, it is getting stronger.

Let’s back up a bit to when COVID first hit. How did that go?

Everything just stopped; no orders came through and you immediately go into panic mode.

I was worried about the health of staff (at the time, the full extent of the outbreak was unknown) and made the decision to close the factory and send everyone home so they could lockdown and stay safe.

The business was fully closed for two weeks. DPE is a large building for the number of staff we have, and we realized that if we are all being smart and keeping safely distanced, we could have everyone back and started working on projects you just don’t get the time to work on normally.

For us, a big focus has been our online store as its level of importance grew rapidly when everyone was in lockdown.

While trade is increasing, there have been multiple issues to overcome, for example, supply delays. We import a lot of product from around the globe and the shipping time has near doubled. But the availability of product is slowly coming back as suppliers re-open and catch up.

In the week prior to shutdown, Bart was doing his best to keep spirits high!

Have you been able to make use of the Government’s JobKeeper scheme?

Yeah, we have been able to tap in to JobKeeper for the full time staff, but unfortunately not for our contractors, although they can access it via their own businesses.

It’s only after talking with industry in other countries you realise how lucky we are in Australia. Suppliers around the world look at Australia and New Zealand with, I think, a bit of envy.

The Government here quickly shut things down to stop the spread, and the amount of support available for businesses in Australia has been very helpful. It’s been much tougher for karting businesses overseas, such as Italy, than what it has here.

But (despite the assistance) March, April and May were significant losses for the business. June has seen some recovery, and the current target is just to break even.

What about the manufacturing side of the business?

We’re still manufacturing and it’s been affected by COVID about the same as everything else we do. We no longer do the machining in house. We decided a while back to import the standard sorts of components that are machined, like sprocket carriers and bearing flanges etc. They’re machined in Italy as it has become increasingly expressive to do that here in Australia.

But the performance components of the chassis stay in house. We still do all the fabrication ourselves so we can build karts that are designed for our classes and the tracks and tyres we use in Australia.

And the dealers?

Overall, it’s been disruptive for all our dealers, but the more substantial ones with shopfronts have been hit hardest simply because they have far more overheads that still need to be covered.

DPE Kart Superstore

  • website (dpekartsuperstore.com) is operating 24/7, orders are dispatching four days per week, Monday to Thursday.
  • Head office (Melbourne) is closed to the public. DPE Kart Superstore QLD is open Tuesday to Friday 9am-5pm and Saturday 8am-12pm.
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