This is a test to update the Delmont Report, now that I’m back in good health.
This is a test to update the Delmont Report, now that I’m back in good health.
It’s been a day since it was announced that Steve Jobs died and it’s hard to ignore the avalanche of accolades and odes to the Apple man appearing across the interwebs.
As was referenced in this space back in the June 2011 issue of Dealernews, I’m a diehard Apple acolyte, and I happen to agree with nearly everything that’s been written about Jobs and his impact on Life as We Know It. If you boiled down the many and various ways our lives intricately intertwine with technology, you’d end up with Jobs and his vision of what could be — which more than anything were dreams writ large by a man of unmatched vision.
Here was a guy with a drive to create products that excite people and worm their way into the everyday existence of their users. He took a once-floundering company and turned it into a cultural flashpoint.
So here we are, forever swirling around the bowl of the powersports market’s endless flushing. All this twirling around can leave a person dizzy and discombobulated: Dare we keep our eyes raised high to the light or cast down into the abyss? I choose to keep my sights set upward and onward. Never mind the glass half full, I’m looking at the toilet half flushed. We’re not down yet.
And we won’t be down. Motorcycles are way too fun to go away. Yes, it would be great for a moto-Jobs to come along and raise the entire industry out of the stink, but that’s not likely. And maybe not necessary.
Look around, there are two-wheel visionaries hard at work among us. Dreams are being wrought into reality everyday.
Take Roland Sands. For my money, he’s one of the most forward-looking and creative individuals working in the aftermarket. His eponymous company continues to devise, design and build products that quite simply are like nothing else out there — from their custom bikes to the new
Clarity Line of hard parts (see-through timing cover, anyone?) to its just-released lineup of high-end and stylish apparel. RSD seems to exist on a different plane.
And then there’s Tom Seymour and his team at Saddlemen, where nobody ever seems to sleep.
How else to explain the company’s release of 100 new seats for Harley-Davidson and metric applications? There’s also an expansive amount of new luggage and luggage accessories aimed at the popular touring market. A new overseas factory owned and managed directly by Saddlemen. Nobody at Saddlemen is hunkering down waiting for blue skies.
How about Brian Klock and his team at Klock Werks? Not only is the crew from South Dakota breaking records at Bonneville, it continues to design and develop new products and come up with killer retail solutions to help dealers sell said product. I had a good conversation with Klock at the recent Drag Specialties Rocky Mountain Run about his windshields, parts and dealer programs such as the “Try It Before You Buy It” demo ride offering. Seriously, contact these guys. Not only will Klock knock you down with his enthusiasm and good grace, you might even get a personal visit from one of the Klock Werks’ crew members.
All have something to keep we riders enthusiastic about being enthusiasts.
And check out Victory Motorcycles, Ducati and Triumph. These OEMs, and a couple others, continue to build some of the best bikes in the history of motorcycling — that is until the next round of new models comes around.
It would be impossible to discuss forward-thinkers without mentioning Erik Buell. H-D? Who needs ‘em. Buell is well into the next chapter in his life and it involves a motorcycle that is as impressive looking in person as it is on paper. Saw and touched the 1190RS up close, and it was one of those moments where I thought, “Should I be getting this excited about a motorcycle?”
So while the industry has yet to find its singular Jobs, it has dozens — if not more — of inspiring innovators who keep us buzzing along on the strength of their creativity. Much like with Apple and its striving for something ever more cool, the world of motorcycling’s never ending search for better continues to astound. Onward and upward.
Editor in Chief
Here is some good news for followers of Harley-Davidson: Retail sales in the third quarter were up 3.5%, compared to the 3Q last year when sales slumped 9.4%, according to a recently-completed survey of dealers by Wells Fargo Securities.
There’s more good news as well: Inventories remain at five year lows and all of the dealers described inventories as comfortable/light with a need to improve the mix such as adding more touring bikes. Inventory levels are at about 40-45 days, according to the survey.
However, dealers voiced concerns about the inventory mix and said there probably were lost sales due to lack of product availability on models such as the model year 2012 (MY12) touring, sportsters and softails. “We believe Harley underestimated U.S. summer demand, especially in touring (models),” says Tim Conder, Wells Fargo Securities senior analyst and author of the report. “It likely will be late fall before Harley has U.S. inventories normalized,” he added.
Here’s an interesting comment from Conder: “We continue to believe Harley is making specific efforts to limit some availability of Touring models, in part to encourage the dealer network to grow sales (i.e. Sportster, Dyna, Softtail) into targeted, less penetrated customer demographic segments (i.e., under 35, women, African-American, Hispanics). However, this effort may have been too aggressive when combined with York restructuring transitions.”
The survey included 40 dealers located in 24 states across the U.S., approximately, 6% of Harley’s U.S. dealers and was skewed toward larger dealers in major metropolitan areas. The survey included 10 dealers in the East, 10 in the South, 10 in the Midwest and 10 in the West.
The dealers surveyed were very aggressive in their marketing. In addition to selling new and used motorcycles, clothes, merchandise, parts, accessories and service, 98% of the participating dealers had Harley Owners Group (HOG) chapters, 55% offered rentals, 45% sponsored a Rider’s Edge training program and 33% had an on-line sales program.
The dealers also were very aggressive on their pricing. Seventy percent of the dealers sold at MSRP, 20% sold at MSRP with what Wells Fargo calls “minimal discounts,” and 10% sold at a premium to MSRP. Twenty percent of the dealers said they were selling at least some new models below MSRP, compared to 13% in the Q211 survey by Wells Fargo, and 18% in Q310.
Here are other findings from the survey:
Harley common stock has traded in a range of $28-$47 over the last 52 weeks. It closed at $34.33 on Friday, Sept. 30, 2011. JD
Writing for a living is a strange thing. You put words down. You send them out and hope that someone reads them. And then you do it all over and over. It’s either an exercise in optimism or the most futile profession on the planet.
And then there was my editor’s note from our September issue, “You love what you do. Right?” This one seemed to stir something in our readers, perhaps the same thing that prodded me into writing it.
From the dealernewsblog.com, 2Big2Ride says this, “Makes you ask yourself how much energy do we all expend over the things we cannot control while being distracted from the positive things we can influence and control?” Agreed. (Though my agreement runs a few words shorter.)
And Lori Alminde brings it right into the powersports fold: “I work as a sales rep and I love my job more than anything. I’m a biker first, a sales rep second. … I don’t wanna do anything else in my life. I love what I do. I even have my two bikes in the living room.” Now those are some interior decorating skills I can appreciate.
Most agreed on one main point: There’s way too much negativity in an industry that is rooted in pure, unadulterated fun. Yes, times are bad, but let’s all be thankful we didn’t take the Al Bundy route to Shoe Sales Hell. Our own service columnist, Dave Koshollek explains things pretty well with, “The good thing about this business is the passion everyone has. The bad thing about this business is the passion everyone has. Time to put that passion in check, step back and realize that anyone involved in the powersports business is better than anyone not involved in the powersports business.” Thanks, DAKO.
On to other things …
¡Viva la evolución! so say the T-shirts and bumper stickers. And evolve we must for nothing stinks likes stagnancy.
In the pages of Dealernews. On the floor of Dealer Expo. In the dozen stops of the Progressive International Motorcycle Show. In the quiet corners of our own lives. We need tweaks, nips and changes to stay fresh, to keep moving.
Click on through our e-zine and you’ll likely see some new faces and names in the pages of this Dealernews.
One of the first new partygoers you’ll see is Rod Stuckey, founder and president of Dealership University who, along with EVP Tory Hornsby, will be penning monthly columns on Sales and Marketing best practices. For October, Stuckey offers advice on how to foster a good online reputation and encourage positive reviews by offering excellent service. Hornsby is up next for a lesson in Sales — stay tuned.
Another newcomer that will be appearing monthly is a feature that’s chockfull of data from ADP Lightspeed’s Data Services team. The info (p. 31) is the result of a partnership between Dealernews and ADP Lightspeed meant to provide dealers with a real-time snapshot of what powersports units consumers are buying.
The ADP Lightspeed Product Mix report uses information gleaned from a sampling of dealers using the LightspeedNXT DMS to compare units sold, by segment, on a month-to-month basis compared to 2010. See what segment is losing share while others are picking it up. Also, learn which segments are bringing in more sales revenue and which are decreasing. The goal is to give dealers some insight into what mix of units from each segment can help improve profitability.
The remainder of this issue is filled with the fresh and insightful news and features you’ve come to expect. If you’ve noticed from our cover photo, our feature dealer is of particular interest. While some battened down the hatches in the doldrums of 2008, Bill Comegys kicked into high gear at Grand Prix Motorsports in Littleton, Colo. I don’t want to give away the story, so here’s the short version: Comegys converted some unused space into Grand Prix Guns, and the firearms store will make up for 10 percent of the store’s total gross this year. Nicely done.
So, turn a page or two and check out some of the words we’ve laid down for you.
Editor in Chief
This space has been filled more than a few times with my take on motorcycle safety gear and apparel — why it should be worn, why it could be smart business for dealers to sell the heck out of it, and why the industry as a whole should be more aggressive in promoting its use.
Yes, training is absolutely paramount, too, but protective gear is something I feel very strongly about personally, and it’s an aspect of riding that intimately involves powersports dealers. It seems to me it’s one-third of the trifecta — unit sales, service, and PG&A — that makes up much of the business relationship between a dealer and its customer.
There are tons of reasons why a rider should wear ATGATT and why it should be promoted, and we’ve heard from dealers like Bob Henig, owner of Bob’s BMW, whose store atmosphere revolves around strongly suggesting that customers wear all the kit — not because it’s legally required, but because it’s the smart thing to do.
Yes, I can sound a little preachy, but quite simply, I’m a safety geek. Motorcycle riding is inherently risky and can result in death or severe injuries, and for me it’s all about managing that risk. Suiting up each time is second nature, so much so that I feel naked if I’m not in full kit.
And then I received in the mail a package from Phil Davy at Leatt USA (see our “Five Questions” interview with Davy on pg. 12). Inside the box was Leatt’s new STX Road neck brace, the street-rider version of the company’s successful lineup of neck braces developed and built for off-road riders.
With some interest, I’ve watched as neck braces have become a fairly common part of motocross and off-road racing and riding. (An interesting phenomenon yes, but remember the days before knee braces became the norm?) But I never made the connection to the street until Leatt announced the STX at Dealer Expo.
Upon inspecting the STX I was struck by just how much it looked like safety gear. The armor in a riding jacket is pretty well-hidden, Kevlar jeans are mostly discreet and helmets are just helmets. But this, it looked absolutely orthopedic and a bit awkward. In adjusting the STX for fitment, I was concerned it would be bulky and strange to wear.
I was wrong. After it’s dialed in and properly fitted, the STX just kind of disappears, and can barely be felt while being worn. In fact, there’s almost a comforting feel to having it snugged up against me. It quickly has become a standard part of my riding gear, even for spins around town.
Although it’s comfortable, the Leatt makes me hyper-aware that I’m wearing a protective brace to guard against neck injuries in the case of a crash. Putting on the neck brace before each ride has made me even more keenly aware of protective riding gear — mainly how little of it many riders wear. It’s summertime, so you know the drill; shorts, T-shirts, tennis shoes, no helmets. In noticing all of this it has me thinking about what the industry as a whole can do to get more people suited up.
Perhaps these are wasted thoughts, that those of a mind to protect themselves will do so, while the rest won’t. But I can’t help but think it’s a good thing for our industry if there was a concerted effort to promote protective gear.
Pushing safety gear doesn’t scare people away. Indeed, Davy says that “injured, maimed and dead motorcyclists do more to chase away new customers than any safety pitch.” We all should keep this in mind.
Editor in Chief
This story originally appeared in the Dealernews September 2011 issue.
You may have heard a little whisper from PowerSports Network recently about an app that it deems the “missing link” in making your Web initiatives a little easier to manage.
It’s called SocialLink (promo video above), and it acts as a bridge between PSN-powered websites and dealer Facebook pages. With SocialLink, says PSN national sales manager Dave Valentine, dealers can have their website inventory automatically fed into their Facebook page in real-time, without having to take any additional steps. The app also allows fans to sign up for store email blasts.
“It’s simple to use,” Valentine says. “We do almost all of the work for the dealers.”
PSN subscribers need only click on a button that says “send to Facebook” when they’re uploading their inventory. The action will lead to a window where you can edit text and schedule the Facebook post to go live immediately or set a date for the future. Dealers also can schedule up to three “Featured Units” per day to show up on their Facebook pages. Facebook fans are able to view photos, review prices and Like or Comment on individual units.
“We’d like dealers to use this tool as more of a social thing, for example asking customers, ‘What do you think of this bike?’ rather than just using it as a sales tool,” Valentine says. “If they just did sales, it would turn off their uses.” PSN also plans to add social event posting capabilities in the near future.
The SocialLink add-on tool is $49 per month. Since it’s August 1 launch, more than 100 dealers have started using the tool, including Buddy Stubbs Harley-Davidson in Phoenix, a store that incorporates both of its branches into one Facebook page.
For more information, contact PSN at 800-556-0314.
THIS COLUMN originally was going to expand on something Mike Vaughan brings up in his column on the last page of this magazine.
In talking about the news that Kawasaki is taking its Costco referral program nationwide, Vaughan points out the never ending negativity that inevitably creeps into any discussion about a new product, new concept, new proposal or impending change in the motorcycle industry.
It’s an observation for a larger point he’s making, but Vaughan is on to something. See the negative online comments accompanying our Dealernews.com story about the Kawi/Costco partnership. But don’t stop there. At any given time stories on our website elicit nothing but negative comments.
And it’s not just our website. This grumbling pessimism and negativity is all pervasive across a myriad blogs, websites, forums, even in person among groups of industry folks. New bike model? It sucks. Someone get a promotion? Oh, he’s an asshole. New biker TV show? What a bunch of tools.
Understood that things have been in the toilet now for a few years and thoughts run bleak in times like these, but this creeping negativism isn’t relegated only to the recession years. It was evident even in the Boom Time, often from the same folks spewing bile now (hmm, maybe there’s something to that?).
Now I understand that some people are just irascible cranks, and I’m no Pollyanna — far from it — but I guess my original question to those who grumble and spit is, what the hell?
But I digress. This was going to be the topic of this column until the day that I sat down to write it I got news of the death of one of the biggest influences on my adult professional life. Jolene Combs, adviser for my junior college journalism program and mentor to countless working journalists, died July 13.
Prior to entering her classroom, I’d never encountered an educator of such wit, passion and energy who demanded excellence and encouraged all. Just about any student who came through the El Camino College journalism program absorbed Combs’ love of the profession, which she taught with such exacting standards that those who learned AP Style through her relentless testing still remember how she phrased her questions.
As an adult deciding to get a college degree at age 25, I was a bit of an aimless lout who finally found direction through Combs and her colleague Lori Medigovich. These two taught me to love the profession, helped me channel my latent abilities and served to guide my way into this career.
I learned that excellence isn’t something to rest on, but something to continually try to attain. That the next story I write will be the best one I write, and so on. Her teaching helped me into a profession, but her words gave me something more.
What does this have to do with the motorcycle industry and the negativity that spreads through it like a rash? Well, as far as I know, JC wasn’t a motorcyclist, but the lessons she taught me and the guidance she gave transcends any one topic.
You see, JC had “three things,” a trio of principles that would help you find success in life. Find someone to love, who loves you back. Be healthy. And, find something you love to do for a living. She’d say the first two were out of your control to a degree, but the third was well within your power.
And this is why I ask, what the hell? We’re all likely in this industry because it’s something we love to do. I don’t know too many people getting rich in powersports, but I do know a lot who love that their careers intersect with their passion.
Taking JC’s advice, I made the choice to do something I love doing in a business I love. So I don’t understand those who made the same choice, who piss and bemoan anything and everything that comes along. I don’t know what purpose it serves other than to reflect a poor attitude.
Think about it. This is what we get to do for a living. This. You’ve gotta admit, this is pretty cool.
Editor in Chief
For dealers still needing a nudge to join Facebook, the social networking site has just made it easier for you to set up a business page.
Facebook this week launched Facebook for Business, an information hub that lists all of its pertinent business information on one page. Everything from how-tos on creating pages to adding targeted ads and plug-ins is now in one convenient spot for you to peruse.
(Aside: It’s interesting to note that this launch comes on the heels of news that spanking-new social networking competitor Google+ has been deleting business pages and turning away businesses from its site.)
So have at it, folks. Visit www.facebook.com/business to create a page, or learn about all the features that you can plug into your existing one.
I’ve been a huge fan of Apple computers since I first started drinking the “Cupertino Cool-aid” back in college, but it’s only been since the company launched its retail stores that I completely bought into the Cult of Jobs. The App Store. OS X. iMacs. iPhones. iPads. I’m hooked.
Every time I have to stop by the Apple store for something, I’m not-so-subtly reminded just how great a retail experience can be. Apple’s customer service is now the standard to which I hold all other retailers, from powersports to gardening supplies, and most of them fail. (Trader Joe’s is the only other major exception.)
Like many budding curmudgeons, I find myself having less and less patience for poor customer service and rude or indifferent employees. I don’t expect to be pampered, and I know some retail stores by design cannot match Apple’s example, but how about offering just a smidgeon of help, with a smile? Owners and management, shouldn’t your personnel training be geared toward making your customers comfortable, maybe even happy, about spending their money with you? This doesn’t always seem the case.
Apple seems to have perfected the art of retail. Never in the history of spending money to buy goods has a company made it so effortless and downright enjoyable to spend money to buy goods.
And this is where Apple intersects with the powersports business.
There was a story in The Wall Street Journal in June talking about the success — and recipe behind it — of Apple’s retail stores. The story reports some incredible numbers: Apple’s annual retail sales per sq. ft. are $4,406 (minus online sales), and its 326 stores brought in more customers in a single quarter than the 60 million people who visited Disney’s four biggest theme parks in 2010.
An obvious aspect of this success, the story says, is the must-have clamor for Apple’s popular products. Seems these are items that people absolutely want to have. After all, does anybody really need an iPad? Likely a few, but everybody wants one.
The other instrument of this success, according to WSJ reporters Yukari Iwatani Kane and Ian Sherr, is that Apple is on the leading edge of customer service and store design. Jobs and company grenaded the idea of what an electronics store should be (think back to the days of CompUSA) and pioneered what would become the Apple layout.
A major point: Products are staged to highlight how they could be used, not just stacked on a shelf or hung from a hook.
A second major point: Sales workers are extensively trained not to sell, but to “help customers solve problems” by understanding their needs, even the ones they don’t know they have. They’re schooled on Apple’s principles of customer service and must shadow experienced employees before they’re even allowed to interact with customers. Even the hiring process is selective, often requiring two rounds of interviews with potential employees quizzed about their skills and passion for Apple’s products.
As the reporters point out, specialty retailers like Apple often invest heavily in training. What makes Apple different is that its employees are passionate about the company’s products and are willing to learn.
Hmm … let’s see, what other industry has retail stores whose employees are enthusiasts of its products, and are selling these same products to customers who are just as enthusiastic? And which industry is selling items that are more want than need to people who really, really want them?
Can’t quite get a bead on it right now, but I’m guessing it’s one that’s not exactly steeped in best retail practices and could stand to learn a thing or two from one that is.
Thinking, thinking, thinking …
Editor in Chief
Dealers looking to branch out online may want to check out Milo Fetch, an eBay-affiliated company that helps small- and medium-sized brick and mortar businesses gain more visibility online. A bonus: You don’t have to have an online storefront to sign up.
Milo Fetch works like this: Retailers enter their store information and sign up, then install Milo Fetch on their main point-of-sale system computer. Milo Fetch automatically uploads the retailer’s inventory, adding it to search engines like those on eBay, Milo, RedLaser and other eBay-affiliated sites. Shoppers who search for items on these sites will be able to view not only national eBay-listed products, but items from local retailers, as well.
The online listings can act as referrals to the retailer’s store. Milo Fetch also updates the product availability in real-time, so customers can see whether a store has an item in stock at that particular moment.
We tried it out, and it seems to work pretty well — and we noticed that powersports products are few and far between. A quick search for motorcycle products near Dealernews’ zip code (92614) yielded only eight local results. Of course, Milo Fetch only has recently rolled out, so given time, more retailers will sign up and more products will be searchable. However, from a dealer standpoint, you could take advantage of this testing period to get a leg up on your competitors.
Currently, Milo Fetch works best with retailers who use Intuit QuickBooks. The service is free during this beta testing period, so it’s definitely worth checking out.
Visit http://milofetch.com to sign up and to learn more.