Archive for December, 2009

Can You Make Money Selling Electrics?

December 2, 2009

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews December 2009 issue. 

When Polaris Industries introduced its electric golf cart a few months ago, the move took many in the powersports industry by surprise. Electric power in a combustion engine business? Not likely, many said.

Even Polaris managers say that its electric Breeze vehicle won’t be sold initially through powersports dealers. The company is looking at a different market, one made up largely of nonpowersports riders living in southern retirement communities.

“We’re going aggressively at new markets,” Polaris CEO Scott Wine told a reporter, “but we’re also using this as a test-and-learn type of trial.” Analysts and others in the powersports industry haven’t been too excited about Polaris’ plans in this segment, Wine continued.

That’s understandable, because the appeal and the customer are very different from what powersports dealers are used to working with. But the margins — close to 25 percent on many machines — can be a lot more attractive than what dealers normally get on combustion-powered machines.

Mike Tomberlin, head of the Augusta, Ga.-based Tomberlin Automotive Group, is one of the most aggressive of many small companies developing electric on-road vehicles. A powersports dealer himself, Tomberlin also produces and distributes a line of combustion-powered ATVs, motorcycles and scooters through his diversified dealer network. He knows the difference between marketing gas and electric (more…)

Going Retail: Creating a Real Store

December 1, 2009

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews December 2009 issue.

Dictionary.com gives the following definition for the word retail: “The sale of goods to ultimate consumers, usually in small quantities.”

But of course we all know what retail stores are — they’re the ones in the mall, the Banana Republics, the Nordstroms, the Apple stores. They’re all retailers, right? What about your store? When was the last time you considered your motorcycle shop a retail store? You sell goods to consumers, often in small quantities. That pretty much qualifies you.

Since I started at Dealernews, I’ve had the “retail” conversation with countless people — dealer principals, OEM employees, sales reps, folks from the big distributors — and we almost always come to the conclusion that too many powersports dealers and dealer employees see themselves as running bike shops and not retail stores. As such, concepts inherent to retail like merchandising and marketing are placed on the back burner.

This is not necessarily a good thing. You’re competing for customer dollars against the Banana Republics and Best Buys of the world, large retailers that spend millions of dollars each year on in-store merchandizing and marketing programs built around seasonal and promotional changes. Often these promotions and efforts are backed by studies of consumer behavior and specifically target buying habits.

As the products change in these large stores, so does the retail landscape. How often do your apparel displays change? Is your P&A department (more…)