Straight From the Dealers’ Mouths

by

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews April 2010 issue. 

Dealer Expo has come and gone for another year. You came. You bought. You shivered.

Seems like each year in the run-up to the Indy show there’s talk parsing the benefits of attending, and this year was no exception. It was especially loud out there in blogland where it seemed quite a few powersports experts offered their opinions on why or why not a person should bundle up and head to Indianapolis.

In the years I’ve been with Dealernews I’ve heard the same complaints every year. It’s too far. It’s too cold. The location sucks. Traveling costs are too high. It’s too costly to exhibit. All are legitimate concerns, especially the latter two given the sorry state of the economy and its effect on the industry.

The only thing is, among the loose-floating opinions dropping around the Internet (where everyone’s an expert!) and the industry, I didn’t hear anything from the dealers — you know, the folks for whom this show is intended.

So in a highly unscientific study that would pass no serious scrutiny whatsoever, I decided to survey dealers who actually attended Dealer Expo and took advantage of the Full Throttle Dealer Lounge that we set up. Yes this is a recipe for loaded data, but I wanted real feedback from those who take the show seriously.

Working from a list of these dealer principals, GMs and parts managers, I contacted them specific business benefits they get from attending the show, any stand-out products they saw and any drawbacks from going to Dealer Expo. Seems the primary reasons for attending the show are meeting suppliers in person, getting to see new products up close, and taking advantage of show discounts and other ordering specials.

Ryan Moore, parts manager at Athens Sport Cycles in Athens, Ohio, cited the opportunity to see new display ideas and learn some key selling points, in addition to researching delayed-billing options and dating terms. Moore added that while he didn’t see any products he could live without, and that he can understand why the location is difficult for some dealers, “I can’t see why anyone would not attend the Expo. Even if they didn’t take advantage of the purchasing deals available, it’s worth the product knowledge you can gain.”

Another attendee, Derek Osner, the parts manager at Crossroad Powersports in Upper Darby, Pa., said he noticed distributors were really willing to work with stores given the economy, and that he appreciated that the show’s layout allowed him to find the things he needed to find. He also took advantage of show specials. “Seeing all the new products before everyone else gives us a jump on the competition even if it’s only for a little while,” he said. “You get to see the people you talk to on the phone every day. It’s nice to get my ass kissed vs. kissing other people’s asses!”

Relationship-building is another reason many come back. Alex Horeczko and Scott Dudek, co-owners of Extreme Supply in Signal Hill, Calif., says the show is a great place to see everybody under one roof — despite the logistical problems (winter, flight delays, etc.) of getting there. “We debate annually if we should attend the show, and year after year, we always find some new products or a meeting that made the expense and time of the show worth it,” they said.

Horeczko added that one business benefit is “supporting the industry by doing our part to make the show a success so the vendors continue coming year after year to do business.”

Personally, I get a charge out of Dealer Expo. It’s very easy in the monthly schedule of producing a magazine, and daily grind of keeping our website fresh, to get bogged down with what feels like work. The show is an excellent reminder that I work in the motorcycle industry, that I’m surrounded by some of the coolest gear, gadgets and gizmos money can buy, and that I get to talk with and write about the most creative, intelligent, ingenious and fun-loving people I’ll ever know.

This may sound like I’m blowing sunshine, but it’s true. There’s no other industry like ours. For goodness sake, I could be working at a trade magazine covering the paper products industry. Blech.

But don’t take my word for it. Danny Manthis, co-owner of Doug Douglas Motorcycles in San Bernardino, Calif., had this to say about Dealer Expo. “The size of the show in its own way is an inspiration to a smaller dealership like mine. Why I say that is [because of] the number of vendors and the size of the crowd all there at Indy in the middle of winter for one specific reason: an interest in powersports. This makes me want to be, and glad to be, part of this industry.”

Have anything to add? Let us know.

Dennis Johnson
Editor in Chief
dennis.johnson@dealernews.com

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