Archive for the ‘Industry News’ Category

These words are for you

September 29, 2011

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.

Dennis Johnson

Editor in Chief

dennis.johnson@dealernews.com

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The next customer boom

April 1, 2011

At the time of this writing, oil prices were uncomfortably hovering a hair above $100 a barrel, and premium gas on the West Coast had settled in at about $4 a gallon.

The ongoing conflict in the Middle East (isn’t that redundant at this point?) assuredly means that these prices would likely go up before they’d go down, or so says the analysts.

In fact, federal energy officials say there’s a 25 percent chance those gas prices will average $4 a gallon or more throughout the summer driving season.

Smells a bit like 2008, the last time oil prices were this high. Another flashback moment? How about some of the news headlines starting to pop up across the Internet. This one could have been ripped straight from a 2008 newspaper: “As Gas Prices Rise, So Do Scooter Sales.”

If you’ll remember, scooter sales that year jumped 66 percent the first half of 2008 and eventually settled in at 41 percent higher than 2007. Many OEMs had to play catch-up to meet the demand of all the new two-wheeler commuters. It wasn’t uncommon to hear that dealers just plain sold out of certain models.

That was the year many first-time riders got a taste of two-wheels. Piaggio alone reported that its sales were up about 75 percent the first quarter of 2008. Former CEO Paolo Timoni would later report that many of these new riders had no interest in riding motorcycles, that they were fine on their Vespas and Piaggios.

Of course, with every boom there is a bust, and we all know what happened after the scooter market crashed. One could make a good guess that there’s a metric boatload of noncurrent scooters — from all OEMs, even the new Asian entries — sitting in storage waiting for gas prices to drive people back out of their cars and onto the seats of those waiting machines.

Well, it’s been a long strange two years since the oil and gas spike and attendant scooter rush, but here’s something to think about: If you were one of those dealers who catered to that huge bloom of new riders, what did you do to keep them coming back into your store? Did you convert them into regular customers or did they travel back out the door they came in, and back into their cars after gas prices dropped down to partially ridiculous levels?

So, if the analysts are correct and gas prices continue to inflict pain on most drivers at the pump, there’s a good chance many of those folks will make the switch to two wheels. And not just scooters. High gas prices could likely get people out on motorcycles as well. (It’s odd wishing for high gas prices, isn’t it?)

The question is, if sales do take a jump and more people start riding, are you prepared to service those new customers? What will you do — this time — to keep them coming back into your store? And how do you reach out to potential customers to let them know you’ve got something that can help ease their petrol pain?

It’s conventional wisdom that getting new customers through the front door is one of the most difficult tasks of running a business. Now, with gas prices giving them a little nudge, it’s your chance to welcome them into the powersports family.
Let us know if you were one of those dealers who converted those 2008 scooter riders into loyal customers. Also, drop us a line if you’re cooking up plans to win over the next group of new riders. Send your comments to editors@dealernews.com.

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

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews May 2011 issue.

Retailing Questions Continue for Powersports

October 4, 2010

Wells Fargo Consumer Conference

There wasn’t much to excite investors at the recent two-day consumer conference held by Wells Fargo Securities, according to a report issued by the company last week. The conference was held Sept. 29-30 in New York, but there were not many powersports companies among the 64 firm that gave presentations to the analysts. Perhaps the best known powersports participants were Arctic Cat and Brunswick. Other related companies included International Speedway Corp., Penske Automotive, Tractor Supply, Marine Products, and U.S. Auto Parts Network.

Several trends ran through the presentations, according to reports compiled by attending analysts. These include: A continuing major shift to online marketing in a number of forms; personalized marketing is growing, using the Internet and social media to drive sales at online and bricks and mortar sites; increased sourcing costs which could put pressure on margins even though many companies are operating in a more efficient manner, and holiday inventories seem to be in good shape.

“Powersports retail sales visibility likely will be clouded until the beginning of seasonal sales in March,”  Senior analyst Tim Conder wrote in his conference summary report. Near-term price movements of powersports stocks most likely will be tied to general economic activities, he wrote. In his conclusion about the leisure segment, Conder says he likes certain toy companies, followed by cruise lines and powersports companies. Not a real strong recommendation.

(more…)

Thank you, Don J. Brown

May 2, 2010

In this month’s Dealernews, we have a special section commemorating our longtime research editor and all-around industry sage Don J. Brown. It starts on page 32.

Some very prominent figures from motorcycling’s past and present offer up their best memories and warm thoughts about Don, who died March 24. Indeed, these remembrances help paint a compelling picture of a man whose entire adult life was enmeshed with the industry that we call home. And, as Mary Slepicka points out, we all owe Don a sincere thanks for his life’s work.

Reading this section during the editing process made me remember an experience with Don for which I’ll forever be grateful. It happened during a phone call shortly after I started at the magazine. We were deep in a discussion about one thing or another when I mispronounced the name of someone very prominent in the industry (the kind of mistake that makes me redden to remember). I can’t share this slip-up because of what Don said to me next.

He stopped talking, held a moment, and then simply pronounced the name correctly. I paused and asked him what he said. He correctly repeated the name again, explaining how it was supposed to be pronounced. He then calmly and politely told to never let anyone hear me it say it like that again. It wasn’t a lecture or a scolding, just a reminder and a correction. We then carried on our conversation. This was my first lesson of many that talking to Don was the same as getting an education.

With Don you got both historical reference and sage advice for modern times. Let him talk and listen, I learned. Trust me, I’ll never forget that name. Senior editor Arlo Redwine offers up his own very nice words about Don on the Dealernewsblog at dealernewsblog.com/2010/03/25/donjbrown.

Also with this issue, we’ve added some new features to the story (more…)

And the most expensive motorcycle on the planet is…

April 21, 2010

… a Dodge. Yep. 

According to this recent BusinessWeek story that sums up some of the priciest goods around, the peculiar Dodge Tomahawk V10 Superbike snags the top spot for most expensive motorcycle, priced at $700,000. 

To me, it kinda looks like a Monopoly car — and I wonder if we can really consider it a motorcycle because it has four wheels. It weighs in at 1,500 pounds(!!), but can go from zero to 60 mph in 2.5 seconds. 

Here’s a clip of the behemoth in action. (The video states it’s priced at $500,000, but the more recent info above is correct.)  


So would you drop that kind of money on this bike?

Straight From the Dealers’ Mouths

April 1, 2010

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

2010 Multistrada 1200 Fever — Ducati Austin

March 25, 2010

These days you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting one story or another about the 2010 Ducati Multistrada 1200 and we here at Dealernewsblog don’t want to be left out of the loop. After all, who doesn’t want to get hit by a dead cat?

Our pal Robert Pandya passed along some cool videos of Ducati North America’s Jeff Brooks giving a tech talk about the new bike to a group of committed Ducatisti at Ducati Austin. According to Pandya, close to 50 hardcore Multistradisti (is that a word?) lined up on a Sunday morning to get the low downistsi on the amazing tech and specs of this cool new ride-isti. (Remember 150hp!) Let’s just end the stupidity here and move onto the videos. Thank’s Robert!

Ducati Austin 2010 Multistrada tech talk Pt1

Ducati Austin 2010 Multistrada tech talk Pt2

Ducati Unveils Multistrada 1200 at Long Beach International Motorcycle Show

December 4, 2009

Taking a page from the European motorcycle show scene, Ducati opened the official unveiling of its Multistrada 1200 Friday afternoon with a lineup of prancing models and pulsing electronica — and it was good.

 

Yes, the Multistrada 1200 is somewhere in there.

 

 

The scene? A throng of media types standing by with cameras ready. Cue the music. Strike the umbrella girl poses. Leather short shorts. Tight spandex. Blasting disco, and then, Michael Lock, CEO of Ducati North America.

“OK, now you get me for a couple of minutes,” says Lock as he took the stage. “You might have heard that there is a recession out there, but not at this booth.”

Before pulling the curtain off the new adventure touring bike that was first shown to crowds at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy last month, Lock took some time to explain why the OEM was coming out with a sport touring bike given the small size of the market segment and the company’s history with such models.

Lock explained that with the aging motorcycle market, the company is targeting at the newer riders coming into the scene and the Multistrada 1200, basically an adventure touring bike version of a Ducati superbike, is aimed squarely at them. Conceptually, the idea behind the bike was to take the company’s engineering prowess on the track and apply it to a bike that is a fairly standard setup.

“We’ve really thrown everything we know at this bike,” Lock says right before returning the stage to the prancing models and pounding disco.

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…)

Credit Crunch Keeps Lid on Dealers

November 2, 2009

JoeDelmontIf you’re waiting eagerly for 2010 to bring your business a boost, I’ve got some disappointing news for you. There isn’t going to be a big industry turnaround next year, and your friendly local lender probably isn’t going to give you as much money as it has in the past. Tight credit — in both commercial and retail segments — is going to keep the lid on spending and will continue to make it tough to run a business.

Even if lenders decide to turn on the money machine, there are indications that consumers aren’t willing to take on any more debt. That means if your prospects can’t pay cash for a new machine, they’re probably not going to buy one.

Let me be clear about this: I don’t think that the motorcycle industry is going away, and I don’t think that riders have lost their passion for the sport. I do think, however, that the salad days of fast sales and gushing credit that we’ve enjoyed for the last half-dozen years are gone for a long, long time.

Don’t look for any improvement until 2011 at the earliest, unless the credit (more…)