It’s becoming more and more fun to call dealers these days. I’ve talked to a few in the last several weeks who reported first-quarter sales increases of percentages in the teens and twenties. Sure, some dealers are still struggling as their local economies and unemployment rates are slow to react to positives in the market, but overall, there’s a lot of optimism being spread around, with good evidence to back it up.
Just over a year ago I wrote a blog about being positive despite some disappointing news — motorcycle sales were down nationwide and a lot of dealers were really struggling. But I’ve heard from more than a few sources lately, including dealers themselves, who say those who have toughed it out — those who have embraced change to accommodate an evolving customer base and those who have nurtured their leads like never before — are prospering. Those dealers have found that by not sitting idly and waiting for business to come, they could seek increased sales by making a bigger effort; they’ve learned that new unit sales may not be the end-all for each store; and they’ve learned that paying attention to customers’ wants, needs and desires brings returns.
This industry has changed, and some changes are likely permanent. Consumers are more cautious about how they spend their money, and lenders are more careful with how they distribute loans. So what have we done to address this? We’ve grown our understanding of the new economic challenges; we’ve trained more; and we’ve become more open to ideas. Doing this has led to more sales for some dealers, better prospects for others, a decreased reliance on new units sales for some and hopefully a better market for all.
Just a few weeks ago, the Motorcycle Industry Council revealed that motorcycle sales — and even ATV sales — increased over 2012. What a relief! Now isn’t the time to let go of the throttle, but it is a prime opportunity to look at what your business has accomplished over the past few years and how it has thrived despite adversity and give yourself and your team a big high-five. We’re probably not out of the woods yet, and this industry may never return to where it was in 2005-06, but some positive increases should give us hope that the industry will continue to use what it’s learned and remain a big contender for that all-important customer dollar.
Liz Hochstedler is the associate editor of Powersports Business, a trade magazine for the powersports industry. She reports on the powersports industry through Powersports Business’ varied media, including in the magazine and online. She assembles the brand’s twice-a-week e-news and handles a variety of assignments for the magazine. Powersports Business is known for its exclusive national dealer surveys, in-depth industry analysis and dealership conference, Profit Xcelerator.