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Increasing sales and profits with apparel and accessories

BY SCOTT HOCHMUTH

Excellent service is paramount to customer satisfaction and repeat business. Customers are impressed by employees that are knowledgeable about products, listen and understand the customer’s needs, and meet expectations by delivering a quality item. A well-trained employee should be able to educate a customer about product features and discuss the value of items with which the customer may not be familiar. Ultimately, customer satisfaction stems from a worthwhile purchase, and pleased customers are more likely to purchase again. Apparel and accessories are no exception, and dealerships have a goldmine of opportunity on those shelves and racks.

Getting beyond the comfort zone

Parts training certainly includes employees being taught how to use the dealership’s point of sale system, instructed how to search for items in distributor catalogs, and find products online. These skills will set the foundation for the job at hand as these resources are instrumental in processing customer requests for tires, batteries, spark plugs, and other parts inquiries. Armed with the make, model, and year of a vehicle these employees can quickly look up and order or direct sell a replacement part. Being behind the counter is this employee’s comfort zone. However, on the other side of the counter lurks the strange land of apparel and accessories far removed from catalogs, online resources and the parts with which the employees is familiar. The parts employee may be reluctant to venture out into the abyss to engage with customers on the sales floor. Expanding training to include information about apparel and accessories by senior employees and vendors should help increase the confidence of the employee to venture out from behind the comfort of the parts counter.

Parts counter at Hattiesburg Cycles in Hattiesburg Mississippi.

Scheduling time on the sales floor during peak hours

Benji Lucas, parts manager for Atlas Honda-Yamaha in Bristol, VA, manages a four-person parts department and handles customer orders and meetings with suppliers during the week. On Saturdays, however, the manger commits to being on the sales floor engaging with customers who are looking for helmets, apparel and accessories. Saturday is always the biggest day for customer traffic and this effort results in the dealership’s most productive and lucrative day of the week for sales. Allowing your best salesperson to be on the floor engaging with customers instead of being tied up behind the counter can result in more sales. Additionally, customers will be educated about the features and benefits available in the range of products displayed, and will understand what a higher price may mean in terms of safety, durability, and added options. Excellent customer service is frequently tied to increased sales. Therefore, dealerships should consider committing an exceptional employee to sales floor coverage on peak days.

Apparel sales counter at Hattiesburg Cycles.

Placing a dedicated sales kiosk in the apparel and accessories area

Once a dealership evolves into a three or four person parts department, owners may want to consider a dedicated person for the accessories and apparel area. A separate kiosk or sales desk will help ensure a well-trained sales person is available to provide expert assistance to meet the needs of customers. A dedicated employee here will not only increase apparel and accessories sales productivity, but also increase customer satisfaction through exposure to step-up to products that meet needs and exceed expectations. There can be no denying the success that Harley Davidson dealerships have had with a fully staffed and dedicated motorclothes department separate from the parts department.

Adding specialization

Mike Sanders is the parts manager of the Powersports Business top 5 dealership Hattiesburg Cycles in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. This dealership has not only added a second counter dedicated to helmets and apparel, but a third counter as well in an area dedicated to ATV and side by side accessories. These areas are staffed with two to three additional parts personnel. According to Sanders, this level of specialization has resulted in expert assistance, more closed sales, and more step-up sales. Hattiesburg Cycles’ staff is cross trained in all areas and have incentive-based pay plans that make for a very active and engaged sales floor taking advantage of every opportunity to maximize sales and profits in all areas.

ATV/UTV accessories counter at Hattiesburg Cycles.

If apparel and accessories has become a self-service area in a dealership, customers will tend to gravitate toward the least expensive items and may end up with an item that fails to meet their needs. Arranging your scheduling, personnel and showroom area can help make sure that apparel and accessories customers get the right product for their needs — and that your dealership maximizes sales and opportunities to sell up.

Scott Hochmuth is the owner of Real Performance Marketing, an Atlanta-based company representing seven different powersports related product lines in the Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee areas. He comes face-to-face with over 200 dealers every 8 weeks. He has been in sales since 1982 and started in the powersports industry in 1989 as a sales representative for a helmet manufacturer.

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