When Powersports Business spoke to him, former owner Conrad Rollins had just sold the 5,000-sq.-ft. dealership, founded in 1966 and at the present location since 1975. “The Letts are great people. We’re staying on to work for them; now we can have a day off once in a while. They worked with us for several months before we made the change. I’m having fun — it has energized me. My children have jobs elsewhere with good pay and benefits, and they don’t work too many hours. If the dealership was to advance, we had to find somebody to buy it.” Carries the full Polaris line (ATVs, snowmobiles, PWC, and Victory motorcycles), and Stihl equipment. Annual gross revenue is more than $2 million; will sell more than 100 ATVs, 100 snowmobiles, and about 24 Victory motorcycles this year. Seven employees.
Rollins has three concerns. “We need fewer dealers — ones to whom this is a business, not a hobby. I’ve been on the Dealer Council for several years, and we always get after Polaris about that. They finally agree. They’re working on thinning things out, so committed dealers have an opportunity to make decent money. It will take time, but we’ll get there.”
Rollins’ second concern is that “ATV sales are outpacing the ability to develop trails, systems, and rules, and that’s creating a lot of discontent. In southern Maine, ATV riders are going where they’re not supposed to. The Maine Snowmobile Association has been very negative toward the ATV industry. We all have to be proactive and work together, or the issues are going to be that much tougher to solve.”
Also uppermost on Rollins’ mind: Snow. “If we get the weather to go with the season, everything seems pretty good. We lost 50 inches of snow when a huge rainstorm opened up all the rivers and ruined the trail systems. If we get snow and colder weather, it’s going to really be a good year, because we’re well ahead of last year in snowmobile sales.”
Burning up at Bob’s: the Sportsman 500 ATV and new and used touring sleds, especially the Classic Touring 600 and 700 and the Trail Touring. “Watercraft are starting to make a comeback,” says Rollins. “We had lake closures, but we seem to have hit bottom so we expect a good watercraft season. The ones with FICHT direct fuel-injection are taking off. They have 74% less emissions than carburetors, and we run biodegradable oil so the Greenpeace people don’t have much to complain about.” Rollins notes that Polaris has added a fourth Victory model — the Kingpin — for 2004, in addition to the good-selling, new-for-2003 Vegas.
“It’s the dead of winter and we’re selling some bikes right now.” At one time Bob’s was the only Ranger utility vehicle dealer in Maine. “We sold 13 that year and averaged more than $2,200 apiece in accessories. Companies use them for working in remote areas — portaging portable generators and hauling construction equipment into deep timber. For a snowmobile club we put a track system and full cab on a Ranger so members can maintain small trails. We sell them to campgrounds, outfitters, and guides. I’m a Maine Master Guide myself, and use a Ranger with tracks at my bear hunting camp in Canada in Spring to get around in snow and mud.” The dealership also carries the complete line of Polaris accessories and clothing.
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
This year we’ve seen a surge of people in their 50s and 60s buying one or two ATVs and really getting out,” says Rollins. “A group of retirees rides 100 miles per day in summer. They’ll go to the Moosehead Lake region, 20 miles north, for lunch, taking one route up and another back. Younger people buy the used ATVs. Most of our snowmobilers are in their 40s and 50s, from all walks of life.”
Rollins says last summer the dealership gave “literally hundreds of demo rides. On questionnaires we got rave reviews. It didn’t make any difference what brand or model they came in on, they were thoroughly impressed with the Victory. As people go to buy now, they remember what they rode last summer.”
“A group of people want to create a national park and close it off to snowmobiling, hunting, fishing, and logging — staples of life up here,” says Rollins. “A lady named Roxanne Quimby bought 40,000 acres of Maine timberlands and wants to donate it for this. It’s a threat to a lot of people’s livelihood. We’re fighting that desperately. Outfitters have been guiding hunters, fishermen, and snowmobilers for 70 years. But we do have the governor on our side — so we’ll see.”
PARTS AND SERVICE
Bob’s has have three full-time service technicians and one full-time parts salesperson. “All our mechanics keep up with the OEM training. We sent two to Minnesota last summer to get updated.”
WORDS OF ADVICE
“Stay focused, do your thing, and don’t worry about everybody else,” advises Rollins. “You do what you need to do, and success will come to you.”