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The calm before the snowstorm – September 25, 2006

Mother Nature was finally kind to those attending the Haydays Grass Drags and Swap Meet in Lino Lakes, Minn. In fact, it almost felt like snow.
The weekend event on Sept. 9 and 10, located on several acres of hay field north of Minneapolis, was uncharacteristically cool. For the past 10 years, temperatures have reached well into the upper 80s. This year, it barely cracked 60. A drizzle on Sunday afternoon contributed to a nice chill.
Vendor participation seemed down this year. Booth and display space was increased for many participants, and the layout was slightly different. The event is arranged by the Sno Barons snowmobile club and includes a swap meet and a grass drag race.
Roger Will, owner of Slide Guides Inc. in Appleton, Wis., was relocated by the Sno Barons from his usual spot to a new space. While the space was arguably in a better location, he said his customers had a harder time finding him. “We’re all creatures of habit,” he said.
Other vendors reported brisk sales. Apparel sellers such as True North Adventure Gear, R.U. Outside and HMK seemed to stay busy both days.
What’s New?
Haydays has become a place for big announcements, and that hasn’t changed.
Announcements have typically revolved around new products — race sleds, events or aftermarket developments. This year’s news was more about business maneuvers.
Cobra-brand windshields, made by Elk River, Minn.-based Sportech Inc., showed up on display in the PowerMadd booth.
PowerMadd, which competes against Sportech in the handguard category, purchased the Cobra snowmobile and ATV windshield line from Sportech.
“We had considered entering the ATV windshield market, and we approached Chris [Carlson, Sportech president] to do manufacturing for us,” said Randy Shimanski, PowerMadd’s president. Discussion soon turned toward the purchase of the division. Talks have been going on since November 2005, Shimanski said.
The purchase was for the brand and inventory only; no jobs moved with the purchase. Shimanski declined to discuss where the windshields will be manufactured, but said, “We will provide the same level of quality as customers are used to.”
Shimanski said he’s clearing out warehouse space in his Burnsville, Minn., offices to make room for the Cobra inventory.
All future designs for Cobra products will be done by PowerMadd, he said. “We have some great, innovative product ideas for ATVs,” he said.
Sportech will continue to make windshields for OEM use.
Shimanski expects a smooth transition with distribution, as he said that PowerMadd and Sportech share the same distributors, including Parts Unlimited, Marshall Distributing and Western Power Sports.
Polaris Announces Fall Program
Cassey Murphy, marketing manager for Polaris’ snowmobile group, announced an aggressive fall marketing plan. The goal, she said, was “to make a conscious effort to connect to customers.”
Starting at Haydays, the company rolled out a national marketing campaign, which includes advertising in national and regional snowmobile publications. It will place a special emphasis on target Web advertising.
The company will collect customer data through its Web site, offering a free gift as an incentive, she said. The company will then use the information given to market to a specific demographic or geographic region.
“We can shoot out a message after a snowfall, or some other event that creates an emotional response,” and direct that person to a dealership, she said.
In order to deal with lagging sales and excess inventory, the company has two new promotions, Murphy said.
Through a “friends and family” campaign, Polaris snowmobile buyers can submit the names of others interested in making a purchase. Polaris will then target these people with marketing information. The original buyer will get up to $450 in cash if up to three friends make snowmobile purchases — $100 for one purchase, $150 at the second purchase and $200 for the third purchase.
The purchases will be tracked through registrations, Murphy said, with no additional work for the dealers.
To tackle excess inventory, Polaris has instituted large rebates. Non-current buyers will be eligible for a rebate up to $1,500, and an additional rebate amount based on a scratch-off ticket. The tickets, which must be scratched off in a dealer’s presence, give a minimum rebate of $100, and up to $1,500. Odds are 1:1,500 of getting a $1,500 rebate. Other rebate denominations are $300, $500 and $1,000.
Scratch-off tickets are only available at major shows, Murphy said, including Haydays, the Big East show in Syracuse, N.Y., the Novi show in Michigan, the Minneapolis show and select Western shows.
Sled Of The Year
Yamaha Corp. raised a banner above its semi hauler at Haydays declaring its status as builder of Snow Goer magazine’s Snowmobile of the Year.
The annual award was given to the 2007 Yamaha Phazer. Snow Goer magazine is owned by the same company as Powersports Business.
“This is the first time a manufacturer has won this award in consecutive years,” said Snow Goer Editor Tim Erickson.
Yamaha earned the award last year for its Apex RT.
The award is determined based primarily on innovation. “The Phazer has generated more buzz than just about any other new machine,” Erickson said. “It has radical styling, a lower-displacement four-stroke engine and is the lowest price of any liquid-cooled machine.” psb

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