Dealership: Surdyke Harley-Davidson
Location: Festus, Mo.
Catching up on: Rolling pre-owned sales success into 2012 and shelving traditional media advertising in favor of referral-based marketing.
When Tim Surdyke looks back on the 2011 business year, he also looks ahead to 2012 with hope.
“I’m hopeful that we’re turning a corner now after several years of a declining market,” said Surdyke, GM and dealer principal at Surdyke Harley-Davidson in Festus, Mo.
That optimism makes his view of 2011 more promising.
“It was flat,” Surdyke said. “It wasn’t a big improvement over last year, but it was not a decreasing market like it had been the last few years.”
Surdyke, who has been general manager or dealer principal for the last eight of his 23 years in the business his family started 30 years ago, said economic conditions have created some changes in the customers he typically sees at his St. Louis-area store.
“It takes more time with each customer than it ever has before there’s a decision,” he said. “They’re being very conservative.”
Surdyke has decided to revise a decision he made in 2011.
After moving away from traditional advertising in recent years, he decided to return to mainstream advertising in 2011 and believes that was not his best option.
“I probably reversed a trend that I should have stuck with in that we had been going more with referrals and more into social networking,” Surdyke said. “We went back more into conventional marketing like radio.
“We’ll be going back toward the less-traditional routes — other than enthusiast print advertising, which we’ll probably do more of. We’ll be doing less broadcast and more referral-based marketing.”
Surdyke Harley-Davidson had another new way of attracting interest in 2011 — the Surdyke Museum, which opened during the holidays at the end of 2010 and includes cars and motorcycles among its displays.
“It has definitely made us more of a destination,” Surdyke said. “For the time-being, it’s the right thing for the space. We’re hoping to promote it more.”
Surdyke said there is meeting space available next to the museum, which occupies the space of the dealership’s original showroom, which became secondary showroom space after expansion.
“The reason for the museum is not to make money off the space,” he said. “It’s to drive more people to the store.”
Along those lines, the dealership continues to make a more significant commitment to sales of pre-owned units. In early December, it promoted having more than 100 in stock.
“Over the last couple of years, we’ve started using auctions more and being more active buying used bikes,” Surdyke said. “We started realizing that pre-owned was going to be an area where there would be more improvement.”
Surdyke said the Street Glide has been the dealership’s biggest seller while Road Glide Ultras and Road Glide Customs are becoming more popular.