Trends, outlooks from economists prove beneficial
How important are retail projections from economists who bring a powersports slant? For members of the Motorcycle Industry Council, the forecasts are the main draw at the annual Inroads to the Future symposium.
Dr. Esmael Adibi, director of Chapman University’s A. Gary Anderson Center for Economic Research; Alan Beaulieu, president of the Institute for Trend Research; and Paul Leinberger, executive vice president of The Futures Company provided insightful and useful projections to those in attendance at the October event, held in Carson, Calif.
“I always enjoy these because they get me out of the office and thinking differently,” said Phil Bellomy, VP and co-founder of Calabasas, Calif.-based Helmet House. “This is the best group of speakers they have had since they started. (Adibi) is a well-spoken economist, and I was also very impressed with (Beaulieu). For his first run through, I thought he did a great job.”
“My son Christian and I found the symposium thought-provoking and educational as we always do,” said Bill Dutcher, founder and president of the Americade rally in Lake George, N.Y. “I just need to act on the advice quicker. Three years ago Dr. Adibi said he’d moved his money out of the stock market, but I didn’t act on that soon enough. He proved his prescience. I made pages of notes this year and it’s clear that the baby boomers are still holding most of the economic cards. So for the next few years the industry would be wise to target them and their high disposable income. It’s paying our salaries during these challenging times.”
Abidi noted that the lack of a meaningful recovery in housing is a major factor in the current economy.
“Let me assure you there will not be a double dip,” he told attendees concerned about another recession.
Abidi said that Chapman forecasts had been quite accurate in the past — and very accurate for 2010 — but had missed the depth of the recession in 2009. For 2012, he expects an increase in consumer spending of 1-2 percent, an increase of real GDP of 2.1 percent and inflation of about 2.8 percent.
Beaulieu advised that in order for a business to protect its profits, it needs to raise prices — as long as the business has a significant competitive advantage. He recommended the book Creating Competitive Advantages by Jaynie Smith to help businesses develop ways to gain more customers than the competition.
Though Beaulieu expects total on-highway motorcycle and ATV sales to be up slightly in 2012, he predicts sales of off-road motorcycles to continue to decline.
Leinberger’s presentation, “Looking for a Way Forward” concentrated on demographics and their relationship to future trends. He noted that the median age in the United States is now 37.2 years, making the U.S. the second oldest nation in the world behind Japan. A baby boomer will turn 65 every eight seconds from now until about 2030, Leinberger said. As a result, the 76 million boomers are no longer making the most money per capita among U.S. residents. Instead, that title belongs to Generation X, the 57 million people ages 33-46. Even so, Leinberger said, the powersports industry should shift its focus to the Millennials, those 73 million who are now ages 16-32.
“I really liked the combination of hearing two economists walk through their retail projections, as well as exploring the changes in buyer behaviors as it relates to the various generations,” said Josh Fulkerson, product line sales specialist for Victory Motorcycles in Medina, Minn. “It was great information to help formulate our future sales projection, but at the end of the day, sales are what you make of it. You control your own destiny.”
“It was a really informative day,” said Anna Braun, business analyst for Polaris’ motorcycle division (Victory and Indian). “I liked the diversity of the speakers that provided a broad perspective both of the general consumer population as well as industry-specific trends.
I also enjoyed spending the day with such a variety of people from the industry.”
The MIC also used the event to honor Roger Hagie, winner of the annual MIC Chairman’s Award. Other honorees included U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and U.S. Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R.-Calif.), and Karen and Tom Umphress of the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council.