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Sheffield finds consumer financing up ‘tremendously’

By Dave McMahon

Q1 growth is ‘waaay’ into double digits

Thanks to consumer buying interest in the powersports market, business continues to build for North Carolina-based Sheffield Financial.

In fact, the retail lender’s first quarter was so exceptionally strong that president Jack Snow told Powersports Business in April: “Financing is up tremendously so far this year. I mean, we’re waaay into double-digit growth over the same period last year.”

Snow proclaimed a spring that arrived 18 days earlier than it did in 2011 as part of the reason for the company’s first-quarter success. With little snow and lots of early warmth throughout much of the country, motorcycle and ATV sales showed year-over-year growth in the quarter, as Motorcycle Industry Council data showed.

“Also, the OEMs are getting very aggressive on the finance promotions this year. I think that has helped tremendously. I don’t see that gas prices have hurt any at all, and quite honestly, I think Sheffield it taking some market share this year,” Snow added. “There was no snow, so everybody was looking for an active spring, from the dealer on up. The dealer that sells all products has probably got a lot of snowmobiles left, so he’s looking to be more aggressive. The OEMs, in my opinion, constantly have their dealers’ financials at heart. So they’re looking for a great spring, too. All the cards fell into place.”

Snow noticed market share gains with “dealers who haven’t tried us in the last year. They’re starting to try us and they really like that personal service.”

In fact, the growth at Sheffield has been so robust that the company has added a number of full-time equivalent positions, with some positions still to be filled. The added workforce especially was needed on Saturday, April 7, to deal with application volume.

Jack Snow

“We had 3,500 applications that day, the largest day in the history of the company,” Snow said. “The company turned 20 years on April 1, and March was the biggest month we’ve ever had.”

What’s driving the growth?

“Our bank, BB&T, asks me that same question all the time,” Snow laughed. “Sheffield is growing when other lines of business aren’t. I think the economy, even though it is very tough, I think it’s an advantage to our point. The reason I say that is I know that some of my children have visited with their children. Yeah, I’m a grandpa. They get their kids together and say ‘We can’t go to the beach this year, can’t go to Myrtle [Beach] or Disney World, but we’re going to go buy us a UTV or ATV.’ That’s something we can keep for years to come. I think they’re making an investment that lasts more than one or two years.”

In fact, two of the OEMs with which Sheffield has retail financing agreements are “up over 80 percent” compared to the first quarter a year ago. “We’re slammed. It’s going crazy.”

Snow said the look of the core applicant in March had not changed much from previous months in terms of credit worthiness. The sheer volume, however, was noticeable.

“We didn’t see a change as far as credit,” he said. “It didn’t move the needle at all. I don’t think the demographic of our applicant has changed in the last 36 months. We’re just seeing a whole lot more of them.”

The company continues to relate to its customers. Sheffield exhibited in February at the National Turkey Show in Nashville. The Polaris Ranger that Sheffield gave away ended three days of outreach to potential new customers.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Snow, an avid outdoorsman and turkey hunter who had personally attended the show as a hunter for nearly a decade. “It was our first time there as Sheffield, and it won’t be our last.”

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