From a single-line dealership that his parents opened in 1982, America’s Motor Sports has grown into a thriving three-store chain in and around Nashville, Tenn.
Principal Chris Watts grew up in the original store, working summers and weekends before putting his degree from the University of Tennessee in 1994 to work with the family ownership group. Watts serves as principal of the family-owned business alongside his mom and dad, Richard and Dotty, and sister Tracy.
The three stores have produced double-digit growth the past two years.
“We focus on the opportunities that are out there, looking at what can be done vs. sitting around and watching the news and believing what you’re hearing,” Watts said.
Pre-owned sales will be up 100 percent compared to 2011. “Why? We bought ’em. We focused on making sure our pre-owned inventory was getting online within 24 hours,” Watts said. “It’s the most profitable brand we carry. A huge portion of our used sales comes from out of our area. I’m buying them from car dealers, several Harley dealers, off the street. We’re really aggressive with our buys off the street. We have huge LED reader signs at each location, and one of the messages on it is ‘We Buy Bikes.’”
New unit sales benefit from a tailored sales approach.
“We have our sales guys get back to basics, so to speak — work the desk, find out what the customer wants,” Watts said. “We may not have every single unit available, but between the three stores, most likely we’ll have it. We’re focused and driven about having product in stock. And if we don’t have it, we’ll get it from our competitors. We react to our customers’ sales feedback, so if they have a bad experience, we get a manager on it. We’re able to react to information more in real time, and that helps close deals.”
“And not taking ‘No,’ the first, second or third time,” Watts said. “They have to constantly re-present the offer. We’re getting higher penetration with our Extended Service Agreements than we have in the past. Prepaid maintenance is a bit of a harder sell.”
An increased volume in unit sales has led to similar gains in PG&A.
“We want to be the destination to come to,” Watts said. “We keep inventory fresh and have low obsolescence. We’re turning inventory, or marking it down and getting it out either through the stores or eBay.”
The rise of the side-by-side business has helped with PG&A growth.
“Parts per unit sold for UTVs is so much higher than what we see on motorcycles, ATVs or watercraft,” Watts said. “PWC used to be the only one they’d spend money on, but now with tops, windshields, winches, tire kits, $1,000 is almost on the low end of the average UTV buyer. They’re constantly spending money on those machines.”
Watts has also developed relationships with distributors that allows him buy deeper and provides deeper discounts in PG&A.
With shop trucks that proclaim the stores offer the “cheapest tires in town,” it’s no secret that tires generate service growth. The tire inventory exceeds 1,000 among the three stores.
“We focus on getting as much labor sold every single day as we can,” Watts said. “The managers ask how many hours they have the ability to sell, and we maximize that. We’ve got a major PG&A retailer next door, so we have to have them in stock. If you come in within an hour of closing, we’ll get the tire on for you.”
Watts has seen his use of traditional media continue to dwindle, with an emphasis instead on social marketing and Facebook.
“I’ve been really debating if 2013 is going to be the year I don’t do any TV or radio advertising,” he said.
Watts has seen turns increasing, but continues to try to keep a cleaner supply and not buy as deep from OEMs.
“We’re always looking to see if we’re constantly out of something that customers are looking for, or what we sold them for, and if we gave them away because they’re non-current,” Watts said.
What attracts employees to your dealership?
With three stores, the opportunity for growth is one appealing factor.
“Most of our managers are home grown,” Watts said. “You could start in one store and move into a different position in another store. If somebody does leave, we can fill the spot. I like being able to show our new hires that this guy over here has been with us 12-15 years. We try not to have a lot of turnover, and we don’t.”
Location: Nashville, TN
# of Locations: 3
Full-time employees: 45
Year founded: 1982
Principal/Owner: Chris Watts
OEM brands: Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Can-Am, Sea-Doo, Victory, Polaris, GEM