Box 23 East Main Street
Malone, NY 12981
Two stores: Clayburg, founded in 1962, and Malone, founded in 1983. Malone (10 minutes from the Canadian border) is 19,000 sq. ft. over three stories. Carries full lines of Bombardier, Yamaha, Suzuki, and Arctic Cat. ATVs have been the largest-selling segment for the past two years; with snowmobiles, PWC, and jet boats, Roberts is a four-season dealership. 21 employees in the two stores. “During the holidays we have 700 customers per day--it gets a little hectic,” says Wayne Roberts, General Manager. Founded by Roberts’ parents; his brother works in the Clayburg store.
“We promote safety unbelievably here,” says Roberts. “It doesn’t seem that the industry promotes safety like it should — like the dealers do. We need more classes. The 4H holds snowmobile training, but there are no tools. We give them as much material as we can.
“The ATV industry has tools, but it was forced to create them. Parents really like when we tell their kids, ‘We’d love to sell you an ATV, but we can’t. You’re just not the age for it.’”
“With recreational product sales, the weather and the economy are the keys,” notes Roberts. “You can have all the money in the world, but if it rains every day, you don’t want to own a boat.”
Sizzling sellers at Roberts Sport Center: the Suzuki Vinson and LTZ 400 ATVs, the Suzuki GSXR 1000 sportbike, and the Ski-Doo Rev snowmobile. “Everybody likes the Rev because it eats up bumps,” says Roberts. “Even the competition has told me, ‘Ski-Doo did an unbelievable job.’
“It was a hot summer, so that helped motorcycle and PWC sales. Bombardier’s new four-stroke Sea-Doo sold well last year.”
Best-selling accessories include helmets, jackets, boots, and snow blades. “We carry nearly all helmet brands, from HJC to the less-expensive, because this is a family-oriented business. Everybody knows each other’s name.”
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
“Each segment has its own demographics, but our average customer is 30 to 40 years old,” says Roberts. “Motocross bikes pull a younger crowd; snowmobiles, men; GSXRs, younger guys; cruisers, ages 30 to 70. A lot more grandparents are buying PWC to tool around on the lake and spend time with the grandchildren, or will buy the kids ATVs or dirtbikes.”
Roberts believes recent closure of the New York state snowmobile trail system (due to lack of insurance) will impact the bottom line.
“Old Forge is the only trail open, because it’s self-owned and self-insured.” Can ATVs use snowmobile trails? “No. But in Franklin County they’ve opened about 40 side roads to ATVs.”
PARTS AND SERVICE
Roberts Sport Center recently added a C-Systems computer network in parts and service. “The computers we had before couldn’t keep up,” says Roberts. “We had a few bugs, but anything new has quirks. The system tells us how long a person’s machine has been here so we can get it out faster. That’s easier than looking through work orders.”
In addition to techs, the service department includes a manager, a service writer, assemblers, and a warranty person.
“She keeps up with all the manufacturers’ service bulletins so we can get in touch with consumers quickly.” Roberts has three other women employees in front, including “my main parts salesperson person, who has been here 14 years. If I find a female unit salesperson, I’ll probably hire her. Women really have the touch in making customers, both men and women, feel secure. And women often have the final say in purchases.” Roberts appreciates that the OEMs have in-shop training and testing on CD.
WORDS OF ADVICE
“We want suggestions from customers,” says Roberts. “If they’d like to see something changed, we change it. You have to be open-minded in this business.”