BICKFORD'S SPORT CENTER
1664 Dover Road
Epsom, NM 03234
Paula and Bill Bickford
The dealership was founded in 1969 by the Bickford siblings’ parents in the garage; now in a 15,000-sq.-ft. building next to the original location. Carries Ski-Doo snowmobiles, Bombardier ATVs, Carries Ski-Doo snowmobiles, Bombardier ATVs, Evinrude/Johnson outboards, Crestliner aluminum boats, Pelican paddleboats and kayaks, Destination snowmobile trailers, Shoreland’r and Yacht Club boat trailers, Hoosier pontoon boat trailers, and Shoremaster docks and boat lifts. When it was founded, the dealership sold only snowmobiles — and that remains its largest-selling powersports segment today. Seven employees.
“Pricing may become an issue,” says Paula Bickford. “I know the OEMs have to raise the MSRP due to the technology, but it has to reach a certain plateau and level off. Otherwise, people will not be able to afford snowmobiles and ATVs. It’s especially hard for families who want to buy two or three.”
As PSB has heard so many times, the Rev snowmobile lineup is blistering at Bickford’s, while the Outlander ATVs are zipping out the door. “Our customers buy ATVs for working, then for pleasure,” explains Bickford. Consequently, the store sells some ATV accessories — but lots of PG&A for sleds.
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
The Bickford’s ATV customer averages 30 to 50 years of age, while the snowmobile buyer is probably 20 to 50. “Definitely more people are financing,” says Bickford. “That’s the way of the world today. There are many OEM programs with no money down, no interest, and no payments for six months, or low interest rates, which are attractive. Customers tend to buy everything right away, including accessories and clothing. It’s very rare that they take home their vehicle and two years later buy a major accessory. And some people trade in their vehicles every two years.”
Bickford says that there are no snowmobile issues, “but with ATVs, we’re fighting. There are no trails in the southern part of the state — too many houses — so we’re trying to get more trails opened up in the north. Once the state parks allow ATVs, which we believe they eventually will, that would be nice. The industry has hired a lobbyist in New Hampshire for that, but it’s going to take time. In general, though, ATVs are a very sore subject here in the southern part of the state.”
PARTS AND SERVICE
Although the Bickford’s Sport Center techs handle service, all the other staffers are cross-trained. “I don’t know how dealerships keep up with service updates when they have more than one brand,” says Bickford. “Our business is characterized by our service; we’re well known for that.” In fact, the home page on its Web site proclaims Bickford’s as “Champions in Service.”
PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS
While the Sport Center does place newspaper advertisements, “mostly it’s word-of-mouth,” says Bickford. “Our service speaks for itself. And our grass drag racing team was the world champion two years in a row, which helps our business very much. We tried for the championship this year, but lost by three points. Still, we’ve done tremendously well.”
WORDS OF ADVICE
“Strive for quality and not quantity,” says Bickford. “I know all my customers’ names. We might not be the biggest dealer, but we’re very friendly and personable. There are too many dealers who treat their customers as just a number and don’t care.”