Frank’s Motorcycle Sales and Service
Essex, Vermont 05451
The 7,800-sq.-ft. dealership was founded in 1955 by Frank Pelkey, Lester’s father. Essex and the surrounding area has a population of 25,000. Carries BMW, Ducati, and Triumph motorcycles, and Yamaha snowmobiles. The largest-selling segment is motorcycle, by a slim margin. Seven employees.
“The motorcycle industry has to take a page from the snowmobile industry-involve the family,” says Lester Pelkey. “Snowmobile riders have been very good about including as much of the family as possible. That has led to the snowmobile clientele in our area being quite young, whereas on the motorcycle side, the industry is looking like me: gray-haired.”
Frank’s hot-selling sled right now is the new Yamaha RX-1. The standout BMW is the new-last-year R 1200 GS, while the best-selling Ducati is the 620 Monster. “That’s because a lot of women coming into the market are buying them,” notes Pelkey. “In Triumph, the new 2300cc Rocket III is hot.” Frank’s has a full line of parts and accessories, and accessory sales are commensurate with unit sales.
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
Pelkey says his clientele is “very diverse.” Does the dealership draw customers from far away? “No, we try to concentrate on our own AOR (area of responsibility).” Pelkey says that the trend in BMW is that riders who traditionally bought nothing but full-touring bikes, like an LT or an RT, are trying an F 650 GS or a R 1200 GS.
“In our area, people are more into the ‘naked’ motorcycles right this minute, and there are a lot of neat naked bikes right now-like the Monster S4 and the Monster S2. Triumph is interesting not because the existing customer has changed, but because of the new 2300cc ‘megacruiser,’ if you will. It’s powerful, it’s stunning, and people who are looking in the cruiser segment are genuinely interested. It’s attracting those who want a cruiser with some real horsepower.”
“Vermont is very-well, they like to call it ‘environmentally proactive,’” says Pelkey. “So there are always issues, whether with four-wheelers, snowmobiles, or motorcycles. The most recent issue is a big push in the legislature to ban ATVs in certain places.”
PARTS AND SERVICE
Frank’s has a service writer plus two technicians year-round and adds a third in Summer. “We renovated the dealership eight years ago,” says Pelkey. “We work on the kaizen theory: as things need to be changed, they get changed. As there’s a problem, we fix it to make it work smoother.”
WORDS OF ADVICE
“The best piece of advice that I was ever given is that it doesn’t make any difference if you sell 1,000 units or 100 units-if you don’t make a profit, it’s not worth being here,” notes Pelkey. What about dealers who practically give away inventory? “It’s an ego thing. The ego gets fed by the manufacturers saying, ‘Good job, Johnny. You’ve sold more motorcycles than any other dealer in the country.’ Yes, they sold through, but the reality is that he didn’t make any money on them. In the end, Johnny was the biggest dealer but he went out of business in the biggest way. My philosophy is to be here 10 years from now. I want to service the customer’s needs and take care of them long-term, rather than see them as a source of income for today.
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