NORTH END HARLEY-DAVIDSON
594 Route 3
Plattsburgh, NY 12901-6526
North End Repair, doing business as North End Harley-Davidson, North End Yamaha, North End Suzuki, and North End Arctic Cat, all under one roof. It was founded in 1977 from an existing dealership. The 20,000-sq.-ft. facility has been at this location since in 1984. Carries full lines of each marque, except Arctic Cat (snowmobile, not ATV). The largest-selling segment is Harley-Davidson. 23 employees.
“Insurance is a big, big factor,” says Steven Breyette, general manager. “A young man buying a $6,000 sportbike finds out it’s going to cost him $3,000 per year to insure it. As for our dealership, I spend over $90,000 annually on medical insurance for my employees. That’s a big nut to crack. We cover our employees 100%-all of them, unless they have better insurance through their spouse.”
Breyette says the best-selling Harley-Davidsons are the the Softail line. ATVs follow, with the Yamaha Grizzly being a standout, then sportbikes (the Suzuki GSXR 1000 and any Yamaha or Suzuki 600cc bike). “We did not have a very big season with sleds or watercraft,” he notes. “We have only three months when the lake water warms up to 70 degrees. And we have eight months of winter, but we don’t get a lot of snow. 20 years ago I sold 200 sleds in a season; now I sell 20 or 30.”
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
North End’s clientele ranges from young sportbike riders to people in the country who buy ATVs to folks in the hills who purchase snowmobiles to the older customers with more discretionary income who buy Harley-Davidsons.
“Harley sales are way up, which has carried the business forward in leaps and bounds,” says Breyette, who has been in this industry for two decades. “Sportbike sales are level, while ATV, sled, and watercraft purchases are all down from 10 or 15 years ago.”
Breyette says his dealership is similar to The Gap. “Compared to 20 years ago, a huge section of our retail space is devoted to clothing. I don’t really care for that, but it’s a big side business. As we’ve gained square footage, we have allocated much of it to the service department and clothing.”
“There are a lot of places to ride dirtbikes and ATVs, and snowmobilers cut out their niche 40 years ago but are just barely clinging to that,” explains Breyette.
“Gov. Pataki constantly wants to raise registration rates for snowmobiles and ATVs, then give us nothing in return—or actually take away trails and state riding areas. At least we can still ride watercraft on the lake; I know a lot of states have banned them on all lakes or those under a certain size. The fact that Lake Champlain is 167 miles long keeps it open to watercraft. We own a marina on the lake, 15 miles from our dealership, which allows us to also display our watercraft and test them. That’s a bit of a help.”
PARTS AND SERVICE
“We created a huge parts room when we remodeled six years ago, and I’ve been working feverishly the last two years on a personal project to get-and keep-inventory down,” says Breyette.
“In parts we have over $1 million worth of inventory right now. We stock $30,000 worth of tires alone. Then there are oils for al the different bikes — Yamaha, Suzuki, special ones for the different snowmobiles, winter and summer oils for ATVs, and Harley-Davidson has a whole gamut of oils-engine, transmission, primary, and different oil for the Sportster, plus the synthetic line.”
The dealership has eight full-time service techs, a full-time service writer, a full-time service manager, and three part-timers for assembly and cleaning. “People are cross-trained. I’ll send three to Suzuki motorcycle school, then another three to snowmobile school, with one person overlapping. We have two intensively trained Harley-Davidson mechanics who don’t work on anything else-they are able to, but don’t because we’re just so busy with H-D service. The other guys who work on imports or ATVs can service Harleys also when we’re slower.”
PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS
The small-but-fervent Plattsburgh HOG chapter meets at North End. “We have summer rides, big picnics, and concerts by the lake at a large city marina,” says Breyette.
“We help sponsor the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s course by offering smaller bikes for training in the three-day course, and we also sponsor an ATV safety-training course.
North End has had a Web site for 10 years (www.harleynorth.com), but recently created a Harley-Davidson-only site (www.northendharley.com), at the request of the Motor Company. The dealership uses the local newspaper and enthusiast publications such as Thunder Press and Easyriders to promote vehicle sales, service, and its wholesale parts division.
WORDS OF ADVICE
“If you want to make $1 million in this business, you should start out with $10 million,” advises Breyette. “You are responsible for keeping all these people employed, with good wages and benefits. The franchisers want what I have: A beautiful, architect-designed store with tile floors, slat wall, and great lighting. Then they’ll franchise a dealer 20 miles away who just has a garage. None of these franchisers pay your bills, but they all want, want, want. You’d think they’d be more forthcoming to help you out. What they’re interested in is selling more units; they don’t care if a particular dealer is profitable.” psb
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