Pro Italia Motorcycles
Pro Italia Los Angeles
3319 North Verdugo Road
Pro Italia Santa Barbara
320 West Carrillo St.
Santa Barbara, Calif.
Bill Nation, Eric Lewald, Glen Morgan
The three owners started off small, opening up a 2,000-square foot Ducati store on Halloween in 1987 in Glendale, near Los Angeles. A decade later, they moved down the street to a 5,000 square foot store, where they currently reside. The ownership opened a second store, in Santa Barbara, Calif., last year. They’ve also rented warehouse space near the Glendale store. Currently, they have Ducati and MV August motorcycles. They have 14 employees.
Bill Nation, one of the owners of Pro Italia, hopes his biggest fear — proper store financing — is behind him. Before last year, Nation said the store did not have “a decent credit line.” That changed when Nation established a line of credit with Bank of America.
“Since Ducati can now supply us with apparel in quantities and the sizes we want, apparel has really taken off,” Nation said. “We do a fair business online with Ducati apparel because lots of other (Ducati dealerships) don’t offer them.” In fact, Nation this year added a dedicated apparel salesperson to his staff. “A little less than half of my parts and accessories department is apparel,” he said. The salesperson also handles all apparel orders. With bikes, Nation said sales of Ducati’s Monster S2R1000 and S4RS, the ‘07 model, have been very strong.
Customer buying trends
Nation said fashion has become a bigger part of the business, with the old standby, black apparel, no longer having the same appeal. “We do stock women’s apparel and riding gear,” he said. “And we’re selling that. It’s not big, but you have to offer that.” He also is going to start offering more high-end apparel. “We’re going to keep some entry-level jackets, but we’re not going to have three or four different brands,” Nation said, noting Los Angeles is a good market for the high-end consumer.
Parts and service
Nation said he’s planning on hiring another mechanic to hopefully add more service business. “We’re not really doing enough tire changes and stuff, but I’m booked with the stuff I’m doing,” he said. “So we do miss what other dealers consider easy money. It’s a little frustrating. But I think we will get that as we get another tech in.” Nation also believes a service writer he’s recently hired will help. “It’s always been a hard way to make money, especially Ducati,” Nation said of the service business. “Because when they say it’s an eight-hour service, you spend eight hours (working on the bike.) There’s no shortcutting.”
Promotional home runs
Pro Italia hosts an annual informal motorcycle show called Café Desmo. Before the event, the dealership sends out a number of postcard mailers alerting consumers of the event, which is held each August. The dealership then closes off a part of a street to showcase their bikes. This year, the event drew about 400 people.
Pro Italia also concentrates on maintaining its Web site. Nation said Pro Italia “is not making a lot of money”?online, but he sees tremendous marketing advantages there. “I really consider Web sales as advertisement for the business. It’s good, but it’s no substitute for having a good parts department and selling stuff over the counter.”
Words of advice
“Go visit as many shops as you can, as often as you can,” Nation said. “A lot of guys don’t. They think they have it all figured out. And I certainly knew nothing when I started out eight years ago. … I did learn a lot by asking a lot of questions. I wish I would have done a 20 Group much earlier.”
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Copyright 2006 Powersports Business