16375 Kenrick Ave.
Lakeville, Minn. 55044
Just off Interstate 35, 20 miles south of Minneapolis, lies Leo’s South, home to eight brands of ATVs, motorcycles, snowmobiles, personal watercraft, scooters and utility vehicles, not to mention the daytime residence of many members of the Bedeaux family — in sales, service and the front office. Gerald Bedeaux isn’t the first family member to own the dealership, but his predecessor wasn’t his father. Gerald’s brother originally owned the motorcycle-heavy then-Bloomington, Minn.-based dealership, while Gerald worked in another industry. When he went on strike, he migrated to his brother’s dealership and never looked back, eventually co-owning the store and later taking over the operation. The dealership has sat at its current location for 30 years. A new building was constructed 12 years ago, which was designed specifically for motorcycle sales and would hopefully attract more female customers. So far it has, Bedeaux said, and its 25,000 square feet currently are undergoing an internal facelift to attract more customers of all varieties. There’s never enough room, Bedeaux said. Currently, the store carries lines from Aprilia, BMW, Kawasaki, Moto Guzzi, Piaggio, Suzuki, Vespa and BRP’s Can-Am, Sea-Doo and Ski-Doo.
While he likes and enjoys most aspects about being part of the powersports industry, there are a few things Bedeaux could do without. The lack of snow has been nothing but trouble for his snowmobile sales. Though he doesn’t like it, he realizes other snowy state dealers are in the same boat and that he can’t do anything to control the weather. Bedeaux also could do without dealers discounting product. The machines are much better than many dealers mark them as and he feels storeowners could have more of a margin there. Finally, he doesn’t like governments working against the industry. State associations can do a lot to help at that end, he said, and Leo’s South is one Minnesota dealership attempting to create and organize a bigger voice in the state.
Though snowmobiles would usually be a hot seller in the middle of a Minnesota winter for Leo’s, motorcycles are currently outselling the sleds. The lack of snow has killed off much of the dealership’s snowmobile business, although a new unit does leave the dealership every once in awhile, Bedeaux said. As for those good-selling two-wheelers, BMW motorcycles have slowly grown in popularity, and the dealership’s recently added Vespa line has gained attention for its fuel economy.
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
Like many dealers, Bedeaux has increasingly noticed the effect the Internet has on customers looking to enter the powersports market or even upgrade their vehicle. “They seem to be a little more aware of pricing,” Bedeaux said. “They like to shop around and make sure they get a good price.” However, Leo’s has been able to reap the fruits of technological advancement: the dealership has seen a lot of sales come from its PowerSports Network-powered Web site.
PARTS AND SERVICE
While the dealership’s parts business is good, its accessories business is “very, very strong,” Bedeaux said. The large clothing displays and collections draw in a lot of customers, he said, with apparel his most profitable department. Leo’s service department goes through a lot of training. Everyone who is part of the department must at least complete factory training to become part of the team. Bedeaux feels the training program is strong enough to guarantee all the work the service department does.
PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS
Leo’s most effective way to promote events and sales is through direct mail, Bedeaux said. The dealership also uses radio and print advertising, although it finds newspapers less effective. Dollars previously used for print are being redirected to Internet marketing and the company’s Web site. Along with open houses and enthusiast rides, Leo’s has taken a page from a now-defunct Minnesota-based department store chain’s playbook and holds 13-hour sales every year right after the local bike show.
WORDS OF ADVICE
Bedeaux is convinced products do not need to be discounted so deeply, so he had this to offer other dealers: “The products you are selling are worth more than what you’re getting for them and shouldn’t be discounted,” he said. “Maybe some, but you don’t have to give them away. I’ve seen a lot of discounters come and go. Customers are willing to pay for what they get.”
— Lisa Young
Leo’s South – Lakeville, MN – Feb. 12, 2007